At least as far back as the Iron Age (and probably much earlier) this has been the site of a strategically important settlement, whose residents were known to have traded with the Romans. The presence of a settlement here is first recorded in a letter Saint Patrick wrote to King Ceretic of Alt Clut, (or Clyde Rock) in the late 5th century.
From the fifth century until the ninth it was the centre of the independent British Kingdom of Strathclyde. The King of the Britons of Dumbarton in about AD 570 was Riderch Hael, who features in Norse legends. It is said that during his reign Merlin stayed at Alt Clut. In 756 the first (and second) losses of Dumbarton Rock were recorded. A joint force of Picts and Northumbrians captured Alcluith after a siege, only to lose it again a few days later.
By 870 Dumbarton Rock was home to a tightly packed British settlement that served as a fortress and as the capital of Alt Clut. The Vikings had laid siege to Dumbarton for four months, eventually defeating the inhabitants when they cut off their water supply. The Norse king Olaf returned to the Viking city of Dublin in 871, with two hundred ships full of slaves and looted treasures. Olaf came to an agreement with Constantine I, King of Scots, and Artgal of Alt Clut.
Strathclyde's independence may have come to an end with the death of Owen the Bald, when the dynasty of Kenneth mac Alpin began to rule the region.
In medieval Scotland, Dumbarton (Dùn Breatainn, which means 'the fortress of the Britons') was an important royal castle. It sheltered David II (Robert the Bruce's son) and his young wife, Queen Joan, after the Scottish defeat at Halidon Hill near Berwick-upon-Tweed in 1333. Patrick Hepburn, 1st Earl of Bothwell, was Captain of Dumbarton castle on April 1, 1495. In 1548, after the equally disastrous Battle of Pinkie, east of Edinburgh, the castle protected the infant Mary, Queen of Scots for several months before her safe removal to France.
The castle's importance declined after Oliver Cromwell's death in 1658. But threats posed by Jacobites and the French in the eighteenth century caused new structures and defences to be built and the castle continued to be garrisoned until World War II.
The Castle Today
Шаблон:Location map Today all visible trace of the Dark-Age Alcluith, literally Clyde Rock (modern Gaelic Alt Chluaidh, Шаблон:Pronounced), its buildings and defences, have gone and precious little survives from the medieval castle. The most interesting structures today are the fortifications of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, which illustrate a painful struggle by military engineers to adapt an intractable site to contemporary defensive needs. The splendid views from the twin summits of White Tower Crag and The Beak remind us why this rocky outcrop was chosen as 'the fortress of the Britons' all those centuries ago.
Dave MacLeod - rock climber