Dumbarton Castle, (Dùn Breatainn)
Dumbarton Castle has the longest recorded history of any stronghold in Scotland. It overlooks the Scottish town of Dumbarton, and sits on a long-extinct volcano known as Dumbarton Rock which is 240 feet high and 300 million years old.
The castle is built between two huge sheer rocks very much like Deganwy Castle in North Wales, albeit this castle still has its walls and towers intact.
Due to its location the layout and design of the castle is all about how to fortify the natural defences, so its very irregular with a section close to the waters-edge and a second up at the two rocky pinnacles, accessed through a gatehouse and steep staircase built into the middle of Dumbarton rock.
Access to the castle is quite easy with limited parking nearby next to the football club house.
Because of its stunning location and extensive history, Dumbarton Castle is an absolute must for any castle-finder.
~ Early History ~
450 ~ St Patrick writes to King Ceretic, King of the Britons of Strathclyde, at his fortress of Aiclyde (Dumbarton), reprimanding him for attacking Irish convert and selling them into slavery to the Picts.
597 ~ The Britons join the Scots under King Aiden in their campaign against the Kingdom of Northumberland.
642 ~ The Britons led by King Owen defeats and slays the Scottish King Domnail Breac. Later in the same year the Briton's are also at war with Oswald, King of Northumberland. During this conflict Northumberland gains the upper hand which sees the Britons subject to their Northumberland neighbours.
649 ~ The Britons and Picts are once again at war.
685 ~ The Britons regain their independence from Northumberland after the Picts attack Northumberland.
711 ~ The Britons at Dumbarton are at war with the Scots at Dunadd Fort and the Kingdom of Dalraida.
750 ~ King Teudebur of Strathclyde defeats Angus, King of the Picts at the Battle of Mygedawg, in order to halt their growing military threat to the Kingdom of Strathclyde. Angus survives the battle but his brother Talorgan is killed.
756 ~ A combined army of Picts and Northumberian's besiege the Britons in their fortress of Dumbarton.
Dumbarton falls to the combined forces and is burnt. However, on the homeward journey the combined army is attacked by Briton's and is routed.
870 ~ Vikings led by Olaf 'the white' of Dublin and Ivar Beinlaus 'the crippled' besiege Dumbarton for four months. Victorious they plunder the fort and enslave its inhabitants back to Dublin.
937 ~ The Britons of Strathclyde join the forces of Scots and Vikings against their common enemy the English. The combined forces are defeated.
945 ~ Strathclyde is utterly ravaged by the English King Edmund, who gives Strathclyde to Malcolm I of Scotland as part of a peace deal.
971 ~ The Britons of Strathclyde revolt against Scottish rule, killing the Scottish King Cuilean in battle.
1018 ~ Owen the Bald of Strathclyde is killed in the Battle of Carham fighting alongside the Scots against the Northumbrians to successfully regain Lothian for Scotland. As a result, Strathclyde is annexed into Scotland.
~ Post dark age History ~
1034 ~ Malcolm II, King of Scotland dies and is succeeded by his grandson, Duncan of Strathclyde, now part of the Kingdom of Scotland.
1098 ~ King Edgar of Scotland is forced to cede Argyll and the Hebrides to the King of Norway. Dumbarton is now an important frontier stronghold.
1113 ~ Prince David, younger brother to King Alexander I of Scotland, rules southern Scotland including the kingdom of Strathclyde.
1124 ~ Prince David, with the backing of his one-time sponsor King Henry I of England, is crowned King David I of all of Scotland following the death of his brother. He is however forced to engage in ten years of warfare against his rival and nephew, Máel Coluim mac Alaxandair.
1135 ~ Following the death of King David's patron King Henry I, he supports his own niece, Empress Matilda, to the throne of England. In the process, he comes into conflict with King Stephen but despite military setbacks is able to expand his power in northern England.
1222 ~ King Alexander II erects a new castle at Dumbarton.
1230 ~ King Haakon IV of Norway sends a fleet into the Clyde, sailing past the new castle at Dumbarton, against the Scots in retaliation for King Alexander attempts to retake Argyll.
1263 ~ King Haakon personally leads an enormous armada against the Scots resulting the Battle of Largs which results in the Treaty of Perth three years later, returning the Hebrides to Scotland. Dumbarton Castle is no longer a fronter stronghold.
1296 ~ King Edward I of England invades Scotland. The constable of Dumbarton Castle soon surrenders the keys to the castle after seeing the might of Edward's army. A Yorkshire knight, Sir Alexander de Leeds is made constable of the castle for King Edward.
1297 ~ Following William Wallace's victory at Stirling over the English, the garrison at Dumbarton Castle flee. Wallace has three English knights sent to the castle as prisoners for the next two years.
1305 ~ William Wallace is himself imprisoned in Dumbarton Castle following his capture near Glasgow by Sir Menteith.
1333 ~ Following the Scots defeat at the Battle of Halidon Hill, Robert the Bruce's son, David II and his Queen Joan, are brought to Dumbarton Castle for their safety. They eventually fee to France.
1369 ~ Donald of Islay, heir to the powerful kingdom of Lord of the Isles, as a seven-year-old minor, is imprisoned at Dumbarton Castle as a hostage for his father's good behaviour and loyalty to the Scottish Crown.
He is finally freed two years later upon the succession to the Scottish Crown by his grandfather as King Robert II.
1489 ~ King James IV besieges Dumbarton Castle held by the rebellious Earl of Lennox. The first siege fails after Lennox orders the town burnt to the ground. The second siege is successful after the King orders his great siege gun, Mons Meg, dragged across the country from Edinburgh Castle. He later uses the castle as his base upon which to launch his campaigns against the rebellious Lords of the Isles.
1514 ~ The rebel Earl of Lennox regains the castle following the Kings death. His men enter the castle by burrowing under the North Entry.
1515 ~ The Duke of Albany, cousin to the late King, arrives from France and captures the castle, installing a French garrison, imprisoning Lennox and taking the title of Governor of Scotland.
1523 ~ The Duke arrives at Dumbarton from France with a large force ready for the invasion of England. The invasion never takes place, and he is eventually forced to flee back to France, taking his French garrison with him.
1531 ~ King James V secures Dumbarton Castle for the Crown for his own campaigns against the MacDonald Lord of the Isles.
1547 ~ The Scots suffer a disastrous defeat against the English at the Battle of Pinkie. The four-year-old Mary Queen of Scots is taken from her home in Stirling Castle for safety. As the situation deteriorates, she is taken to Dumbarton Castle by her mother, Mary of Guise. Following an outbreak of smallpox at the castle Queen Mary of Scots is nearly killed. Eventually she and her mother escape to France.
1563 ~ Upon Mary's return to Scotland she dines at the castle.
1568 ~ Following Mary's flight to England and civil war in Scotland, Dumbarton is garrisoned for the Queen.
1571 ~ A raiding party of 100 men, led by Captain Thomas Crawford, breach the castle defences by climbing the precipitous rock taking the defenders by complete surprise. The following onslaught see's the garrison jump the walls rather than be captured and executed.
1652 ~ Oliver Cromwell's troops take the castle without any resistance.
1660's ~ Following the Restoration of the Monarchy under King Charles II, limited improvements are made to the castle.
1730 ~ Major General Wade orders wholesale refortification of the castle's defences. For the remainder of its history the castle serves as a state prison.