Tour Scotland
Home Page

Dumbarton Castle

Dumbarton Castle Scotland
Dumbarton Castle, Scotland. Dumbarton castle
- Framed 10x8 Print (25x20cm) by Robert Harding

During the Middle Ages Dumbarton changed from a political centre to a stronghold and port of entry in the west of the united Scotland. It grew in Importance and like Edinburgh and Stirling became a Royal Castle. Edward I was very concerned to keep Dumbarton under his rule and to do this he appointed "trustworthy governors" including Sir John Menteith, who captured Wallace in 1305. In 1333, young King David and his consort Joan safely lodged at the castle before sailing on to France after the Scottish defeat at Halidon Hill.  Partly because of its strength but mainly because of its secluded position Walter de Danyelstone, an unprincipled churchman, took possession of the castle in the 14th Century and used it to bargain successfully for the bishopric of St. Andrews. In 1443 the castle was seized by Patrick Galbraith but the deputy governor, Sir Robert Sempill, forced him out and retook the castle. The undeterred Galbraith returned the next day with more men, killed Sempill and moved back into Dumbarton.

After the disastrous Battle of Pinkie in 1548 the infant Queen Mary was housed at Dumbarton for some months before being taken to France. While she was abroad the castle changed hands between French and English but it was regained for her from 1562 after her return to Scotland. From then on the castle remained in the hands of her supporters until 1571, when it was surprised and taken by one Captain Thomas Crawford of Jordanhill. Lord Fleming, the governor who had previously held the castle through a vicious siege in 1570, escaped to sea but the Archbishop of St. Andrews,  John Hamilton, one of Mary's principal supporters, was captured and executed.
This was the end of the most important period in the castle's history. It rose to fame in the reign of Mary primarily as a stronghold and port of communication for Scotland, and in the following half-century acted as a prison for some notable men including the Earl of Morton in 1581 and Patrick Stewart, third Earl of Orkney in 1614. During the first "Bishops' War" of 1639 the castle re-emerged as a stronghold, and in March of the same year the Covenanters captured the unsuspecting governor at church and forced him to surrender the keys. Dumbarton was returned to the Royalists by the Treaty of Berwick in June 1639 but changed hands again twice in the next two years. The castle was at this stage in a rather dilapidated state after its eventful career, and when Cromwell took control of Scotland Dumbarton was surrendered to Major-General Lambert without resistance, probably because it had little or no defences left. In 1654
a Royalist force made a successful surprise attack on the Protectorate's garrison. After the Restoration, the castle was in such poor condition that improvements were begun in 1675 and carried on until the middle of the 18th Century. Further renovations were made to develop the castle for coastal defence during the 1790s. By 1865, Dumbarton was so obsolete as a credible fort that it was abandoned. However, during both World Wars the army took it over once again.

More repairs took place during the reign of George II, and in the following decade the western batteries were rebuilt and the old south defences replaced by King George's Battery and the Governor's House. The most interesting structures of Dumbarton Castle are the fortifications of the 17th and 18th Centuries, which illustrate a painful struggle by military engineers to adapt a problem site to contemporary defensive needs. The old North Entry remained as weak as ever until 1795, when it was blocked in its present form; at about the same time, several of the batteries were modified for coastal defence. Apart from the demolition of some of the buildings put up in the interior of the walls around 1795, the castle remains the same today.

Dumbarton Castle Dumbarton Castle on the north shore of the River Clyde, from where Mary Queen of Scots sailed to France in 1548, Dunbartonshire, Scotland. Dumbarton Castle on the north shore of the River Clyde - Framed 10x8 Print (25x20cm) by Robert Harding.

Return To Tour Dumbarton

Tour Scotland
Tour Edinburgh
Tour Island Of Skye

Rent A Self Catering Hoilday Cottage In Scotland

Share This Tour Scotland Web Page

Top Destinations
Tour Europe