Dumbarton Castle stands proudly on a rock that towers above the neighbouring town. Yet it is only recently that I’ve visited for the first time and discovered its eventful history. Even as a professional guide, showing people from across the world around my beautiful country, I am still discovering places I have never visited before. My latest discovery is somewhat embarrassing, as I have driven past it so many times and never stopped. It has been so close, but I have always had more important things to do or other places to visit. I am sure many other people have done just the same.

View from Dumbarton Castle along the RIver Clyde
Dumbarton Castle defended the River Clyde

The reason? Dumbarton Castle is only a few miles from the centre of Glasgow and a short distance from the airport. Why do more people not visit? I guess most visitors are heading northwards – the allure of Loch Lomond and the Highlands drawing them quickly along the main road.

The Briton’s early power base

If we do speed by we are missing so much. Dumbarton Castle sits on a craggy outcrop with a long history. The ancient Britons had a power base here. It’s said that the mystical Merlin came visiting. That’s all before the Vikings decided to raid the fortress using two hundred longships to cart away treasures and prisoners destined to be slaves. A young Mary Queen of Scots departed from the castle for the safety of France.

The prison house at Dumbarton Castle
During the Napoleonic Wars the castle house French prisoners of war

Most of what we see today was built in response to the Jacobite uprisings in the 1700s. But the castle saw military action up to the Second World War when it housed anti-aircraft guns defending the approach to the Clyde shipyards.

Carry on climbing to get the best views at Dumbarton Castle

The entrance steps to Dumbarton Castle
There are lots of old stone steps at the castle

With so much fascinating history this is a must-visit destination, and the views of the River Clyde from the ramparts are stunning. Just one word of warning – there are a lot of steeps steps – hundreds of them. But once you’ve huffed and puffed to the top of White Tower Crag, you will understand why this place was chosen to build a fortress.