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Things to do in Dumbarton, Central Scotland

Dumbarton Castle
Dumbarton Castle © Robert Orr via Flickr

Dumbarton in Central Scotland sits on the north bank of the River Clyde almost opposite Port Glasgow.

The name Dumbarton means "Fort of the Britons" and Dumbarton Castle still rules from its perch on top of Dumbarton Rock.

Dumbarton Castle
Dumbarton Castle © S McK via Flickr

The King of Clyde Rock was mentioned several times in historic records dating back to 658 AD.

Dumbarton's strategic position and rocky vantage point made it the obvious choice as the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Strathclyde and a Royal burgh from 1222 until 1975.

The town was affected badly by the Black Death plague in 1350 and by a town-wide fire in 1424.

By the 17th century things were looking better as Dumbarton developed as an important port. By 1800 it was also the largest producer of glass in Scotland and was famous for whisky distilling.

It became a major shipbuilding centre with many shipyards along the coastline as part of the shipbuilding boom on the Clyde.

Dumbarton Quay after Dusk
Dumbarton Quay after Dusk © Robert Brown via Flickr

Famous ships built in Dumbarton include the Cutty Sark, one of the fastest Tea Clippers ever built.

From top of Dumbarton Rock
From Top of Dumbarton Rock © Peter & Michelle S via Flickr

In 1818 Rob Roy was launched and became the first steam powered ferry to serve the English Channel crossing.

All these industries have largely declined leaving Dumbarton as a dormitory town for Glasgow, 13 miles to the south east. The last major shipyard, still carrying the Denny name, closed in 1963.

Along with the shipyards of Glasgow, Dumbarton was heavily bombed during World War II and whole areas had to be rebuilt after the war.

Present Day Dumbarton

Dumbarton had a population of almost 20,000 in 2006, which had declined from 20,500 in 2001. Outside the town, high-rise apartments look out over the River Leven.

Dumbarton Castle
Dumbarton Castle © S McK via Flickr

The town centre has local shops, supermarkets, banks and other essential services for a town of this size. The broad High Street is lined with a variety of interesting buildings housing local shops and cafés. There is a public library and red brick municipal buildings in grand architectural style, complete with turrets and a central tower.

Denny Memorial Dumbarton
Denny Memorial © Robert Brown via Flickr

The land on which Levengrove Park stands was bought and then donated to the city by the Denny family, owners of the local shipbuilding industry.

It was not entirely a charitable gesture as it prevented the Singer Sewing Machine Company from building a factory on the land which would have led to the Denny's losing their monopoly on the Dumbarton workforce.

Dumbarton is well served by trains on both the West Highland Line and the North Clyde Line from the category A station listed building.

BBC Scotland's drama studios are in Dumbarton and are where various dramas and soaps such as River City are produced.

Things to Do Around Dumbarton

Dumbarton Castle is the main attraction. It has an interesting history, switching from Scottish to English ownership and back again.

River Leven Dumbarton
River Leven © Robert Orr via Flickr

It was used to imprison William Wallace and more recently it was visited by Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II.

The Rock itself is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and although it can be admired, activities such as climbing the rock are forbidden.

Dumbarton High Street
High Street © By Photochrom Print Collection [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

One of the three divisions of the Scottish Maritime Museum is at Dumbarton, Denny Ship Model Experiment Tank. The Governor's House Museum is also worth a visit.

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