Dumbarton - 'Their Ma'ties Castle of Dumbritton from the West'

In modern English the caption is: 'Their Majesties' Castle of Dumbarton from the West'. The monarchs in the title are William and Mary, who jointly reigned from 1689. This view is taken from the town side of the rock. It shows Wallace Tower, the remains of which are still there today.

Dumbarton was an important fortress in western Scotland for many centuries. Mary Queen of Scots, made several visits to the castle, and some of her forces were held here after their defeat at the Battle of Langside.

The present buildings date from the period 1670-1790. Some of these developments were designed to allow the castle to be a secure base for Government troops during the Jacobite uprisings of 1689, 1715 and 1745. It was later considered a possible holding place for Napoleon, if he were ever captured by the British.

Image from Theatrum Scotiae by John Slezer, 1693.

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  Read what Robert Sibbald wrote in Theatrum Scotiae about Dumbarton

Dumbarton (Dunbritton)

To His Grace Charles Duke of Lennox and Richmond, Duke and Peer of France, Earl of Darnley and March; Baron of Torbolton and Settrington, Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, &c.


Dumbarton or Dunbritton, is a Town in the Sheriffdom of Lennox, which Beda calls Allclyth, other Allcluith. It has its Name from Dun, which in our ancient Language signifies a Hill or Rock, and Bar which in the same Language signifies the Top or Height of any Thing.

The Town is situate in a Plain on the Bank of the River Levin, near the Place where it enters into Clyde, a little below the Castle, which is excellently fortified by Nature, owing little to Art; and seems to have been built by the Ancient Brigantes. This Town had its Privileges procured to it by One of the Countesses of Lennox.

The Castle hath a strange kind of Situation; for where the Waters of Clyde and Levin meet, there's a Plain exended to the length of a Mile at the Foot of the neighbouring Hills: And in the very Corner of this Meeting there rises a Rock with two Tops, the higher of which looks to the West, with a Watch-Tower on the Top of it, having a large Prospect on all Sides. The other being a little lower lies to the East. Betwixt these two Tops are Steps hewen out of the Rock with great Pains and Labour, which yield Passage only to one Person at a Time, to the upper Part of the Castle. To the South where Clyde runs by the Rock which is naturally steep, it hath a little Descent, and as it were with out-stretcht Arms embraces the plain Ground; which partly by Nature and partly by Art is so enclosed, that it furnishes Room for several Houses and a Garden. It secures the Harbour by its Ordnance, and obliges the smaller Boats to come up almost to the very Gate of the Castle, the Chanal of the River running on that Side. The middle of the Rock where the Entry to the Castle is, being built up with Houses, makes as it were another Castle distinct from the former. This Castle, as appears by its Prospects, does almost stand like a Sugar-loaf upon a plain Ground. The Circumference of it is but very small, and yet it hath at the Top a little kind of a Lake and several other Springs. Besides the natural Fortification, it is bounded on the West by the Water of Levin, and on the South by Clyde, which are to it instead of Ditches. To the East, the Sea at a full Tide beats against the Foot of the Rock; and when it ebbs it does not leave a Plain of Sand, but of a soft Clay, which is divided by a Rivulet that runs down from the neighbouring Hills.

Who was Robert Sibbald?

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