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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Coordinates: 55°57′00″N 4°34′00″W / 55.95°N 4.566667°W / 55.95; -4.566667

Scottish Gaelic: Dùn Breatainn
Scots: Dumbarton
River clyde from saab 340.jpg
The Erskine Bridge, Dumbarton and the Firth of Clyde
Dumbarton is located in Scotland

 Dumbarton shown within Scotland
Population 20,527 [1] (2001 census)
est. 19,990[2] (2006)
OS grid reference NS397759
    - Edinburgh  54 mi (87 km) E 
    - London  356 mi (574 km) SSE 
Council area West Dunbartonshire
Lieutenancy area Dunbartonshire
Country Scotland
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district G82
Dialling code 01389
Police Strathclyde
Fire Strathclyde
Ambulance Scottish
EU Parliament Scotland
Scottish Parliament Dumbarton
List of places: UK • Scotland •

Dumbarton (Scottish Gaelic: Dùn Breatainn, pronounced [d̪̊unˈb̊ɾʲɛhd̪̊ɪɲ]) is a burgh in Scotland, lying on the north bank of the River Clyde where the River Leven flows into the Clyde estuary. Dumbarton is in West Dunbartonshire. As of 2006, the town had an estimated population of 19,990 and forms a conurbation with Alexandria, Bonhill and Renton with a combined estimated population of 44,690.[2]

Dumbarton functioned as the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Strathclyde, and later as the county town of the county of Dunbartonshire.[3] The name comes from the Scottish Gaelic Dùn Breatainn meaning "fort of the Britons".[4] Dumbarton Castle, sitting on top of Dumbarton Rock, dominates the area. Dumbarton was a Royal burgh between 1222 and 1975.[5]

Dumbarton emerged from the 19th century as a centre for shipbuilding, glassmaking, and whisky production. However these industries have since declined, or demised altogether, and Dumbarton today increasingly functions as a commuter town for the major City of Glasgow which is 13 miles (21 km) east-southeast. Dumbarton F.C. is the burgh's local association football club.[3]

Dumbarton is also home to the BBC Scotland's drama studios, notable for filming River City, Hope Springs and Personal Affairs.



Dumbarton history goes back at least as far as the Iron Age (and probably much earlier). It was the site of a strategically important early settlement, the residents of which were known to have traded with the Romans.[3] The earliest record of a settlement in Dumbarton is a record in Irish chronicles of the death of Guret, rex Alo Cluathe ("king of Clyde Rock"), in AD 658;[6] but a story about another king of Clyde Rock (petra Cloithe) in Adomnan's Life of St Columba (book 1, chapter 15) probably predates this, and a later source links King Ceretic, a British King who received a letter from St Patrick with Ail, thought to be Clyde Rock.[citation needed]

Dumbarton functioned as the royal centre of the kingdom of Clyde Rock mentioned in these sources, but had probably been eclipsed as a "capital" by the time of the establishment of the ancient Kingdom of Strathclyde around 900. It was later the county town of the county of Dunbartonshire, formerly known as Dumbartonshire. The name comes from the Scottish Gaelic Dùn Breatainn meaning "fort of the Brythons (Britons)", and serves as a reminder that the earliest historical inhabitants of Clydesdale spoke an early form of the Welsh language. These Britons themselves knew this dùn as Alt Clut, "Clyde Rock", a name which occurs both in Gaelic and in English sources of the seventh, eighth and ninth centuries.

Dumbarton was struck severely by the black death in 1350 and much of it burned down in 1424. But by the 1600s it was an important port with trade routes going as far afield as the West Indies. By 1800 the town was Scotland's largest producer of glass, for bottles and windows.[3]

In September 1605 Chancellor Dunfermline reported to King James VI that inundations of the sea were likely to destroy and take away the whole town. It was estimated that the flood defences would cost 30,000 pounds Scots, the cost being levied nationwide.[7]

Dumbarton Castle

Looking across the River Clyde towards Dumbarton Castle
Dumbarton Rock from the west

Dumbarton Castle sits on Dumbarton Rock, at the east bank mouth of the River Leven, where it flows into the Clyde estuary.

The Castle has an illustrious history and many well-known figures from Scottish and British history have visited it. The castle was a royal fortress long before Dumbarton became a Royal Burgh, its ownership went from Scottish to English and back again. The castle was an important place during the Wars of Independence and was used to imprison William Wallace for a short time after his capture by the English. It was also from here that Mary, Queen of Scots, was conveyed to France for safety as a child. Mary was trying to reach Dumbarton Castle when she suffered her final defeat at Langside. In later times, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II were also visitors to the castle.[3]

From the top of the castle can be seen both the River Clyde and Leven Grove Park.

Levengrove Park

Levengrove Park itself was a gift to the town by the Dennys who owned the shipbuilding company which was about 100 yards (100 m) away from the Castle. This was said to be not a purely philanthropic act however; the American company Singer which is famous for the manufacturing of sewing machines had earmarked the land as a potential site for their factory which would eventually be built in Clydebank. Denny were in effect protecting their monopoly on the local work-force.

Dumbarton Rock

During World War II Dumbarton was heavily bombed by the German air force. The Germans were targeting the shipyards, and the area in the vicinity of the yards was consequently hit, with Clyde and Leven Street being severely damaged. In an attempt to lure the German aircraft away from the shipyards, decoy lights were routinely placed on the Kilpatrick hills above the town, lights were set out on reservoirs to mimic those of the shipyards reflecting on the waters of the Leven and Clyde. The ploy was sometimes successful in diverting the bombers and many bombs fell harmlessly onto the moors and lochs.

Today, Dumbarton Rock is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, it has legal protection in order to maintain and conserve the site for the future. As such any sort of work on the rock is strictly regulated by the Scottish Government and activities such as climbing on the rock are forbidden.


A northwards view of Dumbarton across the tidal River Clyde, with the distant Ben Lomond visible to the right of Dumbarton Rock

From 1975 Dumbarton lent its name to a local government district in the Strathclyde region of Scotland. In 1996 the administrative functions of this district transferred to the West Dunbartonshire and Argyll and Bute unitary councils (see Subdivisions of Scotland).

Dumbarton town currently serves as the administrative centre of the West Dunbartonshire authority.

There is also a Dumbarton constituency of the Scottish Parliament and a former Dumbarton constituency of the House of Commons.


Civic Coat of Arms for Dumbarton

There are a number of distinct areas of the town:



From the mid 1700s to the early 1800s Dumbarton's main industry was glassmaking. As the glass industry declined the town became a major centre for shipbuilding and remained so well into the 20th century. There were many shipbuilding yards, although a number of them were later absorbed by larger yards. A great many ships were built in the town, the most famous of which is probably the Cutty Sark which was built by Scott & Linton, she was one of the final Tea Clippers to be built, and one of the fastest. The ship is the last survivor of its type and can be seen today at dry dock in Greenwich, London. In 1818 William Denny built the Rob Roy named after Robert Roy MacGregor in Dumbarton, which went on to become the first steam powered ferry crossing the English Channel.

William Denny and Brothers

The last major Dumbarton shipyard was William Denny and Brothers which closed in 1963, and the remaining smaller yards followed over the next few decades. The old Denny's shipyard tender The Second Snark is still in use on the Firth of Clyde as a passenger ferry and cruise boat. Denny's was an innovative company that had a reputation for research and development; high pressure turbines and hull stabilisation were two areas where they were highly respected. They even built an early design of helicopter in 1909 and in their final years they were involved in hovercraft development in the form of the Denny D2 Hoverbus. A film clip of this vessel on its maiden trip to Oban exists in the Scottish Film Archive.

The last surviving part of the Denny's shipbuilding company is the Denny Ship Model Experiment Tank which forms part of the Scottish Maritime Museum. This was the first commercial ship model testing tank built in the world and it retains many original features today: a water tank as long as a football pitch, clay moulding beds for casting wax model ship hulls and the original Victorian machinery used for shaping models.

During the Second World War Blackburn Aircraft were to produce Sunderland flying boats from a factory adjacent to Denny's shipyard.

There is still a shipyard on the river Leven, Sandpoint Marina.[8]

The 'Denny Club' was a local social club was named after Denny's shipyard. The club closed down a number of years ago after running into financial difficulties. The club was the sponsor of a local amateur football team, Dumbarton Amateurs, which subsequently changed its name to Denny Amateurs due to the continuning sponsorhip and support from the club. Denny Amateurs still play today, and has recently developed a team for younger players in the area, 'Denny Youth', and has provided the new team with strips and equipment along with advice and support.


As the ship industry declined, whisky production grew to become the dominant industry in the town. In 1938 Hiram Walker's built a large whisky distillery on the river Leven (on the site of some of the old shipyards), the town became known as a major centre of the whisky industry in the mid to late 20th century. Hiram Walker was acquired by Allied brewers in 1988 to form Allied Distillers, itself becoming part of Allied Domeq before eventually being taken over in 2005 by the French based alcohol giant Pernod Ricard. The large Dumbarton distillery had been mothballed since 2002 and not long after the Pernod-Ricard takeover the giant red buildings of the Dumbarton 'Ballantine's' distillery which had dominated the town for over sixty years were earmarked for demolition and redevelopment (as of July 2008 only the tower remains standing). However the large bonded warehouse complex to the east of the town and the bottling complex to the north west were retained.

Other whisky related site closures such as the Inverleven distillery which closed in 1991 and the J&B Scotch Whisky bottling plant and bond in the north of the town have contributed to the decline in Dumbarton's importance to the drink industry. However part of the J&B bond has found a new life as a film set for television productions such as 'River City' and 'Still Game'.

Ballantine's Whisky have also become well known for the rather unusual 'security' guards used at their bonded warehouse complex at Dumbuck in Dumbarton; these are a large flock of white Chinese geese that were first introduced in 1959. Starting with just six individuals, this has risen to close to 100 birds today. They have the nickname 'The Scotch Watch' and have been widely used in promotional material for the Ballantine's blended whisky. But today they have been replaced by CCTV cameras.

Other industries

Dumbarton town centre

With the decline of the whisky industry, Dumbarton is becoming more a commuter town for those who work in nearby Glasgow and other locations. The Faslane naval base is also a major employer for the area. The Strathleven Industrial Estate near Dumbarton was once the location of several major manufacturers such as Burroughs (Adding Machines) and Westclox. Technology overtook these companies and they closed down with the loss of many jobs. The estate has also been the home of Polaroid UK since 1965. This was the largest Polaroid plant outside of the USA and at its peak it employed about 1800 people. Failing to recognise the impact of digital photography was its downfall and while they still have a presence in Dumbarton less than 100 people are now employed there (mainly in the manufacture of sunglass lenses). The generator supplier Aggreko plc have some major operations based in the town.



There was at one stage two Scottish Football League clubs from the town, Dumbarton Harp F.C. which no longer exists and still around is professional football team Dumbarton F.C. Also known as 'Sons of the rock', it is an old club founded in 1872 and steeped in history. The club play home games at the Strathclyde Homes Stadium, next to Dumbarton Castle. They won the Scottish Cup in 1882/3 and five times were beaten finalists. As reigning Scottish Cup holders, they met the FA Cup winners, Blackburn Olympic, and thrashed them 6-1 to be hailed as champions of Great Britain. The Scottish League was formed in 1890 and the very first championship was shared between Dumbarton and Rangers. Dumbarton play in gold and black strips.

There are seven bowling clubs in Dumbarton: Brock Bowling Club, Dixon BC, Dumbarton BC, Dumbuck BC, Eastfield BC, Rock BC and Townend BC.

Dumbarton is home to the basketball team Dumbarton Dodgers Basketball Club who play in the Strathclyde basketball league. The team formed in 1981 from a youth club in Riverside Parish Church in the town.

The town is also the birthplace of the motor-racing driver Sir Jackie Stewart OBE. He competed in Formula One between 1965 and 1973, winning three World Drivers' Championships. The Stewart Family owned and ran the garage at Dumbuck in Milton to the East of the town, the Garage later being taken over by Jackie's close friend John Lindsay.[9]


Scottish poet Robert Burns was made freeman of Dumbarton. He refers to Dumbarton in a letter written in 7 July 1787.

"... I have lately been rambling over by Dumbarton and Inverary, and running a drunken race on the side of Loch Lomond with a wild Highlandman; his horse, which had never known the ornaments of iron or leather, zigzagged across before my old spavin’d hunter, whose name is Jenny Geddes, and down came the Highlandman, horse and all, and down came Jenny and my bardship; so I have got such a skinful of bruises and wounds, that I shall be at least four weeks before I dare venture on my journey to Edinburgh."
The Royal Scottish Pipe Bands Championships, Dumbarton

Dumbarton is also immortalised in the traditional Scottish song "Dumbarton's Drums" [1]

Across the fields of bounding heather,
Dumbarton sounds the hour of pleasure;
The joy I know will know no measure,
When Johnnie kneels and kisses me. (one verse)

A recording of "Dumbarton's Drums" sung at a charity concert by the Dumbarton Band, The Midgies, assisted by a couple of hundred Dumbarton folks can be heard at www.themidgies.co.uk.

Novelist A. J. Cronin's maternal grandfather, Archibald Montgomerie, owned a hat shop at 145 High Street.

Dumbarton is the birthplace of David Byrne, a Grammy Award, Academy Award and Golden Globe-winning musician best known as the founding member and principal songwriter of New Wave band Talking Heads.

Popular band, The Dumbartons, famed for their gritty indie-punk sound are named after the Scottish town.

Glaswegian band Franz Ferdinand released a remix of their hit song, "Take Me Out" called "David Byrne Was Born in Dumbarton" which heavily sampled the Talking Heads song, "Burning Down the House".

Royal Scottish Pipe Bands Championships

Held in Dumbarton since 2000, the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Championships sees over 140 bands enter yearly, including representatives from Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands and Ireland. The championships is one of the biggest and most prestigious pipe band events in the world. Besides the pipe band championships there is a fun fair and Highland dancing competitions.


The Denny Civic Theatre is used by a number of local groups, including the Dumbarton People's Theatre.

Things to do

Dumbarton is a popular place for visitors to base themselves with many hotels, Inns and Bed and Breakfast establishments. There is also a wide range of places to eat and drink in the town centre and surrounding areas as well as its very own nightclub 'Cheers'. Dumbarton is only 10 minutes away from Balloch where cruises can be taken to explore famous Loch Lomond. Visitors can also browse through Loch Lomond Shores with stores including 'Jenners' and a farmers market that visits on a Sunday usually every two weeks.[10] Glasgow City Centre is approximately 30 minutes away by train. With three railway stations and four services every hour, this makes easy commuting to the various nearby sites and tourist attractions. Glasgow [2]

Overtoun House

Overtoun House is a mansion in the Scots Baronial style built on an estate in the hills overlooking the town between 1859-1862 for a wealthy chemical manufacturer originally from Glasgow, James White.[11] The house is reputed to be haunted. In 2005 the Overtoun estate gained some notoriety as it was uncovered by a local journalist that around fifty dogs had mysteriously jumped from the Overtoun Bridge over Overtoun burn over the years, the topic caught the public imagination and became the subject of a channel five documentary in late 2006.[12]

See also


External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Dumbarton is a Royal Burgh (town) in West Dunbartonshire, Clydeside, Scotland.

"Dumbarton is a brutal concrete sprawl, fulfilling every last hellish cliche about post-war planning and architecture" - so says the 1994 edition of The Rough Guide to Scotland. However the town does has some attractions, notably the castle, which is on a districtive hill like Edinburgh and Stirling castles. The Denny Tank Museum is also worth a visit, but there is not a great deal to be seen in the modern town centre. The town could be comfortably explored as a day trip from Glasgow.

The population is just over 20,000. You may have seen the town on BBC television in Scotland as the set for the Soap River City, a northern version of Eastenders. Whisky blending and bonded storage is a major industry in the town. The bonded warehouses can be seen as you enter the town from the East.

Get in

By Train

Electric Trains serve the three stations in Dumbarton, from Queen Street station (low level) in Glasgow, with about four trains per hour. Dumbarton Central is the station nearest the town centre, and also has occasional West Highland Line trains on the Glasgow - Oban / Fort William Route. Dumbarton East is the nearest station for the castle. Dalreoch is really only for fans of 1970 municipal housing.

  • Dumbarton Castle, Dumbarton (take the A82 south), 01389 732167. It features a castle on top of a rock, overlooking the Firth of Clyde. It was an important royal refuge. Historic Scotland information
  • Denny Ship Model Experiment Tank [1] Castle Street, Dumbarton, G82 1QS +44 (0)1389 763 444 A shipyard model test tank built in 1882. Now part of the scottish martime museum, but still used occasionally for real tests. Open Mon to Sat 10:00am - 4:00pm Adults £2.00
  • Geilston Gardens. A National Trust for Scotland Garden in Cardross.
  • Overtoun House and Gardens
  • Dumbuck Hotel, Glasgow Road, Dumbarton.
  • Travelodge Dumbarton, A82 Stirling Road Milton, Dumbarton

Get out

Nearby attactions: Helensburgh, Loch Lomond, Glasgow.

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

DUMBARTON, a royal, municipal and police burgh, seaport, and county town of Dumbartonshire, Scotland, situated on the river Leven, near its confluence with the Clyde, '5 1 1; m. W. by N. of Glasgow by the North British and Caledonian railways. Pop. (1891) 17,625; (Igor) 19,985. The Alcluith ("hill of the Clyde")- of the Britons, and Dunbreatan ("fort of the Britons") of the Celts, it was the capital of the district of Strathclyde. Here, too, the Romans had a naval station which they called Theodosia. Although thus a place of great antiquity, the history of the town practically centres in that of the successive fortresses on the Rock of Dumbarton, a twin-peaked mount, 240 ft. high and a mile in circumference at the base. The fortress was often besieged and sometimes taken, the Picts seizing it in 736 and the Northmen in 870, but the most effectual surprise of all was that accomplished, in the interests of the young King James VI., by Thomas Crawford of Jordanhill on March 31, 1571. The castle was held by Queen Mary's adherents, and as it gave them free communication with France, its capture was deemed essential. Crawford decided to climb the highest point, concluding that,. owing to its imagined security, it would be carelessly guarded.. Favoured with a dark and foggy night the party of 150 men and a guide reached the first ledge of rock undiscovered. In scaling the second precipice one of the men was seized with an epileptic fit on the ladder. Crawford bound him to the ladder and then turned it over and was thus enabled to ascend to the summit.. At this moment the alarm was given, but the sentinel and the sleepy soldiers were slain and the cannon turned on the garrison. Further resistance being useless, the castle was surrendered. During the governorship of Sir John Menteith, William Wallace was in 1305 imprisoned within its walls before he was removed to London. The higher of the two peaks is known as Wallace's, seat, a tower, perhaps the one in which he was incarcerated, being named after him. On the portcullis gateway may still be. seen rudely carved heads of Wallace and his betrayer, the latter with his finger in his mouth. Queen Mary, when a child, resided in the castle for a short time. It is an ugly barrack-like structure,. defended by a few obsolete guns, although by the Union Treaty it is one of the four fortresses that must be maintained. The rock itself is basalt, with a tendency to columnar formation, and some parts of it have a magnetic quality.

The town arms are the elephant and castle, with the motto Fortitudo et fidelitas. Dumbarton was of old the capital of the earldom of Lennox, but was given up by Earl Maldwyn to Alexander II., by whom it was made a royal burgh in 1221 and declared to be free from all imposts and burgh taxes. Later sovereigns gave it other privileges, and the whole were finally confirmed by a charter of James VI. It had the right to levy customs and dues on all vessels on the Clyde between Loch Long and the Kelvin. "Offers dues" on foreign ships entering the Clyde were also exacted. In 1700 these rights were transferred to Glasgow by contract, but were afterwards vested in a special trust created by successive acts of parliament.

Most of the town lies on the left bank of the Leven, which almost converts the land here into a peninsula, but there is communication with the suburb of Bridgend on the right bank by a five-arched stone bridge, 300 ft. long. The public buildings include the Burgh Hall, the academy (with a graceful steeple), the county buildings, the Denny Memorial, a Literary and a Mechanics' institute, Masonic hall, two cottage hospitals, a fever hospital, a public library and the combination poorhouse. There are two public parks - Broad Meadow (zo acres), part of ground reclaimed in 1859, and Levengrove (32 acres), presented to the corporation in 1885 by Peter Denny and John McMillan, two shipbuilders who helped lay the foundation of the town's present prosperity. The old parish kirkyard was closed in 1856, but a fine cemetery was constructed in its place outside the town. Dumbarton is controlled by a provost and a council. With PortGlasgow, Renfrew, Rutherglen and Kilmarnock it unites in returning one member to parliament. The principal industry is shipbuilding. The old staple trade of the making of crown glass, begun in 1777, lapsed some 70 years afterwards when the glass duty was abolished. There are several great engineering works, besides iron and brass foundries, saw-mills, rope-yards and sail-making works. There are quays, docks and a harbour at the mouth of the Leven, and a pier for river steamers runs out from the Castle rock. The first steam navigation company was established in Dumbarton in 1815, when the "Duke of Wellington" (built in the town) plied between Dumbarton and Glasgow. But it was not till 1844, consequent on the use of iron for vessels, that shipbuilding became the leading industry.

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