Dumbarton Rock (Alt Clut)

I’ve driven past Dumbarton Rock on a regular basis for most of my life, but the first time I actually went and visited it was in 2016 when we attended their annual Rock of Ages event. (This should have taken place last weekend, sadly.)

It’s hard to miss, no matter what side of the River Clyde you are on although my favourite view is that from the opposite bank of the river.

It’s a volcanic plug, similar to those on which both Stirling and Edinburgh castles stand, but unlike those two is virtually cleft in two giving two peaks. Although it is referred to as Dumbarton Castle, there is no actual castle currently on the Rock.

Dumbarton Rock looking north-east at the flatter, eastern peak and showing the Governor’s House

It has been known by many different names over the millenia in which it has been occupied but is probably best known as Alt Clut, ancient capital of the Kingdom of Strathclyde.

Both peaks, looking north from the riverbank. The western peak is often known as the White Crag and used to have a tower on it.

Alt Clut was raided more than once by the Norsemen, but in 870CE was besieged by a viking army led by Ivarr the Boneless and Olaf the White (sons of Ragnar Lothbrok according to some sources). King Artgal was captured and taken to Ath Cliath (Dublin) where he was executed two years later. Meanwhile his son, Rhun, had become king but the royal residence and capital of Alt Clut/Strathclyde was move upriver to Govan and Partick, with further royal reisdences even further up the Clyde at Cadzow.

Detailed contemporary sources are, however, few and far between, and the identities of participants in this period of history can be confusing, so the truth about what happened may never be fully known.

Archaeological digs at Dumbarton Rock during the 1970s revealed some interesting information but sadly, due to the fact that the site remained in use up until the present day, the finds were unable to reveal as much as had been hoped.

3 thoughts on “Dumbarton Rock (Alt Clut)

  1. I’m inspired to write more about the background to my novel Finding Takri and the sequel which is a work in progress on my blog. I can see the setting of The Viking’s Cursed Bride here. Is that right?

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