Roman: Alcluith, Alcluithum
Dumbarton is a town located in the West Dunbartonshire, Scotland, situated on the north bank of the River Clyde.
In Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia, Uther Pendragon reclaims it from the Saxons and pacifies it. In Arthur’s time, it was besieged by Picts and Scots. A very ill Hoel of Brittany had to hold off the invaders until Arthur returned from the battle of Bath. Arthur later made Eleden Archbishop of the city.
According to Gaelic tradition, Dumbarton was also the birthplace of Moroie More, the son of Arthur.
In Culhwch and Olwen, Dumbarton is named as the home city of Arthur’s warrior Tarawg.
The name Asclut is thought by some to have given rise to Astolat.
Dumbarton | 0 to the 9th century AD
Prehistoric and Roman Periods
The area around Dumbarton has evidence of human settlement dating back to prehistoric times. Archaeological finds suggest that the region was inhabited during the Bronze Age and Iron Age.
The name Alcluith is derived from the British Celtic language spoken by the native inhabitants of the region during the Roman era. The meaning of “Alcluith” is not entirely clear, but it is often interpreted to mean “Rock of the Clyde” or “Clyde Rock.” Alcluith was a significant settlement during Roman times, they built a a fort on Dumbarton Rock during their occupation of southern Scotland, known as the Antonine Wall period (around 142 AD). The Antonine Wall was a turf and timber fortification that stretched across central Scotland, just north of the River Clyde, and Dumbarton Rock was a crucial part of this defensive line.
Early Medieval Period | 5th – 9th centuries
The early medieval period in Scotland is often characterized by the transition from Roman influence to the emergence of various Celtic and Gaelic kingdoms. Dumbarton was called Alt Clut in the Welsh language, which means “Rock of the Clyde.” It was a significant settlement located on the volcanic rock known as Dumbarton Rock or Castle Rock. The site was chosen for its strategic defensive position, as it overlooked the River Clyde, providing protection and control over the region. Alt Clut was the primary center of power and governance for the Kingdom of Strathclyde. It was ruled by kings, and the area was a political, cultural, and religious hub.
Kingdom of Strathclyde
Dumbarton was a major center within the Kingdom of Strathclyde, a Brittonic kingdom that encompassed parts of modern-day Scotland and northern England. Its territory extended from the Clyde River (including Dumbarton) in the west to the Derwent River in the east. The Kingdom of Strathclyde played a role in the complex political landscape of early medieval Britain and interacted with neighboring kingdoms, including the Kingdoms of Northumbria and Dál Riada, the Picts, and the emerging Kingdom of Alba. The region had cultural and political ties with both Celtic and Anglo-Saxon influences.
With the spread of Christianity, monastic communities and churces were established in the region. Dumbarton likely had ecclesiastical significance during this time. The Celtic Church, a term used to the early Christian Church, which existed between the fifth to the twelfth centuries.
Viking Raids | 8th – 9th centuries
As the Viking Age commenced in the eighth century, coastal areas of Scotland. The Norse invaders launced attacks on settlements along the River Clyde and other parts of the kingdom. The Norse influence began to make its mark on the region.