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Dunglass Castle, pp.69-72.



All sight, all sound
Of the old times, boon nature from the ground
Hath banish’d; here the trench no longer lowers,
But like a rocky dell, bedeck’d with flowers,
And garlanded with May, sinks dimpling round,
A very spot for youthful poets’ dreams.


ON a small rocky point, about eleven miles and a half from Glasgow, and on the north side of the Clyde, stand the ruins of Dunglass, – the Grey Fortress, as its name in the Gaelic implies. It is obviously of great antiquity; but nothing whatever can now be told of its origin, or first erection. The old walls, however, which once towered so proudly, now tottering doubtfully over their base, still remain as a memorial of the good old times, when might was right, and the best principle of law known in Scotland, was

That they should take who have the power,
And they should keep who can.

The walls enclose a considerable space of ground, which has been laid out as a garden; and although they are now but of inconsiderable height, some idea of the form and extent of the ancient fortress, may be gathered from them. It appears to have been an irregularly shaped pile, covering the whole extent of the rocky point on which it is situated; and following the form of the rocks, from the edge of which, its walls rise on the sides next the water. The old gateway, by which the fortress was entered from the land, still appears on that side, and yet forms the entrance. Some of the turrets also remain; but one of the most interesting portions of the ruin fell about two years ago, into the sea. Great care is now taken of what remains, by the proprietor, for which he deserves the gratitude of all lovers of the picturesque.

Owing to the lowness of the situation, and the delapidated state of the walls, the ruins have now but an inconsiderable appearance; but when seen from the water, in conjunction with the surrounding scenery, they have still a very picturesque effect. The surrounding scenery is very fine, and the view from the walls, either up or down the Frith, exceedingly delightful. Immediately to the north, rises Dumbuc, a majestic rock of great height, composed of basalt, haveing a slight tendency to a columnar form. It is an omportant point in different views, on the road to Dumbarton; and for a time, it seems to the traveler, as if it would stop his farther progress.

In former times, Dunglass Castle was the property, and the residence of the Colquhouns of Luss, the surrounding lands having formed the original barony of Colquhoun, which name it still retains. This family afterwards, however, removed their residence to the banks of Lochlomond, and the Grey Fortress being neglected, appears to have fallen into decay. It afterwards came into the family of the Edmonstones, of Duntreath, with whom it remained for a time. It is now the property of Archibald Buchanan, Esq. of Auchintorlie.

At the north-west side of the ruins, and upon a portion of the old walls, which are here of great thickness, a small modern house has been erected. It is possessed by William Shedden, Esq. Manufacturer, Glasgow; and forms a most delightful summer residence. Mr. Shedden holds a lease of the castle, and the rather rocky garden ground around it encloses, from Mr. Buchanan, the present proprietor.

A very strange mistake has been gone into, with regard to the destruction of Dunglass Castle, by every one who has hitherto written about it; even the accurate Chalmers1 has followed the general error. In Cromwell’s time, it is said to have been a place of strength, and to have contained a garrison. By the treachery of an English boy, page to the Earl of Haddington, who set fire to the magazine, it was blown up, and the Earl, and several other persons of eminence, perished in the destruction. The whole of this account, however, is founded on error, so far as it has been applied to Dunglass Castle on the Clyde. There was a Castle of the same name in Haddingtonshire, from whence Lord Dunglass, the eldest son of the Earl of Haddington, takes his title; which, in 1640, was destroyed in this manner, and the Earl of Haddington, and several other eminent persons lost their lives. the mistake has obviously arisen from confounding two places of the same name, and a disregard or ignorance of topography. Pennant appears to have been the first who went into the blunder, and later tourists, antiquaries, and topographists, have followed him without inquiry. The sure, but slow destroyer time, and ignorant rustics, in want of stones for fences, have been the sole cause, we suspect, of reducing Dunglass Castle on the Clyde, to its present delapidated condition.

In much earlier times than those to which we have alluded in this article, long before the family of Colquhoun had their residence here, Dunglass was a place of considerable importance. It was a Roman station, and is alleged by several authors, to have formed the western termination of the great wall of Antonine, which traversed the country, from the Forth to the Clyde, and formed the boundary of the Roman empire. This wall was strengthened and defended by nineteen forts, judiciously placed at regular distances, of about two miles from each other, exclusive of those at the two extremities. While some alledge Dunglass to have been the termination of the wall, others are of opinion it has been at Kilpatrick, about a mile and a half farther up the river. But wherever it did precisely terminate, there is no doubt that this was a Roman fort, before the present Castle had its existence; and that it served as a protection to the shipping in Bowling Bay, in its immediate neighbourhood. The principal harbour, however, and the most commodious mart of the Romans, no doubt, was at Dumbarton, generally considered to have been the Theodosia of the lower empire.2

Dr. Jamieson, who doubts the fact of Dumbarton being the Alcluith of the ancient Britons, seems inclined to honour Dunglass with this title. “With abundant propriety,” he says,3 “might Dunglass be denominated Petra Cloithe, as being a rocky height on the margin of the flood; and although the designation may seem still more applicable to Dumbarton, because of the more striking appearance of its rock, it may be questioned, whether this is of sufficient importance to overbalance other objections.” We do not intend to go into these objections here, but we must say that we do not think Dr. Jamieson has advanced any thing sufficiently important, to alter the general belief, that Dumbarton and not Dunglass, was the Alcluith of the Britons. The British people always built their forts on the tops of hills; and it is most improbable they would have neglected the great natural strength of Dumbarton, and selected one so little fitted for their purpose, as Dunglass. The Castle of Dumbarton, speaking from the appearance of the two, is pre-eminently entitled to the appellation of Alcluith – the rock of Clyde. Besides, the Roman people never would have left unoccupied the strong natural fortress of Dumbarton. They had undoubtedly a harbour at the mouth of the Leven, and here at the rock of Clyde, was the Theodosia of the lower empire; nor is it improbable that the wall was continued to this place, from Dunglass, or Kilpatrick, in order to protect the fords of the Clyde.

Many Roman antiquities have been found in the neighbourhood of Old Kilpatrick; and indeed that village appears, in a great measure, to have been erected from the materials of the Roman wall. At Duntocher, belonging to William Dunn, Esq. merchant, Glasgow, a subterraneous building was discovered in 1775, which is supposed to have been a Roman bath. The tiles which were taken from it, are preserved in the Museum of the College at Glasgow, and are of extraordinary hardness. The walls of the bath were built of hewn stone, which, upon its discovery and demolition, were appropriated for building a wall in the vicinity. In the same neighbourhood, there is still also the remains of a Roman bridge, of two arches, over a rivulet, called Duntocher burn. The arches have each a span of twelve feet, and the bridge was eight feet wide. In 1772, Lord Blantyre made a modern addition of six feet to its width, and had an appropriate inscription engraved on it. Upwards of one hundred feet of the wall still remains here entire, and nearly twenty-five feet in height.

Throughout the track of the wall, within this shire, various antiquities and remarkable stones have been discovered, from inscription on which it appears, that it was chiefly the second legion who formed this military fence, which did so much honour to Roman skill, and still more to Roman industry and perseverance.


1  Caledonia, vol. 3d, p. 865.
2  Caledonia, vol. 1st, p. 157.
3  Illustrations of Sleizer’s Theatrum Scotiæ v. Dumbarton.
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