A castle in the sky

Flush with the success of our first two parkups we decided to venture further and start driving north. This required retracing our steps back through the traditional boatbuilding center of Port Glasgow and across the bridge over the Clyde.

Along the northern riverbank is a 240 foot high volcanic basalt plug called Dumbarton Rock that has served as a fortress since at least the 5th century. Our parkup app told us we could spend the night at the base of the Rock. That sounds good to us.

We turned toward the river and inched our way down a residential street and past a construction site before we spied the rock. We both leaned forward to peer upward through the windscreen, seeking the top. Holy cow! There, almost in the clouds, we could see the battlements of the stronghold perched so close to the edge it almost seemed cantilevered.

Our pitch for the night was directly beneath the sheer cliff wall. We quickly locked up the camper and headed toward the entrance. There was extensive fencing which became more dense the closer we came to the entrance. It gave us that sinking feeling.

Sure enough, closed again for masonry inspection. This one hurts. Joiners were chiseling a mortise into massive timbers right on the other side of the fence where intricate scaffolding reached up to the sky.

We walked along the river for a better view of the fortress.

We had a quiet cozy night, all the while wishing we could get inside the castle, and especially climb the rock to see the view from the top.

The next morning I glimpsed a man with large pads strapped to his back disappear around the back of the rock.

“I think they must do rock climbing here,” I said to Jack, and we jumped out of the camper and tried to follow where the man went. That lead us past a football club, through the woods and around the land side, all the way to the river on the other side, giving us a few more tantalizing peeks at the fortification at the top.

We found a couple of men bouldering, then a man and his father with their dogs, just shooting the breeze enjoying the view on a beautiful day. We stopped to chat, got a few tips on places to go, and they told us there was a break in the fence at the riverfront where we could see the castle better. They also said there were a few women climbing further around the rock.

The women told us this was the place for climbing and bouldering in the Glasgow area, and that on most days we’d see many more people there on the various walls.

We asked about the Queen’s Jubilee and if there were any events planned nearby. They looked at each other and shrugged.

“We’re not really royalists here in Scotland,” one of them said. Fair enough.

The path around the rock came to an end at the water’s edge, passable only at low tide, and we retraced our steps back to the parkup.

We found the break in the fence the father and son told us about (how had we missed it?) and finally got a better perspective on the castle and the fortress. It made us want to explore it even more, but I guess our record of closed castles will remain unbroken for now. You can read the history of the place here.

We walked into town to a place called Bangin’ Pizza for takeout and all the employees threw out their favorite places for us to visit. We’re acquiring quite the list of destinations to add to our already numerous Google Maps flags.

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