Return to the castle in the clouds

It is an overcast and windy morning. I am back in Escape Velocity’s writers’ office, lost in quiet contemplation, attempting to describe for you thrillseekers how wonderful the experience of wandering through Stirling Castle was. So far I had, “It was a sunny day.” That’s when Marce said, “Holy sh*t it looks like Dumbarton Castle opened early!”

Now, Dear Escapees, we were nowhere near Dumbarton so we put £100 worth of BP’s finest in the tank and a few hours later we were backing into our familiar friendly parking spot in the tiny lot right under the Castle in the Clouds.

It’s our fourth visit and with excellent Bangin’ Pizza just two blocks away, why not? Tomorrow’s weather looks good but today’s is a nasty tempest and not at all conducive for a spot of mountaineering.

The morning dawned sunny and calm with a new EV record for early having already had, or in other words, fired up and ready to go. Just being able to walk through the outer gates for the first time was surprisingly thrilling but with 547 steps to go the order of the day is slow and steady.

Evidence of major rock wall stabilization is obvious as we start to climb the stairs. It’s another magical castle teetering on the top of another volcanic basalt plug. How do they do this?

Guardhouse and stairs

Everything is functional and designed for defense but still integrated into the extreme topography. I wasn’t prepared for how beautiful the grounds and setting are.

Guardhouse view of the River Clyde

You might wonder, how could anyone successfully attack this stronghold whose basalt walls rise vertically out of the swirling waters of the Clyde river? In 870 two Viking kings, Olaf the White, and Ivar the Boneless, with over 200 longboats, did just that. After a four month siege, and cutting off the water supply, things definitely got ugly in Dumbarton.

The Picts apparently took over for a couple of days, and notably in 1425 James the Fat tried but failed. Later medieval history seems to suggest that Dumbarton Castle was under near constant siege and squabbles. Even James IV, with the aid of the monster Mons Meg, the A-bomb of medieval times, subdued the castle. I can’t vouch for any of this but everyone agrees that Mary Queen of Scots definitely left for France from Dumbarton Castle.

White tower left, the Beak right
Stewart’s Tower
Prince Regents Battery
The French prison
Yes that’s Escape Velocity from the lookout you see in the beginning photo
The armory
Stairs to the white tower
Moment of truth for height averse Marce

It seemed prudent to stop in at the castle’s tiny museum to allow our quivering legs to settle down and it turns out they have great examples of carvings found in the terraced garden at the beginning of the stairs.

We’ve wanted to see this castle for a long time and you worry that it might disappoint but it turns out it’s even better than we could have imagined. The pizza’s still great too.

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