Alt Clut


Here’s one of my favourite early medieval places: Dumbarton aka Alt Clut aka the Rock of Clyde. Chief royal stronghold of the Clyde Britons, besieged by an Anglo-Pictish army in the 8th century and by Vikings in the 9th, before losing its status to Govan during the twilight years of the Clyde kingdom.

For me, this is the most visually-striking of all Scottish “hillforts” despite the urban/industrial sprawl that surrounds it.

The traditional (i.e. ubiquitous) view shown here was taken from West Ferry, a convenient lay-by off the A8 on the southern bank of the Clyde.

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This post is part of the Kingdom of Strathclyde series:

Kingdom of Strathclyde

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4 comments on “Alt Clut

  1. Michelle says:

    Practically an island, right? Seems like the best British hillfort in the north for trade. Even places like Eden and Stirling wouldn’t have the same trade access. The Picts and English would have controlled the mouth of the Firth of Forth, besides the Irish sea probably had a much better trade than the North Sea.

  2. Pysgod Y Sglodion says:

    I dont know if its ever been pointed out but it does have a striking familiarity in its formation to the Double crowned Hillfort known as Gannoc in Deganwy,Gwynedd.

  3. Tim says:

    Yes, it’s almost an island – though it may have been less so in early times before the Clyde water level was altered for shipping (there was once a ford running to the Rock from near where the photo was taken). Certainly a better site for trade than Edinburgh or Stirling because of the western seaways which must have been (as Michelle points out) more active than the North sea routes. The archaeological evidence gives an idea of the range of imported goods.

  4. Tim says:

    The similarity betwen Degannwy and Alt Clut had not occurred to me before but the two are definitely alike in appearance. Both have the same kind of double summit with a deep “saddle” in between. There’s a similarity, too, in their histories: both show multiple phases of habitation, both were besieged by English forces (Alt Clut in 756; Degannwy in 822) and both were eventually re-used as medieval castle sites.

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