The Ridiculous Hills of Britain – Another Big Rock

Dumbarton Castle – the photo was borrowed from the internet.

We’re now two and a half weeks into lockdown.

A wet and dismal winter’s end squelched its way into a blossoming Covid 19 spring and, as March rolled into April, the weather in Scotland began to improve. And we have a great view of that weather…we can see it from a whole variety of windows in the house. It seems to have been ages since I’ve been anywhere and it’s beginning to tell.

To briefly take my mind off my captivity I’m going to travel back to last July; a time when it wasn’t illegal to venture beyond the front of your driveway more than once a day; a time when great herds of canned tomatoes grazed peacefully on the vast expanses of supermarket shelves; a time when majestic columns of toilet rolls stretched infinitely upwards into…um…yes, methinks it’s definitely beginning to tell.

To brighten the mood I thought I might tell you about another of my ‘Ridiculous Hills of Britain’, one of those little bumps on the landscape that some kind person has taken the trouble to categorise. So let’s head back to July 2019 and see where we ended up…



A big rock, a bit of sunshine, an even bigger bit of history and another unusual “hill” chalked off from my expanding non-list of dubious worth. What more could you want for a morning out. Ok, a café at the top would have been a plus.

I don’t know about you but a hill comprising in excess of 500 stone steps is not an ascent to be sneezed at. I have to admit to being a little bit unsure as to how my legs would react to our little daytrip. I reckoned I would manage the ascent, albeit more slowly than in the past, but the prospect of such a hard, unyielding, descent had my knees writing disclaimers long before we reached the big volcanic lump that is Dumbarton Castle.

Dumbarton Castle – the photo was borrowed from the internet.
Once the capital of the Kingdom of Strathclyde (circa 600-900) Dumbarton Castle has been sacked by the Vikings, acquired by the English and leased back to the Scots all before the Norman Conquest of Britain in 1066. It’s been a fortress, a prison, a royal residence…and did I mention it has over 500 stone steps?!

And there they are – some of the 500+ stone steps and if you look closely you will see them continue their upward march above the archway.

My memory is a bit vague on this but I think I actually managed the massive 74m ascent pretty well. I had on my spongiest soled shoes to reduce shock as much as possible and took my time so as to not annoy my leg muscles…too much. Those spongy soles were a godsend on the way down…stone steps do not form my favourite descent terrain.

J takes a break to wait for me just before the summit.

The views from the various points on the ‘rock’ are amazing. For example who would have thought for the cost of entry to one of Scotland’s iconic castles you could also have (timing permitted) a bird’s eye view of a Scottish League 1 football game. In the shadow of this very large rock nestles the home of Dumbarton FC. One thing is for certain, given its proximity to this ancient volcanic plug there will never be a circumstance when a goalkeeper will have the excuse that the sun was in his eyes.

Dumbarton FC

From the highest point there are superb views; to the north over the town of Dumbarton and to the south a long look up and down the River Clyde.

Westwards towards the Firth of Clyde or…

…“Doon the watter” (the ‘a’ in watter pronounced hard as in cat)

Eastwards to the once famous port of Glasgow – ‘famous’ as in famous for making a few people very rich from importing tobacco and sugar on the back of the slave trade.

It was time to head back down. I wasn’t looking forward to this at all.

It’s steep…very, very, steep!

This, for me, was the crux of the descent. If I managed down this without either a knee buckling or a leg muscle going into spasm then the day could be considered a success. J went first on the principle that recording my descent for posterity would look much funnier filmed from the bottom. However I would get my revenge…one way or another!

Took me ages to move those bloody things.

And so, just a few more stone steps later, we concluded our thoroughly enjoyable visit to Dumbarton Castle and another Ridiculous Hill of Britain was ticked off my non-existent list.


Stay in and stay safe.