Even if it is a bit off the way regarding our route we decide to do a little extra distance to check out what promises to be a lovely little castle. Sitting next to a small shipyard with modern buildings Newark Castle is a well-preserved castle sited on the south shore of the the Firth of Clyde. The castle was built in 1478 by George Maxwell when he inherited the Barony of Finlanstone. The original castle had a tower house within a walled enclosure entered through a large gatehouse which still stands. All that remains of the outer defensive wall is from one of the original corner towers which is now a dovecot. In the late 16th c the castle was inherited by Sir Patrick Maxwell, a powerful friend of king James VI of Scotland and who, while acting as a local peace judge, was notorious for murdering two members of a rival family and beating his wife who left him after having 16 children. In 1597 Sir Patrick expanded the building, constructing a new north range replacing the earlier hall. For centuries this location was used to offload seagoing ships, and led to the growth of Port Glasgow close to the castle. When dredging techniques made the Clyde navigable as far as Glasgow the port became a shipbuilding centre, and the castle was surrounded by shipyards.

Turning back we head around the Firth of Clyde to the northern shore where, almost exactly opposite to Newark Castle, on a plug of volcanic basalt, stand remains of Dumbarton Castle, which has the longest recorded history of any stronghold in Scotland. As evidenced by archaeological finds the site has beena strategically important settlement at least as far back as the Iron Age. However the first written record about a Dumbarton comes from a letter Saint Patrick wrote to King Ceretic of Alt Clut in the late 5th c. From the 5th c until the 9th, the castle was the centre of the independent Brythonic Kingdom of Strathclyde. Alt Clut and the Brythonic name for Dumbarton Rock, became a metonym for kingdom. The king of Dumbarton in about AD 570 was Riderch Hael, who features in Welsh and Latin works. During his reign Merlin was said to have stayed at Alt Clut. The medieval Scalacronica of Sir Thomas Grey records the legend that “Arthur left Hoël of Brittany his nephew sick at Alcluit in Scotland.” And while Hoël made a full recovery, he was besieged in the castle by the Scots and Picts. Picts and Northumbrians captured the fortress after a siege in 756 only to lose it again a few days later. By 870, it was home to a British settlement, which served as a fortress and as the capital of Alt Clut. In 871, the Irish-based Viking kings Amlaíb and Ímar laid siege to Dumbarton Rock. The fortress fell in four months, after its water supply failed. In medieval Scotland, Dumbarton (Dùn Breatainn, which means “the fortress of the Britons”) became an important royal castle. Among others it sheltered David II and his young wife, Joan of The Tower after the Scottish defeat at Halidon Hill in 1333.

Driving along Loch Lomond and through Loch Lomond National Park we reach an amazing mountain pass called Rest and be Thankful. The original road was built in 1750 by soldiers and there’s a stone, bearing the words Rest and Be Thankful.

We pass by Inveraray Castle – a country house which has been the seat of the Dukes of Argyll, chiefs of Clan Campbell, since the 18th c. It is one of the earliest examples of Gothic Revival architecture. Current building replaced an earlier 15th-century castle.

Before heading for the night there’s just one more amazing place to visit – Kilmartin Glen – the most important concentration of Neolithic and Bronze Age remains in mainland Scotland. There are more than 800 ancient monuments within a 10 kilometer radius of the village, with 150 of them being prehistoric. Monuments include standing stones, a henge monument, numerous cists, and a “linear cemetery” comprising five burial cairns as well as Dunadd Fort– a hillfort dating from the Iron Age and early medieval period in Kilmichael Glassary in Argyll and Bute, believed to be the capital of the ancient kingdom of Dál Riata  which appeared in the early centuries AD, after the Romans had abandoned Scotland. Rulers of Argyll were Gaelic speakers. Dunadd is a hill on which they built a citadel. There areunique stone carvings below the upper enclosure, including a footprint and basin thought to have formed part of Dál Riata’s coronation ritual. On the same flat outcrop of rock is an incised boar in Pictish style, and an inscription in the ogham script. The inscription is read as referring to a Finn Manach and is dated to the late 8th c. In the area there many natural rocks decorated with cup and ring marks from Iron Age.

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