(This is somewhat delayed, given the trip happened four weeks ago. Unemployed, I always get involved in too many things on the Net to have time for when I work again. It was only the other day that I managed to finish naming the photos and uploaded them to Flickr.)
Dumbarton Castle was on my list of places to visit for longer than most others: since Hedgehog noticed it from the other side of the Clyde estuary (working in Gourock we travelled the M8 six days a week). There was always some reason for postponing the visit – weather, lack of money or time, something I wanted to see more . . . Anyway, I got there at last.
I was plesantly surprised. For one thing, I didn’t expect it to be that large; for another, I expected it to be more of a ruin. I had thought I would only spend there twenty minutes or so; in the end it took about an hour and it certainly wasn’t a wasted time.
Places don’t get imprinted in our minds only by being monumental; trifles are often as important. Like seeing for the first time what I later found out was the Merchant Navy flag, or the swallow that flew out of the powder magazine just as I was about to enter it.
After that I strolled for another hour or so the town, and liked it too. Again, also because of some trifles. The ruins of the former Ballantine’s distillery (back in the 80s Czechoslovakia, Ballantine’s was one of the half-dozen Scotch whiskies we’d ever seen); a fag on a bench near the old bridge; a snooker club in a former church building; an ice-cream-cone A-board in front of a fish-and-chips shop . . .
It seems strange to reflect that after the Rouken Glen trip this was only my second “act of tourism” outside Glasgow this year. On the other hand, the less you see, the more it sticks in your memory. Back in 1990 we slept both in Inverurie and in Inverkeithing but I could never remember for long which of them was near Aberdeen and which was near Edinburgh. I’m sure I’ll never mix Dumbarton up with Dumfries or Dunfermline now.
I know something about the castle’s history now; and although after just an hour I naturally know next to nothing about the town, it became for me one of those places a mention of which makes one say “Ah yes, Dumbarton, of course I know . . .”