Castles near Loch Lomond in Scotland includes the castles of Dumbarton, Buchanan and Balloch.
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Dumbarton Castle stands guard over the Clyde estuary and sprawls over much of an isolated basaltic rock which rises from the shore of the Clyde and is cleft into two summits, the higher which is known as Wallaces Seat.
One of the oldest fortified sites in Scotland, the castle stands on the site of the ancient fort of the Britons of the kingdom of Strathclyde, whose capital this was and has been of significance throughout the centuries.
At one time, a Roman outpost as well as a royal castle from which the Stuart kings reigned
It was from here in 1548 that Mary Queen of Scots, then a child of five, was sent to France escorted by a French Fleet all the way to Roscoff in Brittany.
In 1707, under the Treaty of Union, it was declared that Dumbarton should be maintained as one of the chief fortresses of Scotland.
The castle is visually best appreciated from a distance but is also rewarding to those who climb the 200 feet to the top with far reaching river and moorland views which Dorothy Wordsworth judged to be sufficient recompense for the climb.
Today, Buchanan Castle Golf Club Clubhouse is built on part of the original site of the old house.
From 1225 the Buchanan Old House and surrounding lands were owned by the Lairds of Buchanan when a charter was granted by the Earl of Lennox to Maurice, Chief of the Buchanans.
In 1681 when the last Laird of Buchanan died, the house and estate were bought by the 3rd Marquise of Montrose whose family home at Montrose was destroyed by fire. Buchanan House then became the principal seat of the Montrose family.
While the 4th Duke of Montrose was on a family Christmas holiday in London in 1852, the house was almost completely destroyed by fire and all that remained was part of the servants wing at the rear. The Duke commissioned William Burn to design a new home which was built on higher ground nearby. Designed in Scottish Baronial style and constructed of local grey sandstone, the family moved into Buchanan Castle in 1855. In 1925, after the death of the 5th Duke of Montrose the family were crippled by death duties.
Buchanan Castle became a hotel for a short time and at the outbreak of the Second World War, it became a military hospital. It was here in May 1941 that Rudolf Hess was taken to be treated for injuries received during his parachute landing in Scotland.
After the war, various schemes were considered for making use of the building but none were judged viable. In 1955 the interior was stripped and the roof removed. Sadly it lies in ruins today.
Set on 200 acres, Balloch Castle Country Park is on the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond and offers woodland and lochside walks, a nature trail and moated mound marking the site of the ancient Balloch Castle.
The original Balloch Castle was the historic home of the Earls of Lennox during the early medieval period. These Lands of Lennox are now known as Dumbarton district.
Situated nearer the water than the present day castle, it was abandoned around 1390 in favour of stronghold on the island of Inchmurrin which was considered to be more secure against both the spread of disease and attack by hostile forces.
All that remains of this ancient seat of Lennox, in the Country Park today is a mound which once formed the moat. This site is given statutory protection under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.
The present Balloch Castle, replacing one that dated from 1238 was designed by English architect, Robert Lugar and constructed in 1808 for John Buchanan of Ardoch, who was a ship banker. Built in the castle-gothic style, this listed building was designed firstly as a status symbol and residency and turrets and slitted windows are purely decorative.
The site has a walled garden, and the trees and shrubs, especially the rhododendrons and azaleas, reach the peak of their beauty in late May and early June. You can also visit a Fairy Glen.