The town does has some attractions, notably the castle, which is on a districtive hill like Edinburgh and Stirling castles, but has also attracted some unfavourable reviews: "Dumbarton is a brutal concrete sprawl, fulfilling every last hellish cliche about post-war planning and architecture" - so says the 1994 edition of The Rough Guide to Scotland.
The Denny Tank Museum is also worth a visit, but there is not a great deal to be seen in the modern town centre. The town could be comfortably explored as a day trip from Glasgow.
The population is just over 20,000. You may have seen the town on BBC television in Scotland as the set for the soap opera River City, a northern version of Eastenders. Whisky blending and bonded storage is a major industry in the town. The bonded warehouses can be seen as you enter the town from the east.
Electric trains serve the three stations in Dumbarton, from Queen Street station (low level) in Glasgow, with about four trains per hour, going to Helensburgh or Balloch. Some trains also provide a direct service from Edinburgh.
- 1 Dumbarton Castle, ☎ . It features a castle on top of a rock, overlooking the Firth of Clyde. It was an important royal refuge. Quite a lot of steps to climb to get the top, but the view is worth it.
- 2 Denny Ship Model Experiment Tank, Castle Street, G82 1QS, ☎ . M-Sa 10AM-4PM. A shipyard model test tank built in 1882. Now part of the Scottish Maritime Museum, but still used occasionally for real tests. Adults £2.
- 3 Levengrove Park. Given to the town's people by the Denny shipbuilding family. Large mature parkland, dramatically positioned between the Rivers Leven and Clyde. Contains many play areas for children, mature trees and flower beds. Dramatic views of the castle can be found at the bottom of the park. Remains of an old parish church can be found in the park.
- 4 Geilston Gardens, Main Road, Cardross, G82 5HD. 1 Apr to 31 Oct, daily, 9:30AM-5:00PM. A National Trust for Scotland Garden, which dates from 1797. There is a fine walled garden around Geilston House (not open), a riverside area around Geilston Burn and a fruit and vegetable garden. In season there is a table offering fruit and vegetables for sale. Adult: £6.50.
- Dumbarton High Street has a collection of lower end shops with a small shopping centre, the Artizan Centre, and a Co-op supermarket.
- There is a small outdoor mall, anchored by an ASDA on the Glasgow road near the Denny Tank.
- 1 The Captain James Lang, 97–99 High Street, Dumbarton, G82 1LF, ☎ . daily 8AM-midnight (kitchen closes 11PM). Wetherspoon's pub with real ales and food in the art deco former Woolworth's building built in 1922.
- 1 Dumbuck Hotel, Glasgow Road. 16 room hotel in an 18th century mansion house fom £40.
- Travelodge Dumbarton, A82 Stirling Road Milton, G82 2TZ, ☎ (13p per minute in addition to regular charges; £2.50 booking fee).