Castlehill, on the western edge of Dumbarton, on the north side of Cardross Road, is a small area of ground that includes two prominent natural knolls: the smaller one to the west is called Arthur’s Seat and the larger one, to the east, is known as Castle Hill. It is known that King Robert the Bruce had a manor house on the west side of the River Leven, where he died in 1329, and local tradition and the placename suggests that Castlehill might have been its location. However, nothing on the ground around the mounds indicates that they have been altered or built upon and other locations for Bruce’s manor site have been suggested closer to the river. No archaeological work has been undertaken on the site at Castlehill but a programme of community engagement might work well here.
The remains of Crookston Castle sit on top of a low hill overlooking the River Leven (Alexander and McCrae 2012, 117-120). The impressive 15th century stone tower is surrounded by a single bank and ditch enclosing a pear-shaped area 80m long by 60m wide. This enclosure is believed to be a ringwork built by Robert Croc in the 12th century (ibid 103-4). The site was the subject of archaeological excavations in 1973-5 (Lewis 2003) which confirmed the 12th century date for the earthwork and located numerous medieval artefacts including coins of Robert III, James II and James IV and a fragment of chainmail armour (Lewis 2003, Alexander & McCrae 2012, 117-120). The central stone tower was of an unusual design with a large central block with smaller square towers at each of the four corners. The two western corner towers were destroyed during a siege in 1489 led by James IV and the royal artillery train, probably including the large bombard Mons Meg.
An old yew tree once stood to the east of the ring work and when it was felled in 1812 some of the timber was kept and a model of Crookston Castle is on display in Pollok House made from some of the wood. In addition to a number of watching briefs carried out at the castle site by HES there has also been some geophysical survey that located a possible enclosure on the summit of the hill to the east (MacGuire 2000). Most recently Ross Wallace has undertaken a study of the masons’ marks of the dressed sandstone blocks in many of the major ecclesiastical and secular mediaeval buildings in the west of Scotland, including Bothwell Castle, Glasgow Cathedral and Paisley Abbey (Wallace 2000., An initial site visit to Crookston Castle suggested there was a lot of potential for a similar recording project there.
Out of all the Trust properties in west central Scotland, it is Provan Hall that has attracted the most archaeological attention. The courtyard and vaulted basement of the northern hall block was subject to an excavation in 1987 by the Scottish Urban Archaeological Trust under the direction of M Thomson. This was one of the few archaeological investigations that were carried out before the appointment of a dedicated NTS archaeologist post, although a final report was never produced a typed draft summary was located (Thomson 1987). There has been a long-term goal of the local community at Provan Hall to upgrade the facilities and visitor experience there. Following some small pieces of building recording of the hall flagstone floor and the kitchen fireplace (Alexander 2001), a full Historic Building Survey was carried out by Kirkdale Archaeology (Ewart et al 2009), along with a detailed historical report (Harrison 2009).
With momentum building towards conservation repair works, funding was found for a community archaeology project ‘Wee Dig Provan Hall’ which undertook excavation in the area of the demolished 19th century farm to the east of the courtyard, along with a number of smaller trial trenches (Shearer and Sneddon 2014). A full proposal to undertake conservation repairs to both the south and the north blocks was eventually developed and approved and the stripping out of later internal lining and exterior harl has uncovered a wealth of new evidence and confirmed some of the building sequence outlined in the earlier surveys. This building work was undertaken by Glasgow City Council over 2021. The archaeological works were undertaken by Addyman Archaeology and dendrochronological work by Corallie Mills.