Dumbuck Hill – the Sleeping Giant. William Wallace, Thomas the Rhymer, secret tunnels and The Druid.

The Druid, the first book in my new series set in post-Roman Britain, begins in a place now known as Milton, in West Dunbartonshire, Scotland. Located a couple of miles past the western end of the Antonine Wall, there’s been a settlement there for millenia and, overlooking the village, is Dumbuck Hill which, nowadays, is used as a quarry. It’s almost a twin to Dumbarton Rock, both being volcanic plugs which tower over the area providing commanding views and refuge for locals and even well-known historical figures.


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View of Dumbuck Hill from nearby Bellsmyre


Indeed, there were caves in Dumbuck Hill known locally as “Wallace’s Cave” and “Rhymer’s Cave” as William Wallace and Thomas the Rhymer both apparently sought refuge there in medieval times. Thomas, according to local folklore, has gone off to Fairyland and will return, one day, to the cave on the hill.

In another version of the legend, Thomas, rather like King Arthur, has been sleeping in his cave all this time (must have been a heavy session in Fairyland if he can sleep through the blasting from the modern day quarry!). It’s been suggested this is one reason why the hill is known as “the sleeping giant”. As you can see from my photos though, it seems pretty obvious why it gets that name.


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The Sleeping Giant viewed from Dumbarton Cemetery. See the face? Photo copyright Steven McKay


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Just making it obvious in case anyone can’t see it!

Dumbarton Rock appears in my new series too, in fact it features heavily in the scenes I’ve been writing this week. I worked in the castle there as a steward about fifteen years ago* and I remember there being talk about secret tunnels that connected the Rock with Dumbuck Hill. That idea fascinated me at the time but I’ve no idea how true it is.

You can see both Dumbuck Hill and Dumbarton Castle in this view. Could there be secret tunnels connecting the two? Photo copyright Steven McKay

None of this really has anything in particular to do with my new books, I just thought it might be interesting to some of you. Being honest, I didn’t even know Dumbuck Hill was known as “the Sleeping Giant” until I was working in Dumbarton this week and noticed how much it LOOKED like a man on his back and Googled it. One thing I’d love to know is how much the quarrying operations over the decades have changed the giant’s appearance. Unfortunately I can’t find any old paintings or drawings showing that so if anyone can help me out it would be great.

View of Dumbuck Hill from Dumbarton Rock. From this angle you can see it’s a hollow shell thanks to the quarrying! Photo copyright Steven McKay

The Druid came out on November 1st and has been at the top of Amazon’s UK “Celtic, English and Welsh Myths” chart almost continually ever since! You can check it out HERE. Now, I’m working on the second book in the series, Song of the Centurion, so do keep an eye out for that too. If you enjoyed my Robin Hood books I think you’ll really like these as well.

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Source for some of this article is HERE, check it out it’s really interesting.

* Look out for a future article on the ghosts of Dumbarton Castle. I had one published years ago in a glossy, but now defunct, UK magazine and I plan on re-doing it this year.

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4 thoughts on “Dumbuck Hill – the Sleeping Giant. William Wallace, Thomas the Rhymer, secret tunnels and The Druid.

Add yours

  1. Fascinating stuff, Steven! I’m always surprised by little nuggets of history that can pop up when you’re writing or researching. Those can be some of the best moments of a novel-in-creation. Best of luck with The Druid – I’ve started the Forest Lord series and am enjoying it very much.


  2. That’s really interesting. I live on the other side of the river, but we’ve been through there a lot on the way to Loch Lomond and I’ve always been struck by the rocks that loom there, so it’s great to know the accompanying local folklore. Keep it coming!

    Liked by 1 person

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