Place Visioning

Dumbarton Rock & Castle

Placing community before tourism
Heritage-inspired regeneration strategy
A strategy that is unlocking funding

Project Background

Dumbarton combines extraordinary natural and cultural heritage. Towering over the town is Dumbarton rock, formed some 350m years ago during a period of intense volcanic activity. With its natural fortification and strategic outlook over the Clyde, it became home to a royal castle in the 12th century, and was visited by Mary Queen of Scots and where William Wallace was imprisoned during the Wars of Independence. Since the decline of the glass and ship-building industries, the town has struggled to recover economically. Its population now is marked by significant levels of unemployment, skills and social deprivation. With a focus on Dumbarton rock and castle, we were commissioned in 2020 to develop a new visitor gateway and interpretation strategy for the town.

Our Approach

We partnered with CBA studio to strike a necessary balance between the economic needs of the brief and the complex design and heritage challenges associated with the town, the rock and castle.

Our recommendations were borne out of a carefully choreographed stakeholder and community consultation exercise, ensuring they were rooted in the local context.

Results and Outcomes

Our principal recommendation was for the gateway business model to be predicated less on tourism (which had been the focus before that point) and more on the physical and economic regeneration of Dumbarton and the social impact on its communities. This concept and strategy were welcomed by all partners and the community, and has been held up by Historic Environment Scotland as an exemplar project. The work has already helped in securing funding for a new orientation centre and infrastructure improvements, and is forming the spine for further funding bids to the Levelling Up Fund and other community regeneration programmes.

What our client said

“Jim and the team at Fourth Street provided a fresh perspective on the visitor offer potential in Dumbarton. Using robust data analysis and extensive research which constructively challenged some of our pre-conceived ideas, Fourth Street delivered a Strategy and realistic Action Plan for an Arc of Attraction in Dumbarton, demonstrating that meaningful improvements to the visitor offer can be achieved with no requirement for new, large-scale investment. The Strategy has brought several organisations together in a Partnership that is now working through and delivering the Action Plan. Fourth Street delivered what they promised, on time, leaving no loose ends.”

Gillian McNamara
Regeneration Co-ordinator, West Dunbartonshire Council
Project focus