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Dumbarton functioned as the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Strathclyde, and later as the county town of the county of Dunbartonshire. The name comes from the Scottish Gaelic Dùn Breatainn meaning "fort of the Britons". Dumbarton Castle, sitting on top of Dumbarton Rock, dominates the area. Dumbarton was a Royal burgh between 1222 and 1975.
Dumbarton emerged from the 19th century as a centre for shipbuilding, glassmaking, and whisky production. However these industries have since declined, or demised altogether, and Dumbarton today increasingly functions as a commuter town for the major City of Glasgow which is 13 miles (21 km) east-southeast. Dumbarton F.C. is the burgh's local association football club.
Dumbarton is also home to the BBC Scotland's drama studios, notable for filming River City, Hope Springs and Personal Affairs.