Cumbernauld’s history stretches to Roman times, with a settlement near the Antonine Wall, the furthest and most northerly boundary of the Roman Empire. The security that the wall gave from possibly hostile tribes to the north probably allowed the foundation of a settlement.
A rural population grew in the area where Cumbernauld’s housing estates now stand, with the centrepoints being the 18th century Cumbernauld House, built close to the site of the medieval Cumbernauld Castle, and Cumbernauld Village nearby.
Cumbernauld House stands on the site of the old Cumbernauld Castle, first built as a Norman-style motte and bailey. Owned by the Comyns, it was situated at the east end of the park, where the motte (mound) is still visible. The Fleming family built their castle where the house now sits. One original wall can be seen in the allotment area. The castle played host to the royalty of Scotland, including Mary, Queen of Scots, who visited the castle and planted a yew tree at Castlecary Castle, only a mile or two away, which still grows there.
The roof of the great hall collapsed while the queen was staying there, though she was not hurt. Royalty often visited the town to hunt the mysterious Scottish ox, or white cattle, which roamed in the woods around Cumbernauld. These woods were a surviving fragment of the ancient Caledonian Forest, in which the oxen abounded. Cumbernauld House was designed by William Adam and is currently unoccupied. The old grounds are used today as a park, known as Cumbernauld Park. A mining and quarrying industry flourished after the construction of the Forth and Clyde Canal, notably at Auchinstarry Quarry which is now a popular location for climbing and abseiling, and at Glencryan, where the old clay mine and its associated structures are still clearly visible.
Weaving was an important part of the town’s industry before the Industrial Revolution, when all the work of that kind moved to neighbouring bigger towns such as Glasgow.
The Scottish Gaelic name from the town, Scottish Gaelic: Comar nan Allt, comes from its being located where streams flow west into the Clyde and east into the Forth rivers, and translates into English as ‘The Meeting Of The Waters’. It was long a staging-post for changing horses between Glasgow and Edinburgh. It has variously been in Stirlingshire, Dunbartonshire, and the Cumbernauld and Kilsyth District of Strathclyde region. Since 1995 it has been part of North Lanarkshire.