Tarbert Castle

Tarbert Castle

Tarbert Castle

History of Tarbert Castle

From the earliest times the strategic site on the narrow neck of land between East and West Lochs, Tarbert was probably a simple hill fort until it was handed over to Bailliol in 1292 when it became a Royal Castle.

In1306 Robert the Bruce passed through Kintyre in his flight to Ratlin and his appointment with a spider.
Realising the importance of the isthmus and the necessity to defend it, Bruce set work in hand in 1325 to repair and extend an existing castle, standing on the hill above Tarbert harbour. It is believed that castle at this stage was a square enclosure, the castle rooms contained within this space. On one corner of the inner bailey or courtyard there appears to have been a walled area which may have contained a well or reservoir for water. It was to these foundations that Bruce’s repairs and additions were made.

The extension to the original castle was a large outer bailey or courtyard area to the east bounded by a defensive or curtain wall. On the east side facing the sea, two drum towers are incorporated in the wall probably with an entrance between accessed from the loch below. Within this larger courtyard the new works included a Hall, built on piers, and a dwelling house. Other works were the building of a chapel, a new kitchen, a wine house, bake house, goldsmiths’ house, malt house, brew house with a new vat, a mill with millpond and lade, a moat and a lime kiln.

It is not clear how often Bruce visited his Castle but entries in the accounts would suggest that he stayed here in 1329, the year of his death.

In 1494 James IV resided at Tarbert on two occasions. During his first visit he repaired the fort built by Bruce. It is probable that the keep or tower house was built at this time. Facilities were established for his shipping to transport artillery and a stock of gunpowder. On his second visit, parliament was summoned to meet at Tarbert on July 5th 1494 for the purpose of deciding ways of pacifying the still turbulent area of Kintyre and the Islands.

In 1705 the McAlister family of Tarbert tenanted the castle under charter from the Campbells but by 1760 Tarbert Castle fell into disrepair leading to most of the useful stone being removed to build the harbour and village as Tarbert became a major fishing port.

Idea of what Tarbert Castle would have looked like.

Idea of what Tarbert Castle would have looked like.

Clan Connections with Tarbert Castle

Clan MacAlister >
Clan Campbell >

Photos from our visit to Tarbert Castle