Tarbert Castle

Tarbert Castle, Knapdale, Argyll and Bute

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~ History ~

1292 ~ Tarbert Castle is granted to John Balliol by King Edward I of England.

1315 ~ King Robert the Bruce and the Steward sail to the Isles to settle outstanding affairs in the West from the recent War of Independance with England. as well as the ongoing internal Scottish clan on clan civil war and fueding. In a gesture deliberately intended to recall the action of the great Norwegian King Magnus Barelegs, the King lands his galley at Tarbert andhas his ships hauled on rollers across the narrow isthmus. It also a time to reward those clan chiefs who had been faithful to his cause, and bestows on Angus Og MacDonald and the MacRuairis lands and islands forfeited from the defeated MacDougalls. Seeing the strategic importance of Tarbert and Kintyre, he persuades Angus Og MacDonald to relinquish his dominion of Knapdale and Kyntyre.

1325 ~ Robert the Bruce enlarges and fortified the castle with the extensive curtain wall and drum towers enclosing almost two acres. Mindful of the powerful MacDonald and MacRuairi clans hold in Argyll, and in particular their command of the sea, he deliberately chooses Clan Campbell to keep his castle in his name.

1326 ~  Dugald Campbell is made sheriff of the newly constituted Argyll sheriffdom, and is responsible for the collection of royal revenues for the Crown.


1494 ~ King James IV of Scotland, requiring a strong base for his operations in the Western Isles against the MacDonald Lords of the Isles, repairs the castle and builds the Tower House. Artillery is taken to the castle and its garrison increased, with parliament summoned to the castle.

1499 ~ King James IV awards Archibald, Earl of Argyll, keeper of the castle.

1685 ~ The Earl of Argyll rebels against King James. He gathers a force of some 1,800 men to the castle. His rebellion fails and following his capture, he is beheaded and his lands forfeit to the Crown.

1705 ~ The McAlister family of Tarbert are tenants of the Castle under charter from the Campbells.

1760 ~ The Castle falls into disrepair leading to most of the useful stone being robbed to build the village and harbour.






Near PA29 6UH

Finding this castle is, on the face of it, not straight forward. We parked at the quay side and found steps that take you up to the castle that sits above the town. When you have climbed to the top you come across the outer works and defences of the castle via a series of mounds and ditches. This shows you the true scale of the castle over and above the remaiming small ruined tower.

Take a walk beyond the keep to take in the fabulous views, and here you will see the foundations of towers that once stood proud above the town and waterways far below.