The Royal Castle of Tarbert


The earliest stone structure on this site dates from the 13th C , possibly earlier. The fortification guarded the anchorage below in the bay and controlled the land link between East and West Lochs.
In 1292 it was certainly a Royal Castle being among those granted to John Balliol by Edward I of England. In 1325 Robert the Bruce enlarged and fortified the Castle with the extensive curtain wall and drum towers enclosing almost two acres.
Surviving building accounts record that among other structures ,a hall, a chapel, houses, workshops, a brewhouse and outside the wall a mill and mill lade.
Tarbert Castle accounts to Robert the Bruce is one of the oldest documents in the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland. Below is part translation the original which is written in Latin.   
Settlement with Robert cimentarius (mason) for work on the walls of the Castle at Tarbert £282.15.0
To the same , by the King’s grace, because in the Kings absence he made the walls wider than the agreed contract £5.6.8
Purchase of 1ch. Meal & 1ch. Barley issued to the said Robert by contract in the 1st quarter of the year   £3.4.0
To John the mason work on castle walls  £28.7.8
To the same, part settlement for construction of new peel at Tarbert West £4.0.0
To burning 760ch. Lime between Whitsunday 1325 and St john’s Nativity at 10marks per chalder ; witnessed by Robert and Adam masons £50.0.0
To 2 men carrying lime from kiln to castle by sea and land, 29 weeks 3 days. 28th April - 11 Nov 25@ 4/- Settlement per weeks, aqnd 5 men as above @3/4d  £13.15.2
In 1494 James IV, requiring a strong base for his operations in the Western Isles repaired the Castle and built the Tower House; he brought artillery, victualled and garrisoned the Castle and summoned Parliament to meet in Tarbert.
The Castle continued its Royal connections but by the beginning of the 18C was a ruin.
The Castle as it might have looked circa 15th c illustration by Robert McPhail FRIAS
In 1705 The McAlister family of Tarbert tenanted the Castle under charter from the Campbells but in 1760 the Castle fell into disrepair leading to most of the useful stone being robbed to build the village and harbour.
In recent times supported by Historic Scotland and the Scottish Government the ruins have been stabilised and the site opened up for public access by local volunteers
Further reading
Published by TCT £5.00 + P&P all funds to support castle maintenance - E mail us through the CONTACT page of this web site.
The Royal Commision on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland www.rcahms.gov.uk
The Buildings of Scotland - Argyll and Bute  - Frank Arneil walker
The Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland -MacGibbon and Ross





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