News about the Castle

COMMUNITY DIG 2019  -  SADLY, IT'S DRAWN TO A CLOSE, but check out our Summer Newsletter below for a summary of how productive it was.

Quick links to our most recent newsletters (they open in a new window):-

Summer 2019
Spring 2019

Winter 2018
Summer 2018
Spring 2018
Autumn 2017
Summer 2017

Spring 2017


NEWSLETTER No.17 - Summer 2019


Our dig is completed, but for some backfilling and removal of excess stone.  If you would like any stone for your garden projects, it is free  -  just contact us to discuss.

The dig has exceeded our objectives, with more volunteers and young people involved than planned.  Finds of medieval pottery, etc., and the discovery of a never before recorded main entrance from the west, with dressed stone reveals showing an opening some 3m wide, door check and portcullis slot.  This entrance must have been imposing; approached by a ramp, with the older castle on the right, and King Robert the Bruce’s tower on the left.  There would be an archway over, with a compartment above to allow the portcullis to be raised.

Above: Entrance excavation, showing door check and portcullis slot

The weather was great, and, apart from having to abandon the site one day at lunchtime due to midges, every programmed day saw enthusiastic, if sometimes very heavy, work by volunteers and our professional archaeologist Roddy Regan.  Kilmartin Museum’s education team managed large groups of young people from schools in Kintyre and Knapdale and great weekend organised by Tarbert Guides.  Return visits will be made to schools in a feedback program by the education team.

We wish to record our thanks to ALL those involved, including funders, and I think we can say it was enjoyed by everyone who took part.

Roddy will now be taking some time to prepare, study, and seek, where required, expert advice on finds and features discovered and their significance in the castle’s story.  The final report will be published early next year, and will be available to download through our website.

Tarbert Castle Trust (TCT) will also assess how to best interpret results for visitors, and Tarbert & Skipness Community Trust (TSCT) directors have agreed that, where possible, finds will be displayed at “Tarbert Life”  -  the village’s fascinating new heritage centre.


Those who took part, and others, are asking if we will do more exploration, and I think this is a certainty in future years if funding can be achieved.

We’ve received a grant from the Tree Council for more tree planting, and Rural Skills pupils from Tarbert Academy will assist with this in the autumn.

We’re continuing to monitor the numbers accessing the site, with more than 6000 visitors during the dig, most interested in what we were doing and asking numerous questions. 

Meantime, due to 100% commitment during the last two months, a great deal of work is required on the orchard, woodland, and the site generally, and we need all the volunteer help we can muster.

Our next volunteer work party will be the first Saturday in August (Saturday 3 Aug), but meantime, if you can help, there is strimming and cutting back growth that can be tackled anytime.  E-mail or phone to discuss  -  sonamarg@btinternet.com or 01880 820643

Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation Charity No. SC043056
Secretary & Treasurer: Robert McPhail MBE, Sonamarg, Ileene Rd, Tarbert, Argyll, PA29 6TU
E-mail: sonamarg@btinternet.com       Tel: 01880 820643




NEWSLETTER No.16 – Spring 2019



We are still fundraising to maximise the community engagement, feedback and young people’s participation in our Archaeological dig but are on course to make a start this summer as planned.

We have some 200 bookings to take part from Tarbert, Carradale, Campbelltown and Lochgilphead residents with others as far afield as Oban, East Lothian, Glasgow, Arran, Bute and York. Schools throughout Kintyre and Knapdale are to take part and all will receive basic training in Archaeological skills.

An additional benefit from the dig is the considerable publicity our village and Heritage Park has been given through the fundraising, booking and information out there in print, on the web and social media about our proposals to explore the Castle’s history in a way never before achieved.

We are again monitoring visitor numbers and the early months of the year indicate that there will be an increase in excess of 25% since we last did this in 2014 with total accessing the site exceeding 20,000 over the year.

The only downside of the increased usage of the site is the wear and tear on the access paths etc and the consequential effect on the extent and cost of maintenance.


Helped by Tarbert academy “Rural Skills” group our volunteers continue to put in a considerable effort. We have recently created and new entrance arrangement from the village steps and are trying to achieve a donation funding level which will establish a sustainable future for the whole site and its contribution to the local economy. If anyone has any suggestions on fundraising activities we are listening !         

Next volunteer work party will NOT be first Saturday in May but will be SATURDAY 11TH MAY when we need help to set up for the dig.

Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation Charity No SC043056
Secretary / Treasurer Robert McPhail,MBE Sonamarg, Ileene Rd, Tarbert, Argyll PA29 6TU
E Mail sonamarg@btinternet.com       Tel 01880 820 643





You can now donate to project through our CROWD FUNDING portal



Contractors Laing Traditional Masonry have been been working over a period of three years, with a total contract value of £750,000, to consolidate stonework on the Tower House.  This work is now complete

We are looking at new proposals for community archaeology on the site, working with Adopt-a-Monument and Kilmartin House Museum.

We have determined that twelve sheep is the ideal number for the site.  The sheep are on site for conservation grazing, and this is very effective in achieving low-maintenance cropped turf, rather than the big task of strimming, which would be the only alternative.  TCI volunteer shepherds continue to look after the flock each day.

We have a new project on land behind the Castle  -  the Castle's very own Community Woodland  -  and volunteers have completed clearing the ditch, forming the pool, planting trees, and preparing fencing and paths.

Volunteers and artists are now working on a Sculpture Walk.

This winter, we have just completed a new boardwalk, linking the Castle area to the woodland and sculpture walk, and providing a circular route to walk around the site.

Our Community Orchard is now complete.














The main access route has been upgraded, with the help of Tarbert & Skipness Community Trust (TSCT) and Paths for All.

See our menu item ARCHAEOLOGICAL DIG for a summary of this new project, which is now programmed for 2019, and for which we hope to raise funds of £25,000.

The Castle property and surrounding area, which includes a Community Woodland and Orchard, is a unique heritage park, with something for everyone.

For activity information, check our Tarbert Castle Facebook page and our Twitter account.

Contract Start
Contract Start
By helicopter is the only way to lift building materials into the site
Scaffold in Position
Scaffold in Position
This is a considerable engineering exercise, as the scaffold cannot be supported from the fragile structure itself
Work Underway
Work Underway
Pointing with lime mortar to the agreed specification
Wall Heads
Wall Heads
Clay and turf capping to the wall heads
site map | cookie policy | privacy policy | accessibility statement