22 Sep 2020: Our Final Report & Evaluation for the principal funder of our 2019 Community Dig is now available to read via our dedicated Archaeological Dig page.

13 Sep 2020: Our archaeologist's full draft report on the 2019 Community Dig at the Castle is now available to read on this website.  You can find it at our Archaeological Dig page.


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We care for
a part of Scotland’s history
which belongs to our community

NEWSLETTER No.21  -  Autumn 2020



The draft final report prepared by our professional archaeologist Roddy Regan can now be viewed on our website.  It is a final pre-publication draft, because Covid-19 has delayed some expert technical reports which will in due course be incorporated.

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has accepted this on the basis of our evaluation  -  which is also on our website  -  and has congratulated us on a very successful project, meeting all its objectives, on time and on budget.

We have already presented the project to various groups who requested same before lockdown, and we still hope to have a public presentation in Tarbert as soon as Covid will allow.

In the meantime, there is a display in the central window of the Tarbert Life heritage premises in Harbour Street, which has been of interest to visitors, and which we think has contributed to the exceptional number of visitors to the Castle in the past few weeks.



This project, to enhance visitor facilities, is in five parts:-

The canopy and cairn helped by grant from the National Lottery community fund

The design and manufacture of new interpretation panels, including the dig outcomes, and the remainder of our Heritage Park. These have been provided with a grant from Cour Wind Farm community benefit.

The provision of a donation facility on our website now established.

Proposal for a contactless donation unit – this is experimental as, although these are now common in museums, etc., we appear to be leading with an outdoor provision

Replacement of the very popular round picnic table at the interpretation area. This and the contactless unit have been helped by the Tarbert & Skipness Community Trust (TSCT) community benefit fund.

We’re making progress, and we plan to complete all of the above before next spring season (i.e. Spring 2021).




We have had a good few weeks after lockdown, with record numbers visiting the Castle and woodland, but will experience a considerable drop in our modest visitor income over the whole year.

We now have a dedicated donations page on our website, accessed by clicking on “Support our work” on www.tarbertcastle.info, and QR codes on site will give visitors quick access.

Members and visitors can choose a donation amount, and pay with Paypal or Bank Transfer for internet banking. Any members who are able to make a donation would be a useful test of the facility.

We hope this will help in the future, and, as indicated above, we are working on development of an onsite contactless donation facility in our new interpretation area.



Despite Covid-19, and with careful planning and social distancing, maintenance work has continued on site.  Shortly, volunteers will commence feeding our sheep through the winter.

If anyone would like to try taking part in this, which basically means a visit for half an hour once a week, please contact Robert at sonamarg@btinternet.com.

Volunteers have commenced a new project, to form a path right around the pond in the Community Woodland, with the planting of a further fifty trees this autumn.

Our next volunteer morning will be at 10.00am on SATURDAY 3 OCTOBER 2020.  Until Covid is out of the picture, please bring your own tea break.  ALL WELCOME.  There’s plenty to do.

Keep safe,


Tarbert Castle Trust
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




We care for
a part of Scotland’s history

which belongs to
our community

NEWSLETTER No.20 - Summer 2020

Based on the text of a press release sent to the Argyllshire Advertiser w/c 20.7.20:-

In the spring of 2019, as reported in the Advertiser, Tarbert Castle volunteers, supported by our professional archaeologist Roddy Regan and Kilmartin Museum education department, carried out an extensive archaeological dig on the Scheduled Monument, with some 52 volunteers, and 250 young people from schools and youth groups in Argyll, taking part.

An exhibition, of a selection of what we found, learned, and achieved, is currently on display in the central window of the TSCT* Tarbert Life project in the centre of Tarbert village, to provide an interest for the returning visitors, whom we are pleased to see are making the village very busy after our quiet period in lockdown.  Monitored this week, it is clear that "staycation" visitors have been enjoying the Castle Heritage Park in unprecedented numbers.

The 2019 dig made the major discovery of a previously unknown western entrance:-

“The remains of a portcullis slot were uncovered, shedding new light on how the castle was constructed, approached, and defended.  It represents a previously unknown, and highly significant, part of the site, and we commend the (Tarbert Castle) Trust for its discovery and careful excavation”. 
Barbara Cummins, Director of Heritage, Historic Environment Scotland

Volunteers have just completed a further small dig, funded by donations, to prove the assumed existence of an entrance of some kind at the eastern side of the castle, facing Loch Fyne and between the two round towers at that location.

We can now confirm that such an eastern entrance did exist, identical in size to the discovered western entrance with portcullis slot and door check.  This is another remarkable result, as very few, if any, castles will have been built in Scotland with two fully defended major entrances.

The eastern entrance would have provided access for arrivals by sea, and the birlinns (galleys) of Robert the Bruce would have been beached in the bay below.  The northern curtain wall of the castle, rising direct from the rocky seashore, and with no access around what we now know as Pier Road, would have necessitated this western entrance to give access from Kintyre.

artist's impression of recently discovered east gate

Sheila Campbell, chair of Tarbert Castle Trust (TCT), confirms that volunteers will now proceed with updated and additional interpretation, below a grass turf-roofed canopy funded by the National Lottery Community Fund and Cour Windfarm Community Benefit.

The Trust is working also on a project to install a contactless donations facility, as part of the new visitor interpretation area, in a further effort to raise funds and thereby become sustainable in our efforts to (i) look after our conservation grazing sheep and (ii) keep volunteers equipped to carry out their site management and improvement plans.

We send heartfelt thanks to our supporters  -  from as far and wide as Canada, the Cotswolds, and the Lake District  -  who have helped to fund the dig, and equally to our tireless, enthusiastic, dedicated, and reliable volunteers in the Tarbert area. 

Our website  -  www.tarbertcastle.info  -  now has a dedicated donations page.

Our volunteers have been making great efforts to catch up with maintenance  -  difficult during COVID-19 lockdown  -  and our next morning session will take place at 10am (1000 hrs) on Saturday 1 August, as usual.

Please bring your own tea break, to avoid cup washing during this difficult time.

Plenty for everyone to do.

Keep safe,


*TSCT = Tarbert & Skipness Community Trust.


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




On Thursday 2 July 2020, our professional archaeologist Roddy Reagan, in conducting a preliminary investigation at the east (i.e. Loch Fyne) end of the castle site, discovered a significant, but previously unconfirmed, entrance to the defences.  This gateway, which includes a dressed red sandstone doorway featuring a portcullis slot, lies between the twin "drum" towers which face east towards the outer harbour and the sea loch beyond.

This is a major discovery  -  not only for Tarbert Castle, but also as a significant expansion of the recorded knowledge of Scottish medieval fortresses.

in centre of this view, looking towards the ground, is dressed red sandstone of doorway, incorporating the portcullis slot.

We already have consent for a small dig in this location, but we have been able to proceed with this investigation due only to a generous donation of support, received in June 2020, from a gentleman in the Lake District.

Understandably, we are now more keen than ever to expand the dig, with our volunteers assisting to further record details.  However, to do so, we will need to find approximately £2500.

At this difficult time  -  COVID-19  -  we would appreciate hugely any donation which our friends, visitors, and supporters are able to offer by way of helping us to do justice to this already exciting development.

To that end, you may find that the following details are helpful:- 

Bank Account

Tarbert Castle Trust

Bank of Scotland

Account No. 16933361

Sort code  80-22-60

Alternatively, a cheque made out to TCT, and posted to our Secretary & Treasurer Robert McPhail MBE, at Sonamarg, Ileene Rd, TARBERT, PA29 6TU, would have the same, very welcome, effect.




Support our Work


We care for
a part of Scotland’s history

which belongs to
our community

NEWSLETTER No.19 - Spring 2020

We hope that you're all well, and coping with the lockdown. 

The efforts made by Team Tarbert, the Community Trust, and other volunteers, to help those who need it, are remarkable, and our community is very fortunate to have such people around us in these trying times.


Our own volunteers have been checking our sheep, but all other work on the site has more or less stopped.

During the winter, working with Tarbert Academy pupils and Guides, we planted some 200 trees.  The woodland will be available for future generations, and this work expanded it close to the village.  We also completed new handrails and safety strips on steps and landings.

The orchard trees have been all been mulched/pruned and, throughout the site, we've made progress with cutting back of rampant bramble growth.  Unfortunately for our volunteers, we've no option but to keep on top of this repetitive task.  Thankfully, though, there are other tasks available, so it never needs to get monotonous. 

We started the work on the improved interpretation area, but had to abandon that during the present lockdown.  We'll get back to it, as soon as we can.


We now have Scheduled Monument consent in place for

  • A new archaeological dig, to explore the possibility of an eastern entrance
  • Construction of the improved interpretation area
  • Consolidation work to allow us to leave visible to the public the location of the discovered western entrance

Securing these consents took considerable effort with Historic Environment Scotland (HES), mainly due to staff problems at the latter (now resolved).  We express our thanks to Roddy and all those who supported us.

Design work is complete. and materials have been sourced for all of this work, so, as soon as we think it is safe to do so, we will progress it on site. 


The new on-site visitor donation arrangements, which we organised last year, were working well, and our maintenance costs were on course to becoming sustainable.   But, unfortunately, Covid-19 caused our income  -  in common with that of many others  -  to crash, and our visitor numbers are unlikely to recover in the near future.  This may delay some activity, but we're looking at how to overcome the problem.

The plans for the improved interpretation area include preparation for contactless donations to be made on site, but, as this is costly to establish and run, we can't proceed immediately.  However, it's almost certainly the way ahead for us, as soon as we can afford it.


If there's anyone out there who can spare us an hour or two.....
There are still brambles to be cut back in woodland areas.  And some strimming of new bracken growth, where we have planted trees this year, would be helpful and appreciated.  
In the shelter, there's a very long bent-prong rake which we've been gifted, and it is excellent for removing weed from the woodland pond.

Please bear in mind that, if you are working alone, you should take a mobile phone with you, in case of accident.

Keep safe,


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




AS WINTER ARRIVES, here's some very positive tree-planting news from the Castle Trust...



NEWSLETTER No.18 - November 2019




Volunteers at Tarbert Castle have been planting trees again this year (2019) as a community contribution to reducing the effect of carbon emissions and mitigating climate change.  The work is all part of a national programme to deal with the urgent crisis affecting the world.

We have 160 new trees, and associated protection and fertiliser, supplied through a grant from the Tree Council’s “Tree Futures” programme and from the “I Dig Trees” programme organised by TCV Scotland, and with help from “Volunteering Matters” action earth programme.
















Planting is being carried out by Tarbert Academy’s Forest School and a group of senior pupils who do their “Rural Skills” practical work at the Castle.  Our own dedicated volunteer team is organising and assisting with the activity and will be planting during our volunteer work parties.




Robert McPhail, secretary and treasurer of the Trust, explained that, during the last 5 - 6 years, the Trust and its volunteers have planted over 1000 trees in the Community Woodland and Orchard,  which form part of the Castle’s Heritage Park.

During spring, summer, and autumn 2019, the Trust recorded over 40,000 visitors to the Heritage Park as a whole.

















If you'd like to be part of the ongoing activities at our Heritage Park please get in touch with us.  Here are our contact details:-

A community based organisation to protect, care for and expand the educational potential of Tarbert Castle.
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.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.

Support our Work


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
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