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Bringing History, and Nature, to Life


Argyll & Bute, Scotland, PA29 6UD


Late 1950s - late 1980s

Various individuals in the Tarbert community contacted government departments and ministers in the Scottish Office, attempting to drive forward action to repair and make safe the ruins of Tarbert castle.  Despite meetings and letters acknowledging the importance of the castle, little action was forthcoming.

Late 1980

Public meetings were convened locally, which pushed forward the need for the community to take action themselves, and a steering group was formed.


A Limited Company Trust was registered, and action started to produce a brochure trying to raise funds.

Information signs were installed, naming features around the castle ruins.

1990 - 2005

A great amount of work was carried out trying to raise funds initially to achieve a feasibility study by experts.  Grants were applied for, but major support was not forthcoming.  During this period, the group took over ownership of the castle, but the lack of support led to action slowing.  The ruins were becoming less stable, with alien vegetation taking over the site, and the Tower House propped and fenced off due to its dangerous condition.


Tarbert and Skipness Community Trust (TSCT) approached the remaining group representatives and they agreed to hand over the Castle to the Community Trust, including an area within the scheduled site owned by a group member and £1000 in residual funds.


TSCT decided that, as previous approaches to authorities who should have been responsible together with grant organizations had received little or no support, a strategy was developed to take action locally.  Tarbert Conservation Initiative (TCI) was formed to achieve a volunteer group willing to carry out work on the ground.  Volunteers started clearing vegetation at regular work parties, after Scheduled Monument (SM) consents were applied for and received.  

The Castle itself is a Scheduled Monument (ref. SM276), as is the surrounding ground (ref. SM3410), and anything which is done on the site must receive a consent.

Urgent work was carried out to improve access, and the strategically significant Kintyre Way opening ceremony was hosted at the Castle.


When vegetation was stripped from the ruins, a biodegradable matting was secured to keep soil in place until sown grass took hold. ......

........This represented an affirmation of our strategy, when Historic Scotland became engaged requesting and funding this protective work. .....

.....Also, Tarbert Academy's drama group performed “The Scottish Play” before a local audience of some two hundred residents, who were seated on the banks surrounding the inner bailey.


Temporary support of the Tower House structure, with scaffolding, helped improve stability to prevent imminent complete collapse....

.....and the Castle volunteers received the Argyll & Bute "Volunteers of the Year" award.


With site clearance approaching completion, fencing the site with gate accesses commenced, to start plans for future maintenance with grazing.  The land was registered as an agricultural holding ref. no. 154/0041.

2009 - 2012

While normal maintenance and further clearance continued, a major plan to consolidate the Tower House structure at a cost of £750,000 was commenced.

Local organizations and individuals provided loans of £100,000 required as cash flow as grants were paid in retrospect, month by month, as the 3-year on-site contract commenced.


Web site was established.

To provide conservation of the now grass covered areas, community Hebridean sheep were introduced to the site,......

...........and, of course, from time to time, they require to be sheared. .....

.....To make use of our Hebridean sheared wool, a spinning group was formed.


Volunteers installed floodlighting around the Tower House.


Loans were repaid to the community lenders, and a new organisation  -  Tarbert Castle Trust (TCT), classed as a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO)  -  was formed to take over the Castle, to ensure its security in community ownership.  The TCI volunteers, together with their tools and equipment, were absorbed into this organisation.  Those volunteers, as well as continuing on site operations, were to play a major role in future developments.  Interpretation panels were permanently installed, with small signage around the site naming visible features.  It was becoming obvious that visitor numbers were increasing and, for the first time, these were monitored with people counters, which recorded 15,000 visits during 2012.


The community-owned area includes marshy ground to the south east, behind the Scheduled site, and volunteer work commenced on the reclamation of this by creating a Community Woodland, which includes a wildlife pond creating diverse habitats.  In preparation for future archaeological exploration, Roddy Regan, our consultant archaeologist, prepared a desk-based assessment of known facts about the castle, and a full non-invasive survey of the site (see document on the Archaeology page of this website).........

.......and, in celebration of the Castle being open and accessible for residents and visitors, we held a ”Medieval Melee”, providing a day's themed entertainment for some 350 local people and visitors of all ages......

......and attended by these two medieval blokes.  We reckon they were travelling minstrels, just passing through.


The Community Woodland was established, with 700 trees planted, paths formed, and picnic tables installed, all accessed via gates from the Castle area itself.  Tarbert Academy junior pupils began using the woodland area for "forest school" activities.


Castle access paths were created and improved, including a board walk across marshy ground, creating a circular walk around the castle and the woodland. 


Woodland sculptures were added to the woodland, and a further 100 trees planted.  We started working with Tarbert Academy, giving children experience in outdoor work, and this has developed into providing the practical activity for Rural Skills courses within the secondary pupils' curriculum.


Plans for a Community Orchard on remaining land behind the Castle were prepared and implemented,......

.....with some 200 fruit-producing trees and shrubs planted on not inconsiderable works to deer fence site, create raised beds with ditches between. .....

.....Having applied to Historic Scotland for permission, we received, at last, a consent on safety grounds to construct a new path, up and over the hill, on the main access route.


As preparation for a major archaeological dig which we were planning to carry out the following year, we conducted, in 2018, a trial dig in Bruce Hill, just beyond the castle boundary.

.....This was very successful, in that it provided preliminary training for volunteers and revealed evidence of medieval occupation of the area.

.....Also, to improve the visitor experience and encourage donations, we constructed a distinctive and sympathetic new canopy over the arrival gateway from Harbour Street below.  That's a turfed roof, by the way.


The "OUR CASTLE OF KINGS" community archaeological dig, designed and supervised by Roddy Regan our consultant archaeologist, ............

..... included a children’s programme of involvement organized by the Kilmartin Museum education team.

.....In total, over the course of the whole dig, which lasted several weeks, 52 volunteers and 250 children, from schools in Kintyre and Knapdale, took part.

.....Full details of the dig outcomes are available on our Archaeology page (on our menu, go to Castle > Archaeology).

In 2019, we experienced a record number of visits to the site.  During the year, there were 46,000 such visits.  This equated to a 300% increase over the 2012 figure.  What a difference in just a few short years!

Our big community dig discovered some fascinating finds, including this broken pottery.......

.......and this coin from the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots.


We carried out a further small community dig, successfully confirming the location of an Eastern entrance to the castle......

.........on a similar scale to the previously unrecorded major Western entrance found during our 2019 big community dig.

..........Despite the limitations on volunteers during COVID-19, we updated on-site interpretation facilities, installing additional interpretive panels below a new shelter canopy in order to enhance the visitor experience.

That's another turfed roof.

A new path is planned in the woodland, and further trees will be planted.  

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