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Ardnamurchan, Tarbert, Salen

Township (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Ardnamurchan, Tarbert, Salen

Classification Township (Period Unassigned)

Canmore ID 22499

Site Number NM66SE 1

NGR NM 681 638

NGR Description Centred NM 681 638

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Ardnamurchan
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Lochaber
  • Former County Argyll

Archaeology Notes

NM66SE 1 centred 681 638

(Name: NM 6810 6378) Tarbert (NAT)

OS 6" map, Argyllshire, 2nd ed., (1902)

This name applies to the ruins of a small village. (Ten unroofed buildings shown on OS 6"map)

Name Book 1872

(NM 681 637) Not visited. The date of depopulation is not known locally.

Visited by OS (R L) 27 May 1970

Ten unroofed buildings are depicted on the 1st edition of the OS 6-inch map (Argyllshire 1875, sheet xxvi), but they are not shown on the current edition of the OS 1:10000 map (1990).

Information from RCAHMS (SAH) 7 May 1998


Publication Account (2009)

The website text produced forTarbert webpages on the Forest Heritage Scotland website (

Introduction: Lording over the land

On the south edge of Sunart forest, at Tarbert Bay, lies the remains of the old Tarbert farm, part of Ardnamurchan Estate. While the estate was passed from one owner to another, fought over and sold, the tenants continued to live, work and farm the land.

In the 13th century, Ardnamurchan was the possession of the MacDonalds, Lords of the Isles, later passing into MacIean control. In the 17th century, however, the Campbells of Argyll took the land from them.

The first record we have of Tarbert comes from 1651, as part of the lands of [i]"Swennart" ([/i]Sunart today). In 1716 six men from Tarbert were named on a list of those who had carried arms in the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715, and this is the earliest record of the people who lived on the farm.

"John Cameron he gave in his gun and pistol to Lochnell"

Lochnell was Alexander Campbell of Lochnell, one of the many Campbell landlords who managed the estate. In 1722, however, he sold the Ardnamurchan and Sunart estate to Alexander Murray of Stanhope.

Over the next forty years the estate was owned and ran by three different Murray brothers before being sold to James Montgomery in 1767. What did he do with the land? He immediately sold it and the owner changed again!

It remained the property of the Riddell family until 1920, when the government purchased it and, soon after, came into the care of the Forestry Commission.

People Story: Wood versus stone

Investigate the remains of the township of Tarbert and you will find evidence of at least nine stone-built houses. These houses are thought to be late additions in the long history of the settlement.

Looking back at estate records, we learn that most people lived in a type of turf and wattle house known as a Creel house. They built these houses using upright wood poles interwoven with smaller branches (resembling a basket or 'creel') and then covered in turf slabs.

In 1767, a report prepared for the landlords complained that they used too much of their forest's valuable wood.

When Murray took over the estate he tried to persuade his tenants to build in stone.

"….they make a great rout about the trouble & Expence they'l be at in building of Stone houses yet… Stone houses are mostly everywhere Cheaper than the Creel houses. They last much longer, whereby the tennents will be saved of the constant yearly Slavery they are in building New and repairing of the old Creel houses."

Alexander Murray 1725

We do not know how successful he was in persuading his tenants to build in a new style, but a description in a 19th century estate record suggests the tenants continued building much as they always had.

"almost the whole of those occupied by the small Tenants and Crofters are miserable huts"

Alex Low 1807

In 1849, the lease for Tarbert, signed by the Camerons, mentioned the poor condition of the houses and the need to rebuild them. Archaeologists think that the stone houses, whose ruins we see today, were built here around this time. Before this the houses at this site may have been turf Creel houses, so any evidence for these buildings has long since disappeared.


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