Tarbert is a village in Argyll and Bute on the west coast of Scotland. An Tairbeart is a Gaelic term meaning "carry across", indicating an isthmus where small boats could be portaged from one body of water to another. It's therefore a common place-name in Highland Scotland: this one is specifically Tarbert on Loch Fyne above the Firth of Clyde, a two-mile portage to reach the West Loch opening into the Atlantic. In 2021 it had a population of 1150.
Citylink Bus 926 runs daily every 2-3 hours to Tarbert from Glasgow via Dumbarton, Tarbet on Loch Lomond - don't get off by mistake here! - Arrochar, Inveraray and Lochgilphead, taking 3 hours; one bus a day runs via Glasgow airport. They continue south via Kennacraig ferry terminal, Tayinloan (for ferry to Gigha) and Muasdale to Campbeltown, taking another hour.
Calmac car ferries sail four routes in this area:
- 1 Tarbert (east pier) to Portavadie on the Cowal peninsula, hourly daily 08:00-18:00, taking 25 min. Until end of March 2024, return fares are £18.60 per car, £6 per adult including driver and £3 per child. This scenic route cuts off a lot of road distance around Loch Fyne but doesn't save any time, as you first have to reach Bute by ferry from Wemyss Bay, then reach Cowal by ferry from Bute to Colintraive. There are bus links between the various ferries.
- 2 Kennacraig (6 miles south of Tarbert) to Islay, either Port Ellen or Port Askaig (for Jura). There are five per day April-Oct and two Nov-March, taking two hours, see Islay#Get in for fares. Once or twice a week the ferry continues from Port Askaig to Colonsay and Oban then returns.
- 3 Claonaig (10 miles south of Tarbert) to Lochranza on the Isle of Arran, April-Oct daily every 75 min, taking 30 min. See Isle of Arran#Get in for fares. In winter Claonaig is too exposed, so there's just one daily ferry to Lochranza sailing from Tarbert east pier, taking 90 min.
- Tayinloan (15 miles south of Tarbert) to Gigha daily, hourly, taking 20 min. There's no other transport from that island so you have to come back to the mainland at Tayinloan.
Booking ahead is always wise, and at Kennacraig it's essential for caravans and motorhomes - these are not permitted to join the unbooked stand-by queue. You'd be sent away to make a booking, and if you couldn't sail that day, at least you'd have accommodation. This rule improves space in the queue but is more about capacity to shoehorn cars into odd spaces on the ferry, that couldn't possibly fit a caravan. The policy applies to most Calmac ports, but not Tarbert, Claonaig or Tayinloan which are just "turn up and go" routes.
Also with a caravan or motorhome, in summer be prepared at check-in to show a pitch reservation at your destination, else you may be turned away. All the Scottish islands have a problem in summer with visitor vehicles camping illegally on the verges and passing places.
The village can be easily explored on foot, and the east pier (for Portavadie) is half a mile away. You need wheels to reach the other ferry jetties. Kennacraig and Tayinloan can be reached on the inter-city buses from Glasgow.
West Coast Bus 448 runs thrice M-Sa from Lochgilphead to Tarbert town and east pier, Kennacraig ferry pier, Claonaig ferry pier and Skipness castle.
Bus 447 runs twice on school days M-F from Tarbert to Torinturk, Kilberry Inn and Coulaghailtro.
Bus 449 runs twice on school days M-F from Lochgilphead to Tarbert, Tayinloan, Muasdale and Campbelltown.
The village taxi is Tarbert Cars on +44 7930 884851.
- 1 Tarbert Castle, off Pier Road. 24 hours. Fragmentary ruin of a castle from the 13th century and now garrisoned by sheep, you mostly come for the harbour view. Free.
- Knapdale is the district north of Tarbert, with B8024 looping along the west coast then back to A83.
- Kilberry Sculptured Stones are a collection of ancient grave markers in Knapdale, up a lane from the Kilberry Inn (see Sleep) along B8024.
- Kintyre is the peninsula stretching south of Tarbert.
- 2 Skipness Castle, Skipness PA29 6XU (From B8001 follow lane past Claonaig ferry pier). Apr-Sept daily 09:30-17:30. Castle built from the 13th century, with chapel by the shore added in 1300, all abandoned and falling into ruin in the 17th. Free.
- Kilbrannan Chapel is a quarter mile west of the castle, of similar age and ruin.
- 3 Ballochroy is a line of three prehistoric standing stones, the tallest being over 11 feet. They're by the A83 12 miles south of Tarbert.
- See Campbeltown for sights and amenities in the southern part of Kintyre.
- Golf: Tarbert GC a mile west of town is nine holes.
- Torinturk on B6024 towards Kilberry is the start of a 3-mile loop walk through forestry plantations to Dùn à Choin Duibh (an Iron Age redoubt) and Giant's Grave, a Bronze Age structure. Use OS Landranger Map 62.
- Five Ferries is a cycle circuit of 51 miles, often done as a charity challenge. Start in Ardrossan, cross to Brodick on Arran then from Lochranza to Claonaig and Tarbert, thence to Portvadie in Cowal then via Colintraive onto Bute and back to the mainland at Wemyss Bay. There are steep gradients along the route and you need to keep the pace up else you miss the next ferry and your day unravels.
- Scottish Series Sailing is an annual regatta in late May. The next is probably 24-27 May 2024, tbc.
- Seafood Festival is in early July, the next is 1-2 July 2023.
- Tarbert Fair is in late July, originally a cattle market it's now shows and amusements. It's unlikely to go ahead in 2023.
- Tarbert Music Festival is mid-September, the next is 15-17 Sept 2023.
- Book Festival in late October is tbc for 2023.
- Co-op Food on Barmore Rd is open daily 07:00-22:00.
- Harbour Gallery sells prints and original art daily 10:00-17:00.
- Anchorage Bistro, Harbour St (within Islay Frigate Hotel), ☏ +44 1880 820881. Th-Sa 17:00-21:00. Good seafood restaurant, central in Tarbert.
- Lulabelles of Tarbert, 58 Harbour St PA29 6UD (by castle), ☏ +44 1880 821294. W, Su 12:00-16:00, Th, Sa 12:00-22:00, F 10:00-22:00. Rave reviews for this restaurant, offering mostly seafood.
- Others in Tarbert town centre are Marine Bistro (F-W 08:00-20:00), Starfish (Tu-Th 17:00-23:00, F-Su 12:00-14:00, 17:00-23:00), Loch Fyne Fish Bar (daily 12:00-21:00) and Cafe Ca' Dora (Su-Tu 08:00-17:00, W-Sa 08:00-19:00).
- Skipness Seafood Cabin, Skipness PA29 6XU (by Skipness castle), ☏ +44 1880 760207. June-Sept Su-F 11:00-18:30. Excellent food, licensed, pricey but you're paying for the view and setting.
- The Corner House is the village pub, open daily 11:00-01:00.
- Distilleries: none in Tarbert, but see Campbeltown#Drink for its three whisky distilleries and one for gin.
- Wild-camping is generally tolerated along the back lanes of Kintyre and Knapdale, but please don't block passing places or leave a mess.
- The Barge in the harbour has rooms, which sounds cool but doesn't get good reviews.
- Starfish Rooms, Castle St, Tarbert PA29 6UH, ☏ +44 1880 820324. Small but spotlessly clean rooms in town centre. Double (room only) £80.
- Knap Guest House, Campbeltown Rd, Tarbert PA29 6SX, ☏ +44 1880 820015. Welcoming comfy B&B with harbour views. B&B double £105.
- Islay Frigate Hotel, Harbour St, Tarbert PA29 6UD, ☏ +44 1880 820300. Friendly central place, some noise from bar below. B&B double £90.
- Struan House, Harbour St, Tarbert PA29 6UD, ☏ +44 07927 294083. Great welcome, comfort and breakfast at this harbourside B&B. B&B double £100.
- The Moorings, Pier Rd, Tarbert PA29 6UE, ☏ +44 1880 820756. Quirky B&B in a fisherman's cottage near east ferry pier. LGBT-friendly. B&B double £100.
- 1 Dunivaig B&B, Pier Road, Tarbert PA29 6UG, ☏ +44 1880 820896. Comfy 3-room B&B along quiet road east of village. B&B double £90.
- 2 West Loch House, Campbeltown Road, Tarbert PA29 6YF (On A83 south), ☏ +44 1880 820283. Relaxing friendly 8 room guesthouse in a 1780 inn on the west loch. B&B double from £100.
- 3 Stonefield Castle Hotel, Tarbert PA29 6YJ, ☏ +44 1880 820836. Great reviews for this 36-room hotel in a Baronial mock-castle of 1837. Set in 60 acres of woodland gardens 2 miles north of Tarbert, dog-friendly. B&B double £130.
- 4 Kilberry Inn, Kilberry PA29 6YD, ☏ +44 1880 770223, firstname.lastname@example.org. Delightful small inn in the middle of nowhere (ie mobile not-spot) with top-notch cuisine. Double half-board £250.
Tarbert and the A83 have 4G from all UK carriers. As of June 2023, 5G has not reached this area.
- Ferries west take you to Islay, those east bring you to Cowal.
- See Skipness castle then take the ferry from Claonaig to Lochranza on the Isle of Arran. You can return to the mainland from Brodick on the other side of Arran.
- A83 south follows the west coast; turn aside at Tayinloan to see Gigha. A scenic minor road follows the east coast from Claonaig to Carradale and Campbeltown, the obvious base for visiting the Mull of Kintyre. Campbeltown has a ferry in summer for foot passengers to Ballycastle in County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
- A83 north leads to Lochgilphead, from where you either continue north to Oban, or return east via Inveraray and Loch Lomond to Glasgow.
|Routes through Tarbert|
|Campbeltown ←||SW NE||→ Lochgilphead → Glasgow|