Tarbert: a common placename


In 1098 King Magnus of Norway claimed all the islands off the West of Scotland. He defined islands as those places around which he could travel in a boat. He added Kintyre to his domain by having a galley portaged across the isthmus at Tarbert, Loch Fyne. The myth was so powerful that Robert the Bruce had to exorcise it over two centuries later by repeating the exploit - this time in favour of Scotland. Recently an attempt was made to 'portage' the Aileach - a reconstruction of one of these mediaeval galleys. It must have been hard work - but fortunately help was at hand in the form of a farm tractor!

We can imagine similar work, albeit with smaller boats, at Tarbert, Loch Nevis and Tarbert, Canna. More recently, the Mallaig Canoe Club and visiting canoeists have made the round trip from Mallaig along Loch Morar to Tarbert, crossing the isthmus with their craft before returning to Mallaig via Loch Nevis.

Before the construction of the Mallaig railway, Tarbert was a much busier place than it is today, with a thriving seasonal fishing industry. Travellers used the glens and natural waterways and thus we have recorded in the writings of Jemima Blackburn of a journey from Roshven on Lochailort to Inverie in Knoydart, travelling from Roshven to Meoble, crossing Loch Morar to Tarbert before crossing Loch Nevis to Inverie. Certainly there was enough business to maintain a thriving inn, from the proceeds of which the Morar Hotel owes its origin.

Tarbert now has a permanent population of one and its small church has been converted into a bothy to accommodate mountaineers and walkers. Tarbert is easily reached by a good path from Bracarina on Loch Morar, passing through the abandoned settlements of Brinacory and Swordland, and on certain days during the summer walkers can return to Mallaig on the Knoydart Ferry or the Western Isles.