The Interesting History of Tarbert

The small fishing village of Tarbert is thought to have been founded around 836 AD since it was around this time that it was first mentioned in the annals of Ulster. By that stage it was already a major centre of the herring industry and today it continues to enjoy significance as a port town. The harbor in Tarbert is currently used mainly for the docking of boats and the loading and unloading of goods off of these vessels. However, the fishing industry that once made Tarbert so famous has subsided somewhat in recent years.

Tarbert in Scotland was very much a sleepy fishing village until a new pier was created at Loch Tarbert in 1840. The development opened the way for weekly mail steamers to stop en route to their various destinations and this subsequently led to some growth in the village. In fact, the pier led to the creation of a new postal district known as ‘the Town of Harris’. Tarbert of Argyll continued to receive mail streamers on a regular basis until 1963. The growth supported by this service and the booming fishing industry enabled Tarbert to become the capital of Harris in 1894.

The name ‘Tarbert’ is derived from a Norwegian word ‘Tairbeart’ meaning ‘draw-boat’. While this name was widely used across Scotland and Europe at one stage, it later became particularly appropriate for Tarbert in Harris. It wasn’t long before a revolutionary form of transport, known as the ‘Macbrayne car ferry service’, came into operation shortly after mail streamers ceased to call at Tarbert. This ferry service began operating on the Tarbert, Uig and Lochmaddy routes and its service was seen as being absolutely indispensable since it offered the shortest crossing from mainland Scotland to the Western Isles. While Tarbert’s role in this regard was eventually downplayed, you can still enjoy a trip aboard the fully operational ‘Sound of Barra’ and the ‘Sound of Harris’ ferries.

Today you will find Tarbert on the shore of Loch Tarbert in Scotland. The village is home to about 500 people and the island it is on is situated centrally amongst other islands in the area. It is this geographical position that has always seen it favored over many of the other islands as a port of call. Though many still make use of the ferries, it is now possible to drive from the Butt of Lewis in the north to Vatersay in the south during the course of just one day. This has made Tarbert particularly popular.

It is also interesting to note that Tarbert is the home of the Harris Tweed Mill. This mill was established during the 1900s and became a major industry in Tarbert at the time. Today the Harris Tweed shop can be found close to the Tourist Information Centre and car park where it overlooks the main access road running toward the ferry terminal. Recent years have seen a surge in tourism and this is fortunate since the fishing industry is under threat. Tarbert now regularly hosts a number of yacht races as well as an annual Grand Prix powerboat race and this helps to boost its numbers and keep the town alive.

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