NL6697 : Barra - Castlebay - Kisimul Castle

taken 4 months ago, near to Castlebay/Bągh A'chaisteil, Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Great Britain

Barra - Castlebay - Kisimul Castle
Barra - Castlebay - Kisimul Castle
Kisimul Castle sits on its own tiny islet in the bay of Castlebay (from which the town obviously derives its name).
The castle was built by the Macneils of Barra, and was historically the seat of their chief. It dates from the C15th but was restored in the C20th after it had fallen into a state of disrepair.
It was originally a three-storey tower house within a curtain wall around the small rock on which it sits. This enclosed a small courtyard and its ancillary buildings.
Normally the castle can be visited after a very short boat ride from Pier Road in Castlebay, but unfortunately at the time of our visit it was closed due to Covid restrictions.
It is owned and managed by Historic Environment Scotland - see their webpage on it here: LinkExternal link
Extensive information on the Canmore website here: LinkExternal link
Caisteal Chiosmuil/Kisimul Castle

Dating from probably the 15thC, this castle is 160m from the shore at Castlebay and accessible only by boat; at low tide it is surrounded by a rim of rock, but at high tide only the walls of the castle are visible. A 1427 charter records that Barra was given to Gill-Adhamnain Mcneil by Alexander MacDonald, the Lord of the Isles, and the oldest parts of the castle that remain seem to date from then, although the rock may have been occupied earlier. After the collapse of the Lordship of the Isles in the 15thC there was much lawlessness and conflict in the highlands and islands, and the Macneils acquired a reputation for piracy. By the 18thC the clan chief had moved to a more comfortable house on Barra, and the castle fell into ruins, and its walls were stripped by boats for ballast. In 1837 the insolvent chief sold the island and his ancestral seat.
Robert Lister MacNeil succeeded as clan chief in 1914 and in 1937 he bought Kisimul and the restoration began, and continued until his death in 1970. It was not clear how the castle had originally looked, and some modern techniques and compromises were used to make the castle a home, while keeping to the spirit of the old building. Since 2000 the castle has been in the care of Historic Scotland under a lease.

Its restoration began in the early 20thC and in 2000 it was put into the care of Historic Scotland under lease.

Barra (Barraigh) :: NL6698

The Isle of Barra (Barraigh) is towards the southern end of the long chain of islands that constitutes the Outer Hebrides. Since 1991 it has been joined by a 200m long causeway to its southern neighbour, Vatersay (Bhatarsaigh) the latter being the southernmost populated island of the archipelago. Beyond Vatersay to the south lie some uninhabited (but mostly formerly inhabited) islands, principal among which are (in order from N to S): Sandray (Sanndraigh), Pabbay (Pabaigh), Mingulay (Miùghlaigh) and finally Berneray (Beàrnaraigh) also known as Barra Head.
Barra is quite a bustling island for its size, having amongst the highest population densities of the outer islands (viz. 20/km² roughly twice that of Lewis with Harris for example). The entirety of this population is situated around the coast or a little way inland along valleys, the centre of the island being mountainous and uninhabited.
One circular road (the A888) forms a circuit around the bulk of the island with a branching minor road heading into the Eoligarry peninsula (where the airport is located, see below) and another spur running south around the perimeter of Beinn Tangabhal to the causeway to Vatersay.
The chief settlement of Castlebay is clearly the hub of the island with schools, shops, hotels, a particularly excellent café ( LinkExternal link ) and the port as well as Kisimul Castle on its own little islet in the bay, from which the town gets its name.
Barra airport is one of the World's most remarkable - it is situated on the Eoligarry peninsula towards the northern extremity of the island ... and it doesn't have a runway as such. Instead planes land and take off from the expansive beach of Tràigh Mhòr ("Big Beach"). Flight times are therefore dependent on the tide!
Area: 5,875ha (22⅔ miles²)
Population: 1,174 (2011 census)
Highest Point: Heaval (Heabhal), 384m (1,259')
Principal settlement: Castlebay (with perhaps a third of the island's population)

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NL6697, 81 images   (more nearby search)
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Date Taken
Saturday, 26 June, 2021   (more nearby)
Thursday, 15 July, 2021
Geographical Context
Coastal  Historic sites and artefacts  Islands 
Place (from Tags)
Kisimul Castle  Castlebay 
Island (from Tags)
Primary Subject of Photo
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NL 665 979 [100m precision]
WGS84: 56:57.1282N 7:29.2444W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NL 665 981
View Direction
South-southwest (about 202 degrees)
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Image Type (about): cross grid 
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