Scotland’s Isle of Barra is home to the beautiful and historic Kisimul Castle. Since it first appeared in written records in the early 1100s, the castle, which has stood for centuries, has had a remarkable history.
Kisimul’s first recorded resident was a Viking chieftain by the name of Clan MacNeil, who lived there starting in the year 1160. It is thought that the stone walls were also built at this time. Clan members used the castle during this time as a fortress to protect them from their adversaries and to stay warm during the bitter winters.
When James IV of Scotland acquired Kisimul, it underwent some significant renovations in 1549, nearly 500 years later. He made the decision to use stone and mortar to completely rebuild and fortify the castle’s walls. In order to strengthen the defence against potential attack or siege, James also added towers, battlements, and fortified corners.
King James VI once more gave Kisimul Castle to Clan Macneil a few years later, in 1593. The castle had been taken from them 37 years earlier as a result of a dispute with Mary Queen of Scots over her choice of marriage to Lord Darnley.
Kisimul Castle was left unaltered through centuries of conflict between clans over ownership of land and resources. That is, until Alexander William Macneil bought it in 1838 and spent the next 30 years slavishly restoring it to its original appearance. Before 1938, when Macneil’s great-grandson Roderick started restoring Kisimul once more using conventional techniques like drystone masonry and lime mortar pointing—both of which are still in use today—it had completely fallen into disrepair following his death in 1865.
However, due to structural issues, the castle is currently undergoing conservation work. We are hoping that this will be finished soon so that visitors can once again experience its exceptional beauty up close! However, we are confident that won’t be the case for long! Currently, although you can take boat trips around the Island of Barra, none go directly across to Kisimul itself due to its closure for conservation reasons.
Our imaginations are sparked by tales of ancient clan wars and epic battles between rivalling forces vying for control of this magnificent site at Kisimul Castle, which is truly an amazing feat of engineering with impressive structures built hundreds of years ago still standing firm against modern-day elements. We can only imagine how amazing this location must have looked back then with its picturesque views out onto the sea and nestled within lush green hillsides!
When it reopens, we strongly advise visiting Kisimul, one of Scotland’s most renowned castles, which is located on the picturesque Isle of Barra, if you want to experience historic sites unlike any other.