The typical Galician noble fortress in Castro Caldelas with medieval origins has been splendidly conserved and restored and today functions as a library, cultural centre and exhibition venue.
The castle originally belonged to the House of the Counts of Lemos, and became part of the House of Alba in the 18th century. It was built in the 14th century as a fortress with a purely military function, and was renovated in the 16th century and converted into a palatial residence.Its floor plan is in the shape of an irregular polygon, as it adapts to the hill on which it stands. It comprises several parts or buildings, of which the rectangular keep and the clock tower are the oldest. Other surviving elements include the bailey, sections of the defensive wall, three square towers, the administrator's house, the palace (containing the library, a museum about the castle and other rooms), the interior sentry walk and the outer moat.
The location of the castle, on top of a mountain, also provides some panoramic views of the valleys below and it is easy to appreciate how impenetrable this town must have seemed to past aggressors.
You enter the castle (free of charge) through the main gateway and once inside you have unlimited access to all areas including the battlements.References:
Dating from the 15th century, Kisimul is the only significant surviving medieval castle in the Outer Hebrides. It was the residence of the chief of the Macneils of Barra, who claimed descent from the legendary Niall of the Nine Hostages. Tradition tells of the Macneils settling in Barra in the 11th century, but it was only in 1427 that Gilleonan Macneil comes on record as the first lord. He probably built the castle that dominates the rocky islet, and in its shadow a crew house for his personal galley and crew. The sea coursed through Macneil veins, and a descendant, Ruari ‘the Turbulent’, was arrested for piracy of an English ship during King James VI’s reign in the later 16th century.
Heavy debts eventually forced the Macneil chiefs to sell Barra in 1838. However, a descendant, Robert Lister Macneil, the 45th Chief, repurchased the estate in 1937, and set about restoring his ancestral seat. It passed into Historic Scotland’s care in 2000.
The castle dates essentially from the 15th century. It takes the form of a three-storey tower house. This formed the residence of the clan chief. An associated curtain wall fringed the small rock on which the castle stood, and enclosed a small courtyard in which there are ancillary buildings. These comprised a feasting hall, a chapel, a tanist’s house and a watchman’s house. Most were restored in the 20th century, the tanist’s house serving as the family home of the Macneils. A well near the postern gate is fed with fresh water from an underground seam. Outside the curtain wall, beside the original landing-place, are the foundations of the crew house, where the sailors manning their chief’s galley had their quarters.