Cefalù Castle lies on the mountain above the town of the same name. The top of Cefalù Rock was already inhabited in ancient times as the remains of a temple with megalithic stonework attests. Under Byzantine rule the settlement on the mountain developed into a real town, with the consequent partial depopulation of the town center below. In the years 837-838 Cefalù withstood a first attack of the Muslims. After a new siege, which occurred in the years 857-858, the town was conquered.
During the 11th century the area was conquered by the Normans and they probably built Cefalù Castle around 1063. The present castle probably dates back to the 12th century. Archaeological evidence tells that it was probably destroyed by fire at the end of the 13th century. The castle was used during the 14th and 15th centuries, underwent extensive rearrangements between the 16th and 17th century and during the 19th century saw the total and definitive abandonment of the complex that had, meanwhile, lost military importance.
The top of Cefalù Rock with the castle now serves as a archaeological city park. It is freely accessible during daytime. Getting to the castle however is quite hard as the only way to get up this 270 meters high mountain is walking up a very long and winding footpath. And although the ruins may not be that impressive, the views from the rock over the surrounding land and sea are beautiful.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.