Megara Hyblaea is an ancient Greek colony in Sicily It was founded about 728 BC by colonists from Megara in Attica. In 628 the city established a colony at Selinus but in 483 was destroyed by the Syracusan leader Gelon. The city had a brief independent existence in the 4th century BC, when it issued coinage, but is heard of mainly as a fortified place.
Excavations carried on in 1891 led to the discovery of the northern portion of the western town wall, which in one section served at the same time as an embankment against floods. There is also an extensive necropolis, about 1500 tombs of which have been explored, and of a deposit of votive objects from a temple. The harbour lay to the north of the town.
In the mid-seventh century, the city was organised according to a regularised plan. An agora emerged with stoas on its north and eastern sides. This is one of the earliest known agoras.
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.