The Castle of Palma de Montechiaro was built in 1353. It is the only castle of the Chiaramonte family that is situated at the seaside, on a cliff known as the Bay of the Sirens. It was founded by Frederick III Chiaramonte, then transferred to his successors Manfredi II, I and Andrea, who beheaded him. His possessions were seized and the ownership of the castle was transferred to the family Caro, who erased the memory of the previous gentlemen, changing its name into Montechiaro. Francesca Caro married Carlo Tomasi, the Duke of Palma and Prince of Lampedusa. The last owner with the name Tomasi was the author of the famous novel The Leopard, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa.

You can reach the castle via a steep pebbly road full of pebbles. The ground floor houses the chapel with a marble statue of the Madonna di Montechiara designed by Antonello Gaginis.

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Kisimul Castle

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.