The Castello di Lombardia iis one of the largest and most ancient edifices in Italy, with an area of some 26,000 m2.
The castle's origins are related to a fortress erected in the 1st millennium BC by the Sicani on the foundation of the ancient Henna, on a hill 970 m above sea level. It remained a key possession in the subsequent history of the island, and the Romans were able to conquer it only by passing through its sewer network.
Under the castle was the ancient Sican temple of Ceres, site of the widespread cult of that goddess in the whole of Italy, which was described by Cicero.
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, it was used by the Byzantines and resisted Arab assaults for many years. After their victory, the latter rebuilt the fortress around the 10th century; the castle was also used by their successors in Sicily, the Normans. Two centuries later, architect Richard of Lentini was commissioned by Frederick II, Emperor and King of Sicily, to restore it as a summer residence. He added 20 towers and called in a garrison coming from the Langobardia minor (Calabria), whence the castle's name.
With the advent of the artillery, the castle lost its primary strategic role and was turned into a prison. In the 20th and early 21st century, the castle was the site of the Teatro più vicino alle Stelle, used for opera and pop music concerts. The castle is now open to the public.
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.