Ventspils Castle is one of the oldest and most well-preserved Livonian Order castles remaining, in that it has retained its original layout since the 13th century. Through its 700 year history, it has been used as a fortress, residence, garrison, school, military base, and prison. In 1995, the castle was restored to its 19th-century appearance, and was converted into a museum.
Ventspils castle was built in the second half of the 13th century, and controlled by the Livonian Order until the mid-16th century. The original Order castle was built as a fortress, with a tower, defensive walls, and a large interior courtyard with garrisons and storehouses. At first, the tower had two stories with a weapons storeroom in the attic, but the 3rd, 4th, and 5th floors were added over time.
As a part of the Duchy of Courland, the castle was the residence of the city master, but during the Polish-Swedish War it was destroyed. The castle was rebuilt in the 1650s as it appears today, a Convent-type building, with four adjoining apartments surrounding a rectangular interior courtyard. After reconstruction the chapel became a Lutheran church (1706–1835) and later a Russian Orthodox church (1845–1901), but the rest of the castle remained largely unused. In 1832 the 3rd floor was converted into a prison, which closed in 1959. After World War II, the castle was used for various administrative purposes, and occupied by the Soviet Army border patrol until the 1980s.
In 1997, the castle was restored, and in 2001 the permanent exhibition of the Ventspils museum opened in the tower. Today the castle hosts concerts and art exhibitions as well. Visitors can also climb the tower to the 5th floor for a panoramic view of the city.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.