The old church at Drev is built on a knoll amid an ancient landscape full of early remains. The church is the oldest preserved church in this province, dating from around 1170. There are traces of blocked-up doorways and windows in the walls. The men’s entrance was on the south side, the women’s on the north. the priest entered the chancel directly from the south.
The interior is richly decorated with paintings and carved wooden furnishings. The pews were built in 1669, the galleries in 1697 and the pulpit in 1702. The ceiling paintings by J.C. Zschotzsher from 1751 were paid for by the church’s patron, Benzelstierna, whose coat of arms can be seen on the choir ceiling. To the sides of the altar, the list of kings and the list of this diocese’s bishops respectively are painted.
The church was abandoned in 1868 when the new church was finished. It stood empty for 40 years before being restored to use.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.