To the north of Kauppatori Square stands the Presidential Palace, one of C. L. Engel’s grand neo-classical buildings. Originally at the beginning of 19th century, a salt storehouse stood on the site. The entire lot was bought by merchant Johan Henrik Heidenstrauch who built the first palace in 1820. He had to sell it to the senate of Finland in 1837 and the building was moved to the official residence of the Tsar or Russia (Imperial Palace of Finland).
The necessary rebuilding and furnishing work, carried out between 1843 and 1845, was directed by architect Carl Ludvig Engel, the creator of neoclassical Helsinki. The Imperial family of Russia visited in palace several times between 1854-1915.
During the World War I palace functioned as military hospital for Russian Army. In the Finnish Civil War (1918) it was first the headquarters of the Executive Committee of the Helsinki Workers and Soldiers Soviet. With the victory of the Whites, the Reds abandoned the Palace, which was temporarily used by German and White Finnish military staff. After the war it was quickly converted to the presidential palace of independent Finland. Complete repairs were made at speed, with the furnishings and art collections of the Palace being returned from storage in the National Museum and the Ateneum Art Museum, and also being supplemented. Since then, it has been the official residence of the President. The Palace was again refurbished and modernised by Martti Välikangas in 1938.
The Presidential Palace is open for tours, which can be arranged through Helsinki Expert.
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.