The Kerimäki Church is the largest wooden church in the world. Designed by Anders Fredrik Granstedt and built between 1844 and 1847, the church has a length of 45 metres (148 ft), a width of 42 m (138 ft), a height of 37 m (121 ft) and a seating capacity of more than 3,000. Altogether there can be 5,000 people at a time in the church.
It has been rumoured that the size of the church was the result of a miscalculation when it was built (supposedly the architect was working in centimetres, which the builder took to be inches, which are 2.54 times larger). Further studies, however, have shown that the church was actually intended to be as big as it is, so it could easily accommodate a half of the area's population at the same time.
During wintertime, services are held in a smaller "winter church" (built in 1953), since the main building has no heating.
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.