Aalholm Castle is the oldest castle on the Lolland island, first mentioned in the 1329. The castle was initially the seat of the king's vassal or lensmand, and thus the centre of local government. It is not known when the castle was founded, but for historical reasons, it was probably around 1200. During this period, a number of royal castles were built across the country to strengthen the king's power in the regions and guard against attack.
Aalholm was located on a very favorable site, standing on a little island in the inlet known as Nysted Nor. Completely surrounded by water, it was protected from the open sea although ships of all kinds could sail right up to the island, provided they had crews conversant with the channel to be followed. Not far to the north and west, there was fertile land where produce could be grown for the castle, with a surplus for the vassal and the king. The importance of the area at the time can also be appreciated from the fact that the Franciscan monastery in Nysted, built in 1286, was the only one on the islands, especially as the Franciscans always settled in thriving, populated areas where they could rely on the support of the inhabitants.
However, it is impossible to trace the early history of the castle as there are no written sources and any archaeological evidence is hidden beneath today's building. The castle has been built and rebuilt even since it was founded. The oldest part of the existing building is the north wing, thought to date from the 14th and 15th centuries. Thereafter, there is plenty of documentation on restoration and refurbishment, sometimes also revealing the poor state of the building. For example, in the 1550s, bricks from the Franciscan monastery were used to repair the castle while after the Swedish Wars of 1657-1660, the building had no windows and the towers no roofs. In the 18th century, parts of the south wing were demolished and the east wing was fully renovated. In 1889, a further section of the south wing was pulled down and two new lateral wings were added on the south side of the north wing. As a result, the once rectangualar structure now took on a shape resembling a pair of spectacles. Since then there have been no significant changes to the castle's exterior.
In the 1970s, parts of the castle were opened to the public as a museum, while the former owner established a vintage car museum on Stubberup Farm about one kilometer to the west of the castle. In connection with the sale of the castle and estate in 1995, all the furnishings were auctioned off while the new owner took over the automobile museum. The museum was closed in 2008 owing to the poor state of the buildings.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.