St Martin de la Bellouse dates from around 1225 with the centrally situated tower (similar to the one at the Forest Church), nave and chancel completed by 1250. The South porch was added around 1520 and until 1869, was the meeting place of the Douzaine. The church sits on an ancient holy site in attractive surroundings.
The church is well known for the female menhir stone figure (dating back to 2500 - 1800 BC) La Gran' Mere du Cimquiere which guards the entrance to the cemetery. In prehistoric times, the statue would have been idolised and in the 1700's it became the focus of witchcraft. Even in the 19th century this activity is thought to have continued and a church warden his reported to have split the stone, but locals later repaired it. Today some folk still place coins on her head or flowers around her neck for good luck. The Church has the only font in the island which dates from before the Reformation.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.