Loevestein Castle (Slot Loevestein in Dutch) is a medieval castle built by the knight Dirc Loef van Horne (hence 'Loef's stein') between 1357 and 1397. It was built in a strategic location where the Maas and Waal rivers come together. At first it was a simple square brick building, used to charge toll from trading vessels using the rivers. In the 16th century (around 1575, orders given by William the Silent) it was expanded to a larger fortress surrounded by earthen fortifications with two (later three) stone bastions on the northern side, two moats, an arsenal, and housing for a commander and soldiers.
Loevestein changed hands twice between the Northern Dutch and the Spanish (December 9, 1570 it was taken by the Geuzen, ten days later Spanish again, and from June 25, 1572 Dutch till this day), the warring parties of the day. The castle became a prison for political prisoners in 1619. One famous inmate was the eminent lawyer, poet and politician Hugo de Groot (Hugo Grotius) often presented as the 'father of modern international law', who was serving a controversially imposed life sentence from 1619. In 1621 Hugo de Groot managed to pull off a daring escape in a book chest. The idea for this escape came from his wife Maria van Reigersberg (also living in the castle). He subsequently became the Swedish Ambassador to France for 10 years. Another high profile inmate was the English Vice-Admiral George Ayscue.
Until the Second World War Loevestein Castle was part of the Nieuwe Hollandse Waterlinie, the main Dutch defense line that was based on flooding an area of land south and east of the western provinces. Currently the castle is used as a medieval museum and function centre.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.