Westhove Castle was probably built in the beginning of the 13th century. It consisted of a moated castle and bailey separated by a moat. The bailey had three entrances and two round towers. The castle itself also had two towers. The castle and the surrounding lands became the property of the Abbey of Middelburg in 1277. It served as the summer residence of the abbots.
Around 1560 the castle's west side was extended. And in 1562 the castle became an episcopal summer mansion. In 1572 it was stormed by the Geuzen because of its Spanish occupation and partially destroyed. Only the north face of the castle was spared. After this the castle was rebuild and again made suitable for habitation.
In the second half of the 19th century the exterior of the castle was plastered but in the beginning of the 20th century this plaster was removed again. In the beginning of the 20th century the castle was used as a nursing home for children.During WW II the castle was again heavily damaged. In 1948 the outside of the castle was repaired, followed in 1977 by a thorough restoration of its interiors.
Because of all these changes during the castles history, caused by damages and the following repairs, not much remains of the real medieval castle. What we see today mostly dates back to the 17th and 18th century.
The castle is now used as a Youth Hostel and lies in a nature reserve only a couple of minutes walk from the beaches.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.