Kuressaare Castle from the 14th century is a symbol of Kuressaare and all of Saaremaa island. The convent building at the castle is the only surviving medieval fortified building in the Baltic States without noteworthy architectural alterations.
The construction of the stronghold was closely connected with the Estonians' fight against the German feudals. In 1227 the last Estonian county - Saaremaa surrendered to the German crusaders. A small feudal state was formed of Läänemaa and the West- Estonian islands in the years 1228-1234: it was Saare-Lääne (Oesel-Wiek) Bishopric with the territory of about 7600 sq. km. The centre of the bishopric was Haapsalu since 1265. The impact of the foreign rule on the island was not so strong and the islanders maintained some privileges. Despite the fact there were constant uprisings and rebellions, one most widely-spread in 1260. Soon after making the rebels surrender the other local feudal state, the Livonian Order, that possessed East-Saaremaa and island of Muhu, started building Pöide fortification. It is possible that the oldest stone fortification in Kuressaare - the castell type stronghold for the bishop was built at the same time - in the first half of 1260s. The first documented data about Kuressaare castle originate only from 1381.
The construction of the castle took 40 years. The building has three storeys and two towers – the Defense Tower and taller Watch Tower. The latter was not given a roof until the 16th century. The castle was surrounded by impressive walls which have partly survived. One of the cannon towers that dotted the wall has now been restored, having originally been built in the 1470s.
In the 16th century the Bishop sold the castle to the Danes since the outbreak of a war changed the political situation in the area, and it were the Danes who created the moat around the castle, therefore establishing a citadel. The area was then taken over by the Swedes and the Russians who modernised the building in their turn. In 1836 the castle was sold to the Knighthood of Saaremaa who then restored it during the 19th and 20th centuries.
During the first Soviet occupation,1940-1941, 179 people were sentenced to death in Estonia by Soviet (peoples’) courts, and approximately 2 200 were killed in other ways. Most of them were killed by the so called annihilation battalions and by the security police, the NKVD, in the prisons in Tartu and Kuressaare among other places. In Kuressaare 90 civilians were executed in the yard of the castle.
The castle is now owned by the Regional Museum of Saaremaa, therefore housing several exhibitions about the history of the region, as well as sporting the well-restored interior of the castle with both its religious and defence quarters and eerie details such as torture instruments and dungeons.
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.