Couwelaar Castle, also known as De Drie Torekens (The Three Turrets) is L-shaped and consists of a main building with wings, as well as several outbuildings including a coach house. The main building is characterized by two round towers at the front and a built-in, square tower at the rear. Over the centuries, the castle has been extensively altered and restored several times and has stylistic elements of the Neo-Renaissance and Rococo, among others. Couwelaar Castle is a historical monument.
The first mentions of a Couwelaar estate date to the beginning of the 15th century: in 1402 it is recorded as belonging to Pieter van Immerseel. It later passed to Pieter de Francques, a merchant from Antwerp, and then to his son Raphaël. In 1584, Couwelaar was sold in the Vrijdagmarkt. In any event, in 1606 it was owned by Gilles Du Mont, a cloth merchant who had also recently acquired the nearby castle of Bisschoppenhof. The Du Monts significantly improved the castle by adding six towers and laying out gardens and fish ponds.
Couwelaar changed hands several times in the following years. Pedro de Man, a former schepen (alderman) of Antwerp, had the castle thoroughly restored in 1766, in classical style. Four of the towers were in poor repair and were demolished and a new moat, among other things, was added. In 1848, a pleasure garden in the style of the Italian Neo-Renaissance was commissioned by John della Faille de Leverghem and his wife, who had purchased the castle two years earlier. They also had the castle itself renovated in the style of the Flemish Neo-Renaissance.
The real estate company Crédit Foncier d'Anvers acquired the castle in 1913 and had the moats filled in. In 1927, the castle ultimately became the property of the municipality, which until 1970 used it for administrative services and as a workshop and storage. Repairs were carried out in 1986–88, particularly to the towers and roofs. In the early 21st century the castle was sold to a group of new owners who pledged to restore it without impairing its historic character, and it has been divided into five cohousing apartments.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.