The Château de Dampierre was built by Jules Hardouin-Mansart in 1675–1683 for the duc de Chevreuse in French Baroque style. Protected behind fine wrought iron double gates, the main block and its outbuildings, linked by balustrades, are ranged symmetrically around a dry paved and gravelled cour d'honneur (three-sided courtyard). Behind, the central axis is extended between the former parterres, now mown hay. The park with formally shaped water was laid out by André Le Nôtre. There are sumptuous interiors.
The grande galerie was reconstructed for the amateur archaeologist and collector, Honoré Théodore Paul Joseph d'Albert, duc de Luynes, under the direction of antiquarian architect Félix Duban. Sculptor Pierre-Charles Simart contributed Hellenic friezes and reliefs for the project. Ingres' Age of Gold remains as testament to the abortive project of decorating it in fresco, not Ingres' habitual medium.
The park, which lost many trees in the storm of 26 December 1999, offers a formal canal and an eighteenth-century garden folly.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.