The important strategic position of Schongau on a defensible hill above the Lech means that it has a very long history of settlement. Finds from the Bronze Age have been made in the area, along with Roman remains.
Schongau is surrounded by fortified walls built in the Middle Ages - parts of them can still be walked around - and those fortifications were built to protect the wealth created by its position on the river and on important European trade routes.
Schongau stood near the Via Claudia Augusta, an old Roman road from Italy to Augsburg which was a major trade and communications route even after the fall of the Empire, and on the Salt Road from Berchtesgaden westwards. The Lech itself was also an important source of goods due to the healthy rafting commerce.
The main square in the centre of the old part of the town is dominated by the Ballenhaus - an old storehouse and council chamber built in the 15th century - at one end and the Church of Maria Himmelfahrt at the other. The stature of Mary gives the square its name - Marienplatz.
To the east is the former Carmelite Monastery - now a care home - and the Church of the Holy Ghost - the walk around part of the town walls used by the sentries can be made in this area. There is also an external path around the base of the walls which gives good views of the remaining town towers, down to the Lech and, on a good day, through to the mountains to the south.
The town has its own museum and the tourist office is situated in the town hall.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.