The Pühtitsa convent is located on a site known as Pühitsetud ("blessed" in Estonian) since ancient times. According to a 16th century legend, near the local village, Kuremäe, a shepherd witnessed a divine revelation near a spring of water to this day venerated as holy. Later, locals found an ancient icon of Dormition of the Mother of God under a huge oak tree. The icon still belongs to the convent.
A small Orthodox church was built in Pühtitsa in the 16th century. In 1888, the Russian Orthodox Church sent a nun from Kostroma Ipatiev Monastery to establish a convent in Pühtitsa. The convent was founded in 1891. The main Cathedral of the convent was built to a design by Mikhail Preobrazhensky in a Russian Revival style and was fully completed in 1910.
There are six churches in the convent dedicated to a number of Orthodox Christian Saints such as St. Sergius of Radonezh, St. Simeon the Receiver of God, St. Nicholas, St. Anna the Prophetess and others. Prince Sergei Shakhovskoy governor-general of Estonia was convent's patron and protected it from local nobles, mostly German Lutherans, who tried to resist its construction. The convent was first Orthodox monastery built in Estonia to the delight of mostly Orthodox local Estonian and Russian peasants of Jõhvi county.
In 1919, after Estonia became independent from Russia, the new government confiscated most of the convent's land and transferred the convent to the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church, independent of Moscow. During the Second World War the battlefront was at times only a few kilometres away from the convent and Germans organized a concentration camp for Russian prisoners of war inside the monastery compound.
Following the second invasion and occupation of Estonia by the Soviet Union in 1944, the convent managed to survive despite the uneasy co-existence with the Communist authorities. Patriarch Alexius II who was the bishop (later the archbishop) of Tallinn and Estonia in the 1960s was instrumental in the fight to keep the convent from closure. In 1990 the Pühtitsa Convent was placed under the direct authority of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Alexius II. By 1991, the Pühtitsa monastic community consisted of 161 nuns.
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.