The palazzo del Capitaniato was designed by Andrea Palladio in 1565 and built between 1571 and 1572. The palazzo is currently used by the town council. It was decorated by Lorenzo Rubini and, in the interior, with frescoes by Giovanni Antonio Fasolo. Since 1994 the palace has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the 'City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto'.
The Palladian loggia replaced an analogous building which had stood on the same site from the Middle Ages, and which had already been reconstructed at least twice during the Cinquecento: a covered public loggia on the ground floor and an audience hall on the upper storey. The new construction became economically viable in April 1571 and works began immediately. Palladio supplied the last drawings for the moulding templates in March 1572 and by the end of that year the building would have been roofed, since Giannantonio Fasolo could paint the lacunars of the audience hall while Lorenzo Rubini could execute the stuccoes and statues.
While the upper hall displays a flat, coffered ceiling, the ground-floor loggia has a sophisticated vault covering, certainly to better sustain the weight of the hall. The overall design is extremely sophisticated, as witnessed for example by the portals which open within the niches and follow their curvature.
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.