Westhall Castle includes a 16th-century L-plan tower house, which was substantially extended in the 17th and 19th century. The estate was held by the Bishops of Aberdeen in the 13th century, and passed to the Gordons during the Reformation. The original L-plan tower was constructed in the 16th century, with a round tower added in the 17th century. In 1681 it was purchased by the Rev James Horne, vicar of Elgin. Further extensions were added around 1838. By the mid-19th century it was the property of Sir James Elphinstone, who invested in both the Aberdeen Canal Company and the Great North of Scotland Railway.
Westhall was later used as an agricultural school, and as a hotel which closed in the 1990s. A period of neglect followed. In 2011 new owners took over the house.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.