The palatial Late Antique Roman villa at La Olmeda was built in several stages, beginning in the second quarter of the fourth century and extending in use at least to the end of the fifth. The villa complex centers on the elite quarters of rigorously symmetrical disposition, wherein twenty-seven rooms, twelve with mosaic floors, are disposed around a central patio crossed with mosaic paths in geometric patterns and linked round its perimeter by a wide peristyle. This main building housed the poentior, with its oecus or reception hall, centered in the east wing featuring a particularly resplendently mosaiced floor. Slightly raised semicircular apses mark its northeastern and northwestern end rooms.
The main body of the villa communicated with a baths by a grand passageway. The principal front of the main block faces south, with a porticoed gallery ending in octagonal tower blocks. The residential quarters face north with two rectangular corner towers.
The complex also included working and living quarters of more rustic aspect, kilns for baking roof tiles on the site, three burial grounds, and a section of paved roadway.
Today the site open to the public, while a museum dedicated to the finds is housed in the nearby church of San Pedro de Saldaña.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.