The village of El Barco de Avila is situated in the foothills of the Sierra de Gredos mountain range. After the conquest of Toledo and the retreat of the Muslim lines to the south bank of the river Tajo, King Alfonso VI donated this valley to his daughter and ordered his son-in-law Ramon de Borgoña to erect a fortification and to repopulate the surrounding area.
There is few documented data of the construction of the present castle but due to its architectural design it is dated to the end of the 15th century. The castle, built of granite rubblework, is situated on a small hill on the east bank of the Tormes river. Its groundplan, similar to that of other castles on the Castilian plateau, is a square with circular towers on the corners and sentry boxes in three of its curtain walls. The fourth curtain wall contains the rectangular keep.
The entrance to the keep is on a higher floor level, facing the courtyard. Although totally dismantled you can see traces of two floor levels and columns around a central patio in the walls and floor of the courtyard. Also underground rooms and rain tanks exist beneath the courtyard.
The territory of Valdecorneja is linked to the Alba family since the 14th century when King Enrique II de Trastámara donated it to Don Garci Alvarez de Toledo. It is probably one of the descendants of this first Lord of Valdecorneja who built the present castle.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.