Erlach Abbey also known as St. Johannsen Abbey, was founded between 1093 and 1103 by Kuno, Count of Fenis and Bishop of Lausanne, on land that was then an island in the river Thielle. After Kuno's death, the abbey church was completed by his brother, Burchard, bishop of Basel. The new monastery was settled by monks from Saint Blaise Abbey. The Vogtei, initially the property of the Counts of Fenis, passed from them to the Counts of Neuchâtel-Nidau, and from them at the end of the 14th century to the city of Bern, which in took over the domain of Erlach in 1474, definitively acquiring it in 1476.
The abbey was secularised between 1528 and 1529. The nave of the abbey church was demolished, but the choir and transept remained to be used for grain storage. These structures were demolished in 1961 after they had become unsafe, but the choir was rebuilt between 1970 and 1971. The other buildings remained standing, and in the 19th century were put to various industrial uses, until in 1883 the Canton of Bern bought the site back and turned it into a prison. Since 1978, it has served as an adjustment centre for young men.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.