A chain of islands off Scotland’s northwest coast, the Outer Hebrides are loved for their wild coastlines and gorgeous natural scenery. The National Nature Reserve on St Kilda is a particular highlight, and you can spot seals, whales and basking sharks around Barra. Find out more
Kisimul Castle sits on a rocky islet in the bay just off the coast of Barra in the Outer Hebrides. As it is completely surrounded by the sea, it can only be reached by boat and is all but impregnable. Kisimul has its own fresh water wells. Legend has it that this has been the stronghold of the MacNeils since the 11th century. The earliest documentary record of Kisimul Castle dates from the mid 16th century.
Kisimul was abandoned in 1838 when the island was sold, and the castle’s condition deteriorated. Some of its stone was used as ballast for fishing vessels, and some even ended up as paving in Glasgow. The remains of the castle, along with most of the island of Barra, were purchased in 1937 by Robert Lister MacNeil, the then chief of Clan MacNeil, who made efforts at restoration.
In 2001 the castle was leased by the chief of Clan MacNeil to Historic Scotland for 1000 years for the annual sum of £1 and a bottle of whisky.
Callanish Standing Stones, Isle of Lewis, Scotland
Local tradition says that giants who lived on the island refused to be converted to Christianity by Saint Kieran and were turned into stone as a punishment. Another belief says that at sunrise on midsummer morning, the “shining one” walked along the stone avenue, “his arrival heralded by the cuckoo’s call.” This legend could be a folk memory recalling the astronomical significance of the stones.
Construction took place between 2900 and 2600 BC, though there were possibly buildings before 3000 BC. A tomb was later built into the site. Debris from the destruction of the tomb suggests the site was out of use between 2000 BC and 1700 BC. The layout of the stones resembles a distorted Celtic cross.
The stones are near the village of Callanish on the west coast of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.
Two 3,000-year-old human skeletons dug up in the Outer Hebrides have been found to be a jigsaw of at least six different people who died hundreds of years apart.
It is one of Britain’s most intriguing archeological mysteries.
When two almost perfectly preserved 3,000-year-old human skeletons were dug up on a remote Scottish island, they were the first evidence that ancient Britons preserved their dead using mummification.
The scientists who uncovered the bodies also found clues that one of them – a man buried in a crouching position – was not a single individual, but had in fact been assembled from the body parts of several different people.
The discovery began a 10-year investigation into what had led the bronze-age islanders to this strange fate.