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.
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.