Castlebay Visitor Information Guide
Castlebay is the ‘capital’ of Barra with hotels, B&B and self catering accommodation and other amenities, regular car-ferry services to the mainland and to south Uist and its island airport at Northbay only 5 miles away.
The most striking feature of Castlebay is Kisimul Castle, the ancient stronghold of the MacNeils, who owned Barra and its neighbouring islands for many centuries until, about the beginning of last century with the decline in the fortunes ofthe Western Isles, the family emigrated to America.
The Castle, on its small rocky island a few hundred yards from Castlebay pier, was indeed unoccupied for more than l5O years, and the MacNeils of Barra died'out in the direct male line in 1863, but, just before the Second World War, their descendant and 45th Chief of the Clan, Robert Lister MacNeil, a distinguished architect, returned from America, bought back Kisimul Castle and set about using his skills to restore it.
In 1960 he was able to hold a great Clan gathering in the completely restored Castle, which was attended by MacNeils from all over the world. On Robert Lister MacNeil’s death in 1970, his son, Iain Roderick MacNeil, Professor of Law at Cornell University, succeeded as 46th Chief of the MacNeils of Barra and continues the family interest in and care of Kisimul.
- Castlebay Latitude: 56.9545° N Longitude: 7.4866° W
- Castlebay Postcode HS9
- Castlebay WOEID 15363
The Castle, said by some to have been started in 1035, by others to date from the early Middle Ages, has naturally gathered many legends, one of the most likely concerning the post-prandial custom when a trumpeter sounded a fanfare and proclaimed: ‘Hear, O ye people and listen, O ye nations the great MacNeil of Barra having ﬁnished his meal the princes of the earth may dine.’
This romantir and now living relic of the historic past is open to visitors on Saturday afternoons during the summer.
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