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      Barra & Vatersay News

Historic Environment Scotland has opened a free “engagement area” in Castlebay Hall to help people learn more about the iconic Kisimul Castle.

The castle has been out of bounds for several years due to its structural state. The nearest any member of the public can get is a boat tour around the castle as conservation work is planned.

A Historic Environment Scotland team is on hand Tuesday to Saturday from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm to offer information on the castle.

The boat trips are free but must be booked due to limited numbers. They will operate Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from the pontoon in the Castlebay marina. The times are 10:30 am, 11.15 am, 12 noon, 1.45 pm, 2.30 pm, 3.15 pm, and 4 pm.

Tickets can be booked here.

The castle has been closed to the public since before 2022 and has been a long-running source of contention with locals and visitors alike. However, it came into focus again last summer after it became clear that it would not be accessible in time for the Homecoming celebrations.

Last November, Historic Environment Scotland announced it had secured £350,000 in funding for remedial works.

The castle is reputed to have been the stronghold of the Clan MacNeil since the 11th century.

However, its first recorded mention dates from the mid-16th century, when Dean Monro provided a written description of the monument in 1549.

Kisimul was abandoned in 1838 when the island was sold, and the castle’s condition subsequently 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.