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Castlebay

(Bagh a' Chaisteil)
Western Isles

The chief settlement on the island of Barra in the Outer Hebrides, Castlebay (Gael: Bagh a' Chaisteil) became an active herring fishing port in the 19th Century when James Methuen developed associated curing and packing industries at the head of the sheltered Castle Bay at the southern end of the island. On the east side of the bay is Kisimul Castle, the restored seat of the MacNeils of Barra. Originally constructed in the 11th century, the present building dates from the 15th century. It was destroyed at the end of the 18th century and the MacNeils had to sell the island in 1838. A century later, in 1937, the 45th chief, an American architect named Robert Lister MacNeil, bought back the castle and restored it. Today Castlebay has shops, schools, hotels, a tourist office and a cottage hospital. The picturesque Roman Catholic church of Our Lady Star of the Sea dates from 1886 and overlooks the village from the hillside above.


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