Castlebay, Barra - Outer Hebrides

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Presentation Description

Castlebay, in Barra Island, has been classified as UK's most beautiful village. A historic Castle, the main road full of character, a scenic bay...

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Presentation Transcript

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Remote but seductive Castlebay , Barra Island Outer Hebrides

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Barra is the southernmost island of the Outer Hebrides, off the western coast of Scotland. Scarcely populated, its main settlement is Castlebay .

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Castlebay ( Bagh a‘ Chaisteil ), the main village on the island, got its name from Kisimul Castle , propriety of Historic Scotland. The History of Castlebay is deeply entwined with the story of the Clan Macneil , owner of the castle for 411 years

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What a magnificent setting !

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Castlebay , Barra Coordinates : 56º 57' N, 7º 29' W Population : ~1000 Barra is a predominantly Gaelic-speaking island.

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Pier Road , the main street, runs from the Post Office by the ferry pier, up to The Square.

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The Square

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The most remarkable in The Square  is an early 19th century, two-storey house with an unusual central gable. It was built for some kind of storing. Though it has been classified, its condition is very poor.

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Pier Road

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Driving our eyes directly to the Castle, Pier Road has been the heart of Castlebay for all daily life: the Post Office, the Bank, the store, the bars… and of course the Ferry pier.

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Macron’s Café is the best for a coffee by the bay and Kisimul .

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On a sunny day, scones with a view!

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Oific A’ Phuist = Post Office

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As a port, Castlebay developed because of the plentiful herring that shoaled these waters; from 1869 Castlebay became the centre of a fishing industry, with all the gutting, curing and preserving facilities. The harbour conditions later improved in the 1890s with the building of the pier.

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Nowadays, the main sea traffic into the port comes from the Calmac ferries (Caledonian MacBrayne ) :

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The Herring Walk The story of the long gone herring industry on Barra , along this trail following the shoreline, decorated with barrels and metal plates.

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‘ You could walk from one end of the bay to the other on the fishing boats clustered there ’.

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The community now lives mainly of tourism, but farming (sheep) as much as fishing (crabs, bivalve) are still active. Hotel occupation and smaller lodging facilities (as well as camping sites) as well as other services have been increasing. The Castlebay Hotel, opened in 1894 !

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And there is even (hard to believe) a little Cultural Centre - '   Dualchas Heritage Centre' , featuring several exhibitions each year on History, lifestyle and crafts of the Hebrides: In a finely restored traditional stone house , guest house ' Tigh Na Mara ‘   as its Gaelic name suggests is located by the sea.

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The Dualchas Heritage Centre The Dualchas opened in 1996 . Situated towards the west end of the village, close to the school,  the Centre displays artefacts, documents and photographs, and has built up extensive archives and collections.

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The 'Screen Machine', a comfortable 80-seat digital mobile cinema, is brought by ferry to Castlebay .

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Kisimul Castle Caisteal Chiosmuil

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The Tower and the landing jetty by the steps to the gateway.

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Kisimul Castle  was built in the 1400s as a three-storey tower house, where the Macneil clan chief lived. The MacNeils , of Irish Viking origin, settled in Barra in the 11th century. They were a seafaring clan, now and then dedicated to piracy, like the infamous Ruaindh (or Rory ) the Tartar .

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The castle is built on a rocky islet in the bay, just off the coast of Barra . It can only be reached by boat. Writing in 1549, Dean Monro stated of Barra that "Within the southwest end of this isle, ther enters a salt water loche , verey narrow in the entrey , and round and braide within. Into the middis of the saide loche there is ane ile , upon ane strenthey craige , callit Kiselnin , perteining to M’Kneil of Barray ."

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This is one of the oldest Castles in Scoltland , and was never taken by any enneny

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The walls enclose a small courtyard with its ancillary buildings .

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Probably the most relevant feature in the island, the ' Castle in the Sea ' has been carefully restored and kept by the Owner as a precious Heritage from History in the Hebrides.

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The Great Hall: Coat of Arms above the fireplace

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The Culloden rifles, from the tragic battle in 1746 .

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In 2001 the castle was leased by the chief of Clan MacNeil to  Historic Scotland  for 1000 years for the symbolic annual sum of £1 and a bottle of whisky.

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The  Church of Our Lady Star of he Sea (Stella Maris) )

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The  Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea , named for the patroness of those who sail the seas, sits on the south facing slopes that climb above Castlebay .

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The church opened on Christmas Eve 1888 when people from all over the islands gathered for Midnight Mass.

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During the wars, the population of ~1100 people lost 125 men, killed in both World Wars. The side windows on the North facade are a homage to the Navy. A beautiful stained glass work on the South End window, showing an angel descending towards what appears to be a warship.

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The End

Mário Ricca, 2019:

Mário Ricca , 2019 Sources: Visit Scotland, Undiscovered Scotland Flickr Skyscrapercity The Guardian geograph.org.uk Panoramio geograph.org.uk

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