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Concerns raised with Scottish Government about continued closure of Kisimul Castle on Isle of Barra

Kisimul Castle as seen from Castlebay, Isle of Barra.
Kisimul Castle as seen from Castlebay, Isle of Barra.

Concerns have been raised about the continued closure of popular tourist attraction Kisimul Castle on the Isle of Barra.

Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan has written to the Scottish Government’s constitution, external Affairs and culture minister, Angus Robertson, seeking clarity on the castle’s future.

In the letter, Mr Allan asked the government when Historic Environment Scotland (HES), which has cared for the building since 2000, planned to reopen the castle.

He has also submitted three written questions to the Scottish Government on the topic.

Kisimul Castle, Isle of Barra.
Kisimul Castle, Isle of Barra.

Kisimul Castle was closed at the start of the pandemic and has yet to reopen to the public.

The castle is located on a small island near Castlebay on the Isle of Barra, and tourists have to journey via boat to visit.

HES has it listed as a place to visit on its website, but says it is currently closed due to conservation work.

The castle expects to host two high-profile events in the coming years including the Worldwide Gathering of the Clan MacNeil in August 2022 and centenary commemorations of emigration to Canada in June 2023.

‘One of the most recognisable properties in Scotland is falling into a dilapidated state’

Mr Allan said: “It is a pathetic situation for any country to be in, having a site as iconic as Kisimul Castle shut, with no clearly-stated prospect for reopening.

“It will be greatly disappointing, for example, if the property remains closed to visitors during the international gathering of the Clan MacNeil later this summer.

“Crucially, there needs to be a long-term plan put in place by HES for Kisimul Castle, something which I have been seeking for over a decade as the MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar.

Barra
Kisimul Castle, Barra.

“Unfortunately, even if the castle were to open tomorrow, it is likely that large areas of the site would remain closed, including the Great Hall, due to fears about falling masonry.

“I echo the worries of the castle’s owner, MacNeil of Barra, and the wider community that one of the most recognisable properties in Scotland is falling into a dilapidated state under public custody.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We recognise the feelings of frustration that closures and access restrictions at sites such as Kismul Castle cause.

“However whilst vital conservation and maintenance works are being undertaken these restrictions are important to ensure the safety of both the public and Historic Environment Scotland staff.

“The minister for culture, Europe and international development, Neil Gray, continues to have regular discussions with Historic Environment Scotland about closures and restrictions.”

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