Kisimul Castle, the ancient seat of Clan MacNeil, and part of the town as seen from Heaval
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Castlebay (Scottish Gaelic: Bàgh a' Chaisteil) is the main village and a community council area on the island of Barra in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. The village is located on the south coast of the island, and overlooks a bay in the Atlantic Ocean dominated by Kisimul Castle, as well as nearby islands such as Vatersay. Castlebay is also within the parish of Barra. The village is located on the A888, which serves as a circular road around Barra.
Kisimul Castle is located approximately 100 yards (100 m) away from the ferry terminal in the centre of the bay that Castlebay overlooks. It is the home of Clan MacNeil, but is currently under a thousand-year lease to Historic Scotland from the MacNeil of Barra.
In the 2010 Channel 4 programme Dom Joly and the Black Island, Joly and Tintinologist Michael Farr identify Castlebay and Kisimul as the locations of Kiltoch and the Ben More Castle used as settings in The Adventures of Tintin comic The Black Island, although the scenes of reaching it by boat and exploring it on foot were filmed at Lochranza Castle on the Isle of Arran.
Castlebay is home to the majority of shops on the island. The main street forms a square with the ferry terminal and the ring road, and features several grocery shops, a bank, post office, and tourist information centre. There is a larger supermarket now to the west of the village, having opened in October 2009. There are also several hotels in the village.
The Catholic church in Castlebay, The Church of Our Lady, Star of the Sea, was opened in 1888 on a mound overlooking the town centre. It was designed by an architect from Oban, G. Woulfe Brenan, along with a house further down the slope for the priest to reside in. The northern gable of the church features a stained glass window depicting the Crucifixion, and the southern gables depict Our Lady, Star of the Sea. Renovation works on the church were completed in early 2007.
The Castlebay Community School (Scottish Gaelic: Sgoil Bhàgh a’ Chaisteil), is located on the western side of Castlebay. It is the only source of secondary education on Barra. Since 2007, the school has had responsibility for the Castlebay preschool (both the English and the Gaelic Medium), meaning that with its Primary School division it caters for all ages of school children. In September 2007, the school received an HMIE report heavily criticising the relationships amongst the secondary school's staff and management, but complimenting them in the primary school.
The village is home to the main ferry terminal. It is known that steam ferries were plying between Castlebay and Oban in the late 1800s, but travelling conditions were poor. In the 1980s, a roll-on-roll-off car ferry terminal was built at Castlebay, allowing much larger ferries to arrive on Barra. Between 1989 and 1998, Lord of the Isles travelled daily between Oban, Castlebay and Lochboisdale on the island of South Uist, sometimes stopping on the Isle of Mull. In 1998, Clansman replaced Lord of the Isles on the Oban-Castlebay-Lochboisdale run. From April 2016, the former Stornoway ferry Isle of Lewis took over the Barra route with a new dedicated service, operating seven return sailings a week between Castlebay and Oban, allowing Clansman to operate dedicated services from Oban to Coll, Tiree and Colonsay. From summer 2016, Lord of the Isles began a dedicated daily service between Mallaig and Lochboisdale, ending South Uist's link with Oban.
The island's ring road, the A888, connects Castlebay to the rest of the island.
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Ferry (Limited service, summer only)
- "Details of Castlebay". Scottish Places. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
- "A888". Sabre. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
- "The Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea". Roman Catholic Diocese of Argyll and the Isles. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
- "Sgoil Bhàgh a’ Chaisteil" Archived 18 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine. Castlebay Community School. Retrieved 2 March 2008.
- Castlebay Community School (2008) (pdf) HM Inspectorate of Education. Retrieved 11 September 2008.
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