Thursday, October 8, 2015

Caisteal a' Bhreabadair - Reiver's Castle

Standing atop the highest spot on the Stack Islands is Caisteal a' Bhreabadair; a landmark seen by all who take the ferry from Castlebay to Lochboisdale. 

Caisteal a' Bhreabadair atop the Stack Islands (photo taken from Ben Stac of Eriskay)
The name means castle of the reiver (robber), and it was the base of a MacNeil pirate known as Reaubaidair Stache. 'Reiver' became corrupted as 'weaver', and so the little building is often called Weaver's Castle. It is a small structure, measuring only 12 by 10 feet, with a remaining bit of wall standing 15 feet high. In Portrait of Skye and the Outer Hebrides (1967), W Douglas Simpson writes that the reiver's wife was an accomplice in her husband's depredations, and:

'When boats sheltered in the Sound of Eriskay or in Barra Sound, so it is said, the pair cut the hawsers and let the vessel drift to wreck upon the rocky shores, whereupon they helped themselves to its content.'

Stack Islands and the castle seen from the east
DDC Pochin-Mould mentions the castle in West Over Sea, and says:  There is only one way up to the castle and that is difficult...for ease of transport, the walls were made of very small stones, and the cementing mortar was prepared with lime made from the shell sands of neighbouring beaches.

The reiver and his family were such a nuisance that they were attacked while on Eriskay, where the reiver, and three of his four sons, were killed. The further adventures of the fourth son can be found in John Macpherson's Tales From Barra: Told by the Coddy (1960).

Someday I hope to land on the Stack Islands and climb up to the reiver's castle, but it will not be easy. The sea needs to be calm to land, and the islands are a long way from the charter boats in Castlebay. See this CANMORE page for more on Caisteal a' Bhreabadair.

Reiver's Castle - 1
Reiver's Castle - 2

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