Castles and Galleys publishes papers delivered at a Conference held on Barra in September 2015. Travel by water was, from prehistory until the 18th century, quicker, easier and cheaper than travel by land. Most of the castles on or near the Norse-Gaelic seaways were close to the sea – some, like Kisimul, on small islands. Their main means of transport was galleys, open boats with oars and sails, descendants of Viking ships.
The papers in this volume consider how castles functioned; how they can be dated; the interaction between castle-owners and the lands they controlled; networks and allegiances among these magnates; and the facilities at coastal castles for landing and protecting boats, and perhaps for taxing commercial vessels. Was there such a concept as a ‘galley castle’, and how can it be defined? As well as castles on the western seaboard of Scotland, three papers describe castles on the Isle of Man, Orkney and Ireland and ask whether galley-castles can be identified elsewhere within the Norse-Gaelic seaways.
Discussions started by the late Ian Macneil of Barra have been developed and expanded. These papers consider geographical factors, and the approaches taken by architectural historians, documentary historians and archaeologists, with results relevant to the social, economic, political and military history of Scotland.