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Tongue Travel Guide - Scotland

The 14th Century Castle Varrich, a stronghold of the Clan Mackay and successor to a Norse fort, dominates the pretty, crofting town of Tongue. The village itself is thought to have developed from an 11th century stronghold.

The Kyle of Tongue is where an incident occurred that has left historians ever wondering that if it had happened differently, the Battle of Culloden would have had a different victor. In 1746 the area witnessed a scene of naval engagement which sealed the fate of Bonnie Prince Charlie's Jacobite Rebellion. To help the Prince in his quest, the King of France dispatched the Jacobite ship Hazard with loot of £13600 in gold to Scotland. It was spotted by an English frigate, the Sheerness, and in order to avoid bombardment from its heavy artillery, the Hazard fled into the Kyle of Tongue to seek refuge, on the assumption that the frigate was too large to follow so close to the shore.

The frigate followed unmercifully however, and forced the Jacobite ship aground. The Jacobites fled under heavy cannon fire and tried to smuggle the gold to Inverness under the cover of darkness. Scouts followed them from the Mackay clan, who were not persuaded to the Jacobite cause and in the morning they rallied their troops and descended on the rebels. They in turn threw the loot into Lochan Hakel before being defeated. The Prince then sent 1500 of his troops to rescue the gold and defeat the Mackays but they too were defeated on their way. The missing men may well have altered the outcome of the battle, which took place three weeks later.

Tongue is a very scenic place where you could be forgiven for thinking that time stands still. There are marvellous walks along unspoilt golden sandy beaches, with panoramic views to Ben Hope and Ben Loyal.

Nearby at Loch Eriboll, a sea loch, long beautiful and very deep, was the scene where allied convoys saw the surrender of German submarines upon notification that the war was over. The Brahan Seer, a Scottish prophet born over 300 years ago in the Highlands, rightly predicted that the war would end at Eriboll.

Seven centuries earlier, Eriboll saw the invasion of Hakon's Viking army, who fled after witnessing an eclipse of the sun, regarding it as a bad omen. They were later defeated at Largs, near Glasgow.

Ben Loyal