Castle Varrich

The coastal sleepy village of Tongue centre of the “Mackay clan territory” looks west over the Kyle of Tongue.

Nestled within the sleepy village of Castle Varrich is seen in silhouette in the picture from the Tongue main page. It is a 14th century clan stronghold that offers fine views after a one mile tramp from the footpath beside the Bank in Tongue. An invigorating walk with wonderful views – be sure to wear proper protective clothing and footwear.

Tongue, overlooking the beautiful Kyle, the stunning Ben Loyal, and the gentle sweep of Ben Hope with Castle Varrich in the fore; Scotland’s most “Northerly Munro” and Ben Loyal “Queen of Scottish Mountains” which provide dramatic backdrops. Tongue offers the visitor a glimpse of its glamorous past and reflects a bygone era.

The area surrounding the village is ideal for walking and climbing; Ben Loyal at 764m (2506 feet) overshadows Tongue from the south and 14 miles (25 km) to the south is the prominent Munro of Ben Klibreck (961m / 3154 feet). The young trees including Scots pine, rowan and even some oak were planted alongside the recently improved footpath leading up to Castle Varrich in Tongue.

Castle Varrich is reputed to have been the stronghold of a Norse warrior of the 11th Century a small tower spectacularly located on the summit of a bluff dominating the Kyle of Tongue just to the west of the village. The origins of the castle are unclear, but some believe it could be the “Beruvik” mentioned in the Norse Orkneyinga Saga. Others believe it was built as recently as the 1500s, by either the Bishops of Caithness or by the Mackay family.

The walls are generally 1.4m thick, or thicker, and have been built from roughly squared blocks of metamorphosed sandstone rock of varying thickness, laid in rough courses of random depth. The stones seem to have been laid without the use of mortar, and have suffered little from weathering, considering the possible 1000-year age of the structure, and the nature of the local weather.

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