Tongue, Highland

Tongue (Scottish Gaelic: Tunga from Old Norse: Tunga) is a coastal village in northwest Highland, Scotland,[2] in the western part of the former county of Sutherland. It lies on the east shore above the base of the Kyle of Tongue and north of the mountains Ben Hope and Ben Loyal on the A836. To the north lies the area of Braetongue.

Tongue, Highland, Scotland.jpg
Tongue, Highland, Scotland
Tongue is located in Sutherland
Location within the Sutherland area
Population564 [1] (2011 census)
OS grid referenceNC591570
• Edinburgh180 mi (290 km)
• London510 mi (821 km)
Council area
Lieutenancy area
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townLAIRG
Postcode districtIV27
Dialling code01847
UK Parliament
Scottish Parliament
List of places
58°28′42″N 4°25′05″W / 58.47839°N 4.41799°W / 58.47839; -4.41799Coordinates: 58°28′42″N 4°25′05″W / 58.47839°N 4.41799°W / 58.47839; -4.41799

Tongue is the main village in a series of crofting townships that runs through Coldbackie, Dalharn, Blandy, and the harbour of Scullomie to the deserted township of Slettel. The village includes a youth hostel, a craft shop, a general store and garage, a bank, a post office and two hotels, the Tongue Hotel and the Ben Loyal Hotel. It is connected to the west side of the Kyle by the Kyle of Tongue Bridge and Causeway, built in 1971.


Contrary to popular belief, the name Tongue does not refer to the shape of the Kyle of Tongue (though the kyle can be described as "tongue-shaped"). Rather it is a geographical term in Old Norse which refers to a piece of land shaped like a spit or tongue. That tongue of land projecting into the Kyle is the terminal moraine of the Kyle of Tongue glacier, and forms the eastern part of the Kyle of Tongue causeway.

In Gaelic, Tunga indicates the village, whereas Caol Thunga indicates the kyle. The village is also known as Ceann Tàile and formerly as Circeabol.


The area was an historic crossroad for Gaels, Picts and Vikings.

Tongue House is the historic seat of the Clan Mackay, after they abandoned Castle Varrich (Caisteal Bharraich). The ruins of the castle, built at Tongue in the eleventh century after the clan were expelled from their ancestral Province of Moray to County Sutherland, are a popular tourist attraction. A battle for succession some time around 1427 to 1433 culminated in the Battle of Drumnacoub, in which two factions of the clan fought on Carn Fada, between the Kyle and Ben Loyal.

The village saw a key battle between a Jacobite treasure ship and two ships of the Royal Navy in 1746, which resulted in the Jacobite crew trying to slip ashore with their gold. They were then caught by the Navy, supported by local people who were loyal to Hanover, which cost Bonnie Prince Charlie valuable support in the run-up to Culloden.

In the Highland Clearances, many people who were cleared from the interior of Sutherland moved to this village. The Gaelic poet Ewen Robertson (Scottish Gaelic: Eòghainn MacDhonnchaidh, 1842–95) lived in Tongue his entire life, and is most famous for his song "Mo mhallachd aig na caoraich mhòr" ("My curses on the Border sheep") mocking, among others, the Duchess of Sutherland and Patrick Sellar.[3] The song has been recorded by notable singers Julie Fowlis and Kathleen MacInnes. There is a monument to Robertson in Tongue.[4]

The American statesman George W. Campbell was born in Tongue.

See alsoEdit

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. ^ "Standard Outputs - Census Data Explorer - Scotland's Census".
  2. ^ Groome, F.H. (1885). Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical. Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical. T. C. Jack. p. 444.
  3. ^ MacDonnchaidh, Eòghann. "Mo Mhallachd aig na Caoraich Mhòr". BBC. Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  4. ^ "Scran ::: Ewen Robertson Memorial, Sutherland". Scran.