Tongue, Sutherland

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Gaelic: Tunga
The Kyle of Tongue Bridge - - 84268.jpg
The Kyle of Tongue
Grid reference: NC591570
Location: 58°28’42"N, 4°25’5"W
Population: 1,000
Post town: Lairg
Postcode: IV27
Dialling code: 01847
Local Government
Council: Highland
Caithness, Sutherland
and Easter Ross

Tongue is a coastal village on the north coast of Sutherland. It lies on the east shore above the head of a beautiful bay, the Kyle of Tongue, and north of the mountains Ben Hope and Ben Loyal. To the north lies the area of Braetongue.

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 a causeway, built in 1971.

Name of the village

The name of the village is from Norse and does indeed mean "tongue". Popular belief has it that the name refers to the shape of the Kyle of Tongue, but the kyle takes its name from the land. In Old Norse tunga refers to a rounded headland shaped like a spit or tongue, which is a description of the land on which the village is built; a terminal moraine marking the end of the ancient glacier which carved the Kyle of Tongue.

Having said this, the word "kyle" is a Gaelic word (caol) which can be interpreted as "tongue-shaped".

In Gaelic, the vuillage is named Tunga or Ceann Tàile and formerly as Circeabol. The bay is Caol Thunga.


The area was a historic crossroad for Picts, Norse and Gaels, all of whom made theior mark here.

Tongue House is the historic seat of the Clan Mackay, after they abandoned Varrich Castle (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 King George II, which cost Bonnie Prince Charlie valuable support in the weeks before the Battle of Culloden.