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An Unknown Origin – Varrich Castle

Situated at the very top of a prominent hill is the beautiful Varrich Castle. This castle is the traditional seat of the historic and well-known Clan MacKay. Now only an old, ruined tower house, this castle is located at the very far north of the Scottish Highlands.

It is said to have been constructed 1000 years ago by the Bishops of Caithness.

The history of Varrich Castle

Varrich Castle in Tongue is simply beautiful. It is extremely picturesque and overlooks the Kyle of Tongue as well as the Village of Tongue in Scotland. Over time, the castle’s history has been long lost and forgotten. All that remains is a vague recap of its history as well as some ruined parts of the castle.

The early history

Castle Varrich, also known as Varrich Castle and in Scottish Gaelic as Caisteal Bharraich is thought to be over one thousand years old. However, there really isn’t anything left to confirm the exact date. There are believed to be caves under the castle that were once inhabited by the MacKay Clan. It is also believed that the MacKay’s may have built their own castle on the site in the 14th century on top of an old Norse fort.

Ruined varrich castle panoramic
Varrich Castle is now a ruin. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

A 1000-year-old beauty

The walls of the castle were built from roughly squared off blocks of metamorphosed sandstone rocks of varying thicknesses. The stones were laid out with mortar and have suffered only little considering how old the building is. In many places, the walls have fallen away.

The castle had two floors in its prime with an additional attic. It is thought that the ground floor was used as stables and was entered through a door on the north wall. There is a clear absence of stairs between the two floors suggesting that the ground floor was used for animals.

The present day

Later on, the MacKay Clan’s Chief seat moved to Tongue House. In 2017, the castle was updated significantly to make it more accessible with a galvanised steel spiral staircase. A viewing platform inside was also added to allow visitors a higher viewpoint over the Kyle of Tongue.

The castle is now a buzzing tourist attraction loved by many. In the near future, it will only develop further.

You may enjoy reading about other castles in Scotland such as Duntulm Castle or Torwood Castle.

wooden bench near varrich castle
There are spectacular views to be seen at the castle. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Varrich Castle Timeline

  • 14th century- The MacKay Clan build their own castle on the site on top of an old Norse fort
  • 2017- The castle is updated significantly to make it more accessible with a galvanised steel spiral staircase and viewing platform

Varrich Castle facts

  • Varrich Castle known in Scottish Gaelic as Caisteal Bharraich
  • Varrich Castle has views of mountains Ben Loyal and Ben Hope
  • The castle’s precise origins and age are unknown
  • Varrich Castle is about one hour’s walk away from the village of Tongue
  • The castle is the traditional seat of the historic and well-known Clan MacKay

Who owns Varrich Castle?

Varrich Castle sits on the Ben Loyal estate owned by the wealthy clothing magnate and landowner Holch Povlsen. He plans to continue restoring the castle. Mr Povlsen is personally paying £200,000 of the restoration bill, with Historic Scotland contributing the remaining £70,000 to keep the castle’s restoration going.

ruined wall at Varrich Castle
Close up of Varrich Castle’s walls. Source: Wikimedia Commons.


This lovely castle allows picturesque views of all of its surrounding areas. That is perhaps why so many people visit it all year round. The Varrich Castle walk can get difficult, but it is well worth the splendid view when you get there.

The route there is very easy to follow, though the castle is a lot farther along than people think. Enjoy fantastic views in all directions when you visit this spectacular castle. Nearby, you can visit Smoo Cave, Ben Hope, Strathnaver Museum, and Loch Eriboll.

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