Ben Loyal, low tide
Tacitus writes that Roman fleet successfully circumnavigated the north of Scotland in late 83AD, following the defeat of the Caledonian tribes at Mons Graupius, a battle site somewhere in Aberdeenshire This sea journey was a symbolic act by the Roman navy which had shadowed the progress of the army that finally laid claim to the island of Britannia, and established the truth in Pytheas’ centuries old claim that Britannia was indeed an island.
This sea journey was expedition into the unknown, to the sea beyond the edge of the world, the low lands of east and the coast allowing the sailor a tantalising distant view of strange, hostile, mountain landscapes such as Ben Loyal. This is an alien world of low light, sudden storms and mercurial light; far from the temperate Mediterranean. It must have chilled the Roman sailor looking from the safety of his galley navigating yet further along this uncharted coast, not yet heading south to familiar waters
Ptolemy names one of the deep inlets in this area “Volas Sinus”. Perhaps the Kyle of Tongue is Volas Sinus? It is one of the only named places in this region, an exception to the unknown, and ultimately, unknowable region which the Romans never seem to have had the confidence to penetrate and conquer.