A brief History of Applecross

Early History

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Applecross was one of the earliest Christian settlements in Scotland, second only to Iona. In the year 673 the Irish Monk Maelrubha founded this Christian settlement on the land between the river and Beinn A'Chlachain. He declared the surrounding area a Sanctuary, and even today, Applecross is known as A'Chomraich - the sanctuary. For fifty nine years, Maelrubha established his monastery and, using Applecross as his base, spread the gospel from Applecross to Lochcarron and into Easter Ross. It is thought that the monastery thrived for one hundred and twenty years before being sacked by the Vikings. Unfortunately, nearly every trace of Maelrubha's settlement in Applecross has long disappeared. On the site, now stands Clachan Church.

Applecross is considered by many to be an unlikely name in an area where place names usually have Gaelic or Norse connections. There have been suggestions that the name originated from four apple trees planted in the shape of a cross but the true explanation is that the original name was Aber Crossan which was eventually corrupted to Applecross. Applecross, ever since Maelrubha established his settlement, has also been known by it’s Gaelic name A’ Chomraich, the sanctuary.

More Recent History

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Applecross was, and still remains, one of the most remote areas of Scotland. Until the coast road was completed in 1975, the Peninsula was split north and south. Access to Applecross was either by the Bealach nam Bo, which was originally an old drove road, or by sea. The only access to the, then, thriving crofting and fishing townships scattered along the west and north coasts was by footpath or by boat. Many of the footpaths were constructed primarily to enable landlords to access their stalking and shooting grounds.

By the time that the coast road was completed, it was too late for many. In 1850 nearly 3,000 people lived in the scattered townships of Applecross. Now there are less than 300. The clearances were responsible for some of the depopulation, but lack of local opportunities and work also contributed. The remains of previously thriving communities can be seen in many areas along the coast.

In the earlier part of the last century, the Applecross Estate was the main employer with a full complement of farm workers, dairymaids and cattlemen, shepherds, gamekeepers, gardeners, joiners, housekeepers, support staff, boatmen and fishermen. Now the Estate employs only a few. Crofting, fishing and tourism are now the main sources of employment for the Applecross population.

Today, many people, including locals, refer to the small community of Shore Street as Applecross. However, the name Applecross refers to the whole of the peninsula.

Applecross Historical Society

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The Applecross Historical Society (Comunn Eachdraidh na Comraich), assisted by the Applecross Estate Trust, Ross and Cromarty Enterprise, Highland Council and others refurbished a building to the rear of Clachan Manse as a Heritage Centre. The opening of the Heritage Centre took place on Good Friday, 18th April, 2003 in idyllic conditions with blue skies and record-breaking temperatures. The Centre houses an exhibition where the history of the area from the Mesolithic period to the present day is displayed.

Much of the information given above has been extracted from the excellent booklet "A Glimpse of History" written by Ian Mackenzie, past Archivist for the Applecross Historical Society. Copies of this booklet are available at the Heritage Centre.