The Applecross Heritage Centre can be found in Clachan, the tiny hamlet across Applecross Bay from the village of Applecross itself. It occupies a beautifully converted old agricultural building close to Clachan Church and opened its doors for the first time in 2003. The project to develop a heritage centre was driven by the Applecross Historical Society, and supported by funds from a number of charitable and public sources. The result is an absolute triumph, a modern building perfectly suited to its role that fits unobtrusively into the surrounding landscape.
The Applecross Peninsula has a long and unusually well document history, and the heritage centre serves to help give an understanding of that history. An exhibit at the glass-walled eastern end of the centre gives a clue to a central theme. Here you find a model of the early Christian monastic settlement founded in 673 by the Irish monk Maelrubha, later revered as Saint Maelrubha. This early monastic settlement stood on the site now occupied by Clachan Church, only a few yards away from the heritage centre. The sense of proximity to history that this gives is remarkable. (Continues below image...)
Other aspects of history are also covered. In 2005, Channel 4's "Time Team" excavated the site of a broch near the campsite just behind the village of Applecross. This would have been erected some time in the final century BC or the first century AD and takes the history of occupation back far beyond Saint Maelrubha's arrival.
Among the exhibits on view are three fragments of what would have been a magnificent carved stone cross, measuring some 2.2m high. The fragments were found in or around the Clachan Churchyard and, when set alongside stories of other carved stone found and lost (or perhaps reburied under the access path to the church), suggest that the Christian community on the site had a continuity right through to the modern era, despite it being sacked by Vikings some time around 800.
Information is also given in the centre about the Abbot's Stone. This still stands just inside the gate of the churchyard. To modern eyes it is difficult to see beyond the covering of lichen and evident centuries of wear, but the stone carries a carved outline of a Celtic cross on its front face. It is thought that the stone could date back to the death of Abbot Ruairidh Mor MacAogan in 801, and the original intention appears to have been to carve out the cross that appears only in outline.
Back within the centre itself, the rather more recent history of the area can be traced, including aspects of clearance and crofting. Meanwhile the role of local people in both WWI and WWII are examined. There are also other attractions on offer: when we visited a demonstration of hand spinning was underway.
The west end of the centre is home to a fine collection of reference material, while computers can be consulted by those wishing to view further historical and genealogical information about the area and a collection of old photographs.