Clachan Church & Cross, Applecross
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: 9th century cross in the churchyard
In the year 671 the Irish saint Maelrubha sailed from Bangor to the north west coast of Scotland to establish a monastery. Maelrubha, a native of Londonderry, landed at Abercrossan, now called Applecross. Here he founded a monastery and declared the land within a 6 mile radius of his monastery a site of sanctuary. The peninsula was dubbed A' Chomraich in Gaelic, which translates as 'The Sanctuary'.
Maelrubha seems to have spread Christianity over a wide area of northern Scotland, to Lochcarron and into Easter Ross, and possibly north into Sutherland. At Skail, in Strathnaver, the Red Priest's cross is said to mark the site of his murder by Vikings. That association is not universally accepted, but what is known is that the saint made his base at Applecross for 59 years. No trace of the original monastery remains, but Maelrubha's heritage lives on. He is thought to be buried in an unmarked site within the churchyard at Clachan.
Much more obvious to visitors is the large carved cross just inside the churchyard gate. The stone was originally used to mark the grave of Ruaraidh Mor MacAogan, Abbot of Applecross, who died in 801.
One version of MacAogan's death says that Vikings sacked the Applecross monastery, and the Bishop retreated to Bangor. On his death his body was brought back to Applecross for burial. Local tradition says that his body floated ashore on the carved slab. The stone has an incised cross, which appears unfinished.
The church is a lovely building, and though not of great age itself, it is part of a landscape that simply exudes a sense of antiquity. It is not used for regular worship, but is used for weddings and special community events. It is open daylight hours amnd makes a lovely combined visit with the Heritage Centre.
Overlooking the churchyard is the Heritage Centre, run by the Applecross Historical Society, with a wonderful display of historic documents, photographs, artefacts, and genealogical information on the area. There are several fragments of 8th century Celtic crosses on display, another indication of the long and rich cultural heritage in this relatively remote area.
Below the road is the Spout well, fed from a holy well higher above on the slope. The holy well is associated with Maelrubha and his monastery.
About Clachan Church, Applecross
Address: Applecross, Wester Ross, Scotland, IV54 8ND
Attraction Type: Historic Church
Location: At the northern end of Applecross Bay, next to the Heritage Centre. Free parking, usually open daylight hours. The church was open when we visited.
Website: Clachan Church, Applecross
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
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Nearest Accommodation to Clachan Church, Applecross:
Nearby accommodation is calculated 'as the crow flies' from Clachan Church, Applecross. 'Nearest' may involve a long drive up and down glens or, if you are near the coast, may include a ferry ride! Please check the property map to make sure the location is right for you.
Nearest Self Catering Cottages
Nearest Bed and Breakfasts
Tourist Information Centre
Isle of Skye
Highlands and Islands
Tel: 01478 612 992