The Applecross Peninsula boasts a variety of habitats; coastal, woodland, moorland and mountain. These are home to an awe-inspiring range of animal species, flora and fauna.
The Coastal habitats of the area include rocky shores, sandy beaches, sea caves and sand dunes. Of particular interest is the white ‘coral’ beach at Ard Ban; the ‘coral’ sand is actually the calcareous remains of several species of red seaweed which make up the so called maerl beds; this unusual habitat is only found in 1% of the UK’s inshore waters.
Coastal plants of the area include: scurvy grasses, oraches, thrift, and storkbills.
Common seals are regularly seen on offshore rocks where they have their pups, or swimming in the sea, they are particularly easy to spot on the rocks near Poll Creadha. Otters are also seen in this area, and further out to sea, porpoise, minke whale and sporadic sightings of bottlenose dolphins, basking sharks and white tailed eagles can be seen.
Looking at the river habitat, freshwater pearl mussels have been recorded in the area; however it is actually now illegal to handle these without a licence. Although more noticeable in sheltered coastal areas, otters can also be found near freshwater along with healthy populations of water voles.
The Woodland habitats of the area are home to red deer, pine martin, foxes, the occasional solo wild cat, pipistrelle and Daubenton’s bats and many species of birds including barn owl, tawny owl, great spotted woodpecker, song thrush and bullfinch. Ground flora species of the semi natural woodlands include: wood anemone, lesser celendine, stitchworts, the tangy, lemon tasting wood sorrel, primrose, violet, devils bit scabious and speedwells. Wild mushrooms are also to be found in the woodland habitat with tasty delights including: chanterelles, ceps and hedgehog mushroom.
The moorland of the Applecross area is composed largely of three species of heather – ling, bell heather and cross leaved heath, together with the insectivorous sundews and butterworts, the aromatic, reputedly midge repelling, bog myrtle, cotton grasses, marsh orchids, the tasty nectar rich lousewort, the distinctive yellow bog asphodel and the bog rushes, sedges and grasses such as molinia. The colourful sphagnum mosses, known for their antiseptic and high absorbency properties, which made them useful as wound dressings, are particularly evident in areas of blanket bog. Birds such as golden plover, skylark, merlin, greenshank, dunlin, red grouse and occasional black grouse favour this moorland habitat and it is not unusual to see adders basking on the rocks in the sunshine.
Ascending into the mountain habitat, Applecross has resident populations of golden eagles. Dotterel and ptarmigan range over the hills as does the blue hare which characteristically turns from brown to white in the winter time. There is also a 4235 hectare SSSI (Site of special scientific interest) in the corries of Bheinn bhan, designated due to its specialised flora and inaccessibility to grazing animals.