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Article: Crofting in the Sanctuary

Crofting in the Sanctuary

Crofting in the Sanctuary

Applecross is called A’ Chomraich in Gaelic, which means 'The Sanctuary', a name which dates back to the 7thcentury arrival of the Irish monk Saint Maelrubha. It is the perfect place to be inspired by all we find special in the Highlands. 

What is a croft, then?  

"A croft is a small agricultural unit, most of which are situated in the crofting counties in the north of Scotland…" Scottish Crofting Federation 

"’S e ball àitich beag a tha ann an croit, is a’ chuid as motha dhiubh sin stèidhichte anns na siorrachdan croitearachd ann an ceann a tuath na h-Alba …" Caidreachas Croitearachd na h-Alba 

Of course, there is the cheekier, more cynical version which suggests that a croft is a small piece of land entirely surrounded by legislation! 

For many people, the idea of crofting probably revolves around the cycles of keeping sheep and cows, lambing, and cutting hay in the late summer to sustain the animals through the winter. Although in some areas crofts can be (much) bigger, they are generally a small acreage – this is partly a historical hangover, as they were never intended to provide a living. The idea was that they could supplement a family which was involved in some other work, such as fishing or a trade.  

We decided not to go down the line of having livestock, mainly because Applecross Croft is small and split into three separate pieces. It made more sense to concentrate on other aspects of crofting diversity which we feel add as much value to our lives and to the environment. When we took the croft on in 2011, it was an unfenced, bareland croft so we began the tasks of cutting back the reeds and bracken, and clearing piles of stones. Once we had a fence in place, the next task was planting in hedgerows on both sides to offer protection from the wind, and then breaking open and enriching the soil for growing. Further planting of fruit trees for blossom and cropping in the autumn, berry bushes for fruiting in the summer and constant cycles of enriching with seaweed and mulching with bracken have helped the biodiversity to expand. As a wonderful, intended consequence, flocks of birds clatter through the trees, insects hum like bagpipe drones in the summer blooms, we have frogs, toads, slow worms, adders, pine martens, badgers. It’s humbling. 

We use organic principles in all aspects of our crofting as far as possible, although we have not pursued organic status. We grow our own fruit and vegetables, and there are few things more rewarding than harvesting your own crops after a winter and spring spent preparing the beds, and a summer of careful tending.  

The gorgeous blooms we grow for supply throughout the south part of the Applecross peninsula forms the core of our ‘commercial’ crofting enterprise. Out of this creativity comes the inspiration for our line of luxurious silk scarves.  

It has been a long journey, at times infuriating, at times exhausting, at times upsetting … but always we come back to knowing how lucky we are that we get to do this.

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