Applecross boasts a variety of habitats including coastal, woodland, moorland and mountain. These are home to an exciting range of plant and animal species.
Coastal habitats of the area include rocky shores, sandy beaches and sand dunes. Of special 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.
Common seals are frequently seen on offshore rocks where they have their pups, or swimming in the sea, they are particularly easy to spot on the rocks near Polkria. Otters are also seen in this area and further out to sea porpoise, minke whale and the occasional bottlenose dolphin, basking shark and white tailed eagles can be spotted.
Coastal plants of the area include: scurvy grasses, oraches, thrift, and storkbills.
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.
Woodlands of the area are also home to 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 a montane 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 in the corries of Bheinn bhan, designated due its specialised flora and inaccessibility to grazing animals.