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‘Where are staff going to live?’: Applecross Inn concerns about homes for employees on busy NC500 route

Judy Fish and Mark Carrington standing outside the Applecross Inn.
Mark Carrington and Judith Fish of the Applecross Inn. Picture by Sandy McCook.

The managers of the busy restaurant and hotel rooms at the Applecross Inn in Wester Ross say that unless second homeowners help out with places for staff to stay – it will not be service as usual this year.

Owner Judy Fish and general manager Mark Carrington are so desperate to find somewhere for staff to stay they say they will consider anything, even land on which to place a caravan.

The pair have completed a general account of accommodation around Applecross.

They found 78 out of a total of 187 houses are not permanently occupied.

Mr Carrington, who lives in a rented home with his family, said: “We have just been doing a bit of digging to find out how many holiday homes how many second homes are here on the peninsula.

“Staff accommodation is vitally important for us to be able to recruit and to keep staff – so we wanted to know what has changed.

Applecross road sign
Concerns are being raised in Applecross, Wester Ross, ahead of the tourist season with the lack of accommodation for staff with many properties now being second homes and Airbnbs. Picture by Sandy McCook.

“We have 48 second homes – people who come once or twice a year, there are 30 holiday homes that are let out, and 109 homes where people live here full time.”

The Applecross Inn is one of the key places to visit on the busy NC500 route.

“A high percentage of people who live here full time are elderly,” he continued.

Only one house for sale on the open market

Mr Carrington said the lack of full-time residents meant there were only 12 children in the primary school, and four in the nursery.

He said: “There is only one house on the open market for £260,000 – so unaffordable for most of us. If a family wanted to come and live here, there would be plenty of work but nowhere for them to stay.

Cars in Applecross
Cars in Applecross ahead of the tourist season. Photo: Sandy McCook/DCT Media

“We have been advertising in the community newsletter thinking that someone who doesn’t live here full time might be able to give up some of their houses to help out.

“But it was mainly met with silence. There was nothing, not even a bit of land to put a caravan on.”

Numbers of local workers has fallen

Ms Fish, who has run the business for more than 30 years, said the numbers of staff members living locally had changed.

She said: “We wanted to think about how staff have found a home here before. The profile of staff members has changed. We used to have 30 staff that lived in the village and 15 who came to work here and lived in staff accommodation.

“But the way people work has now changed. It used to be that people would come and work for us and have another job. But now that people can work online – there is not so much of that.

“We have 15 staff who live here and 30 that come to work here. And of course the type of accommodation has changed now. People no longer want to share accommodation as they once did.”

Applecross seen from the water
Applecross, Wester Ross. Picture by Sandy McCook.

She continued: “The Applecross Trust are working with us, but if this continues we simply cannot open seven days.

“Our policy has been that we never turn anyone away – but that is becoming much harder to achieve with the levels of staffing that we have.

“An answer to this would be to see better utilisation of houses currently used as second homes and holiday homes.”

‘We know there are significant pressures’

Highland Council says it is aware of the housing issues facing the management of the Applecross Inn – explaining the village is not the only community facing problems.

A spokeswoman said: “Highland Council has recently updated its housing need and demand assessment and will begin to develop its new local housing strategy this year.

“We know that there are significant housing pressures in many rural communities and are committed to continuing to work in partnership with communities and other local housing agencies to address rural housing needs.”