Cycling Bealach na Ba from Applecross, Scotland
Ride 5.2 miles gaining 1,975’ at 7.3% average grade.
This is an epic bike climb that is ranked #2 Scotland and #5 in the entire United Kingdom. See PJAMM’s United Kingdom’ and our UK Top 10 pages for more exceptional UK climbs.
The Western side of Bealach Na Ba starts in the small village of Applecross, home to just a few hundred residents. On the day that I road the clime in early July (from Loch Killorn over and back), I stopped to refuel at a small pop-up cafe. The gradients stay in the single digits as the lower mountain road passes farms with views of the bay below. As the jagged mountains ahead get closer, the gradients get more difficult. Like the eastern side of the mountain, the road is incredibly narrow, but this side of the route is far less trafficked by tourists. It seems that most tourists drive the eastern side and descend back down it. There is a dirt road on your left side (just past the summit point of our route) that goes up to a radio tower. It is possible to ride on a standard road bike, but it is very difficult. Gradients hold steady in the double digits and the loose rocks make keeping traction very difficult (and very treacherous to descend). That said, it is doable on a road bike, and well worth it for the breathtaking views. Adding this dirt road to the climb makes this the hardest bike climb in the entire UK (see hypothetical list below).
Applecross, Highlands, Scotland (population 544).
The village is on Applecross Bay.
Start climbing at the northern edge of Applecross.
This side of the climb begins in the Scottish Highlands village of Shore Street on Applecross Bay. The ascent from Applecross is statistically just as challenging and nearly as long as the traditional climb from the west.
Leaving Applecross and the first 1.5 miles of the climb.
Views looking back towards Applecross Bay during the first segment of the climb.
Aerial views of Applecross Bay and the first section of roadway leading to the pass.
Moving further up the hill.
Top two photos are the route from Applecross to the top.
Bottom left is Coire na Ba (Corrie of the Cattle; Corrie is a hollow in a hillside).
Loch Kishorn and the start of the traditional Bealach na Ba climb.
Standard finish location.
Bonus climb to the radio tower.
The gate to the radio tower is just beyond the finish of the standard Applecross climb. It is 8/10ths of a mile at 10.7% to the tower from the gate.
Above is a list of the Top 10 UK climbs, if Bealach na Ba to the radiator tower were included. However, the terrain does not lend itself sufficiently to a road bike such that we would include it on the Top 10 list.
That’s a wrap - from the true summit!