Page Contributor(s): Heiko Linnert, Amberg, Germany
Cycling Bealach na Bà, Scotland
Ride 5.1 miles gaining 2,019’ at 7.5% average grade.
Bealach na Ba is one of the most scenic, challenging, and exceptional climbing experiences in the UK. This road is one the farthest outliers of all Britain’s 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs, situated in the far northwestern Highland Council Area of Scotland. Perhaps the greatest testament to Bealach na Ba is that it is the only climb in the United Kingdom listed in Daniel Friebe’s exceptional climbing books, Mountain High and Mountain Higher (pages 28-31 of Mountain Higher). This is a bucket-list climb; it’s a chore to get to, but well worth the effort.
Bealach Na Ba, the #2 most difficult and the sixth longest climb of Simon Warren’s Top 100 GCC, is a scenic jewel. It is one of the more popular, with 6,300 Strava members recording the route as of October 2018 despite its geographic isolation. The climb is 9.2 kilometers and averages 6.8% grade.
This bike climb is just pure epic and an absolute must for any UK bucket list.
Bealach Na Ba is Scotalnd’s answer to Italy’s Stelvio Pass. The Bealach Na Ba Pass is the first stop on the famed “North Coast 500” road trip and it is obvious why. The landscape here is postcard-worthy around every single curve. You are guaranteed to share the narrow road with RVs and cars during any of the roads passable months (there are signs warning that the road is not passable in winter months). Our start point traverses the lower slopes of the mountain with views of the bay below. I pulled over a number of times on my ride up the mountain as the road is far too narrow for cars to pass safely - the train of cars will build quickly behind you on a nice summer day. A series of tight switchbacks brings you over the crest of the jagged mountain onto a plateau area. From here, the grades are mild up to the summit point. There is parking available at the summit. To your right, just before the summit coordinates, there is a dirt road that goes to the radio tower atop the near mountain summit. I rode this on a standard road bike with 28mm tires, but it wasn’t easy. Loose, jagged rocks cover the road and gradients hold steady around 16 percent for some portions. It is a tough and exhausting road even for the fittest cyclists, but the views at the top are well worth it.
Flat stretch just before the beginning of the climb just after passing the bridge over River Kishorn.
You are certainly forewarned.
Climb begins after the bridge at the fork in the road - stay right onto Applecross Pass road.
During the first section of the climb we ride in sight of Loch and River Kishorn.
Simon Warren refers Bealach na Ba as, “the Holy Grail, the toughest and wildest climb in Britain,” and gives it the only 11/10 in the book (100 Greatest Cycling Climbs, A Road Cyclist’s Guide to Britain’s Hills). The climb can be done both ways but he favors heading northwest on the road from Tornapress.
Views over the middle section of the climb.
No cattle, but there are red deer in these hills . . .
The pass gets its name from the Scottish Gaelic phrase “Bealach nam Bò which means “pass of the cattle” as this was once a narrow gravel road used to heard cattle over the mountains, when weather permitted!
Steep cliff to our left and scree hillside at mile 3.3.
4/10ths of a mile of serpentine road and hairpins leading to the finish.
Finish a half-mile from the last hairpin, toward the middle of the photo.
Views to traditional start on the right and Applecross start on the left.
Photo: left is Coire na Ba (Corrie of the Cattle; Corrie is a hollow in a hillside)
Photo right: the route up from Loch Kishorn.
That’s a wrap!
Already have an account?