Bealach na Ba (SW #69) Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

4.5
FIETS
5.1 mi
DISTANCE
1,993 ft
GAINED
7.5 %
AVG. GRADE

FULL CLIMB STATS

Page Contributor(s): Heiko Linnert, Amberg, Germany

INTRO

Simon Warren was kind enough to provide us his Top 10 Hardest and Top 10 Most Epic climbs of England, Wales, Scotland and the UK combined.  Simon ranks  Bealach na Ba as the most epic bike climb in Scotland and the entire United Kingdom - "This is it: The Holy Grail, the toughest and wildest climb in Britain. Anything you have read or been told about this amazing road is likely to be true. For once, you can believe the hype.” (Simon Warren, 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs, A Road Cyclist's Guide to Britain's Hills, p. 121). 

Both sides of the pass rank #1 and 2 Scotland and #4 and 5 UK - Bealach na Ba - Both Sides.

Visit our Top UK and also our Top Scottish hill climbs pages for photos, summaries and statistics for their respective top hill climbs. For the Top 10 Most Epic climbs, visit our Scotland Most Epic and our UK Most Epic pages. 
The average grade of this great climb is 6.8% and the crux of this climb is from kilometer 4 to 8.5 averaging 9.6%.  56% (5.2 km) of the climb is at 5-10% and 16% (1.5 km) 10-15%. The steepest 500 meters is 14% and there is a continuous kilometer at 13%. 

See more details and tools regarding this climb's grade via the “Profile Tool” button above.
Roadway:  Fully paved and in good condition.  The road is very narrow 2 lanes with no center stripe of shoulder although the climb is safe for a cyclist. 

Traffic:  Mild.

Parking:  Climb start - MapStreet View.  
Provisions:  There are no provisions along this climb.

Gear and Weather:  This is Northern Scotland and it is very wet here, averaging 1876 mm (74 inches) per year.  Consult the PJAMM "Full Forecast" feature for the time you expect to be riding this climb. 
Before heading out on any cycling adventure check out our Things to Bring on a Cycling Trip and use our interactive check list to ensure you don't forget anything.
Consider this climb as an out and back from either side of the summit, taking on Bealach na Ba (Applecross) at 35 kilometers (22 miles) gaining 1,262 meters (4,141').  See map

If you'd like to stay in the area, there are some historic hotels and inns, along with very lovely cottage rentals as well.

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CLIMB SUMMARY

panoramic view of Bealach na Bà climb, road cuts through center of mountains

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.

photo collage includes views of green pastureland, old stone bridge crossing river, sign reads "Road Normally Impassable in Wintry Conditions"

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.

photo collage shows roadway snaking through center of green valley

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.

photo collage shows flat section of the climb past River Kishorn; many street signs for Applecross, Lochcarron, Inverness, and more

Flat stretch just before the beginning of the climb just after passing the bridge over River Kishorn.

blue and red street sign warns that the road is not advised for learner drivers, large vehicles, and motorhomes.

You are certainly forewarned.

photo collage shows beginning of climb on Applecross Pass road

Climb begins after the bridge at the fork in the road - stay right onto Applecross Pass road.

photo collage shows views of Loch and River Kishorn

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.

photo collage shows views of green pastureland, flat topped mountains, and water on middle section of climb

Views over the middle section of the climb.

bike parked against guardrail overlooking green valley

red deer

No cattle, but there are red deer in these hills . . .

photo collage shows panoramic views of green hillsides, valley, plateaus

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!

scree hillside

Steep cliff to our left and scree hillside at mile 3.3.

photo collage shows serpentine roadway and hairpin turns leading up the finish of the mountain

4/10ths of a mile of serpentine road and hairpins leading to the finish.

aerial drone view shows climb finish

Finish a half-mile from the last hairpin, toward the middle of the photo.

bike parked in rocky grasslands at climb's finish

Finish.

aerial drone views show climb overview from Applecross Road and the traditional start

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

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!

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