Cairn O' Mount (SW #64) Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

2.1 mi
1,038 ft
9.5 %



Cairn O'Mount (also known as Cairn O'Mounth) is a steep climb in Caimbgorms National Park and Grampian Mountains in central Scotland.  This is one of the hardest bike climbs in Scotland and all the UK (#5 Scotland, #20 UK). The route has been used by armies since the 11th century.  

Visit our Top UK and also our Top Scottish hill climbs pages for photos, summaries and statistics for their respective top hill climbs. 
9.4% average grade - 49% of the climb is at 5-10% and 50% is at 10-15%.  The steepest 500 meters is 12.6%.

See more details and tools regarding this climb's grade via the “Profile Tool” button.
Roadway:  Two lane highway in excellent condition.

Traffic:  Mild.

Parking:  At the car park near the giant cairn at the top of the climb (then ride down and come back up the climb), or at the start of the climb - MapStreet View
Provisions:  Either at Clatterin Brig Restaurant at climb start (high reviews - Google Reviews + Map).  
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.
This is 64 on the 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs, Britain, and is one of seven climbs in the Scotland section of the book.  See also PJAMM's Scotland climb page

Use the “Routes in Area” button on the menu bar to see other bike climbs in the region.  



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panoramic view of the Cairn O'Mount climb, roadway switchbacking up hillside, bright blue sky

Cycling Cairn O’Mount, Scotland

Ride 2.1 miles gaining 1,038’ at 9.5% average grade (second steepest Scottish climb).

This is a very difficult yet fun climb and is the fifth hardest bike climb in Scotland due primarily to its steep gradient.  Its name derives from the ancient cairn located at  the summit of the hill.


photo collage shows bike parked in front of cairn at summit, large stone monument, street signs warning of switchbacks and 16% grade

Just south of the Cairngorm National Park lies the winding narrow road of Cairn O’ Mount. It is immediately clear that this is a cycling destination as there are a number of encouraging spray-paintings written on the road for cyclists. My favorite was one near the summit on a brutally steep corner that simply read “Oh me.” In addition to fellow cyclists, you’ll be sure to see motorcycle tourers and sightseers, making the narrow mountain road pretty hectic on a sunny day. The summit point is marked by an underwhelming “End of Route” signpost. I parked at the base of the climb in the tearoom parking lot and didn’t have an issue.

photo collage shows street signs for Aberdeenshire Ascents, Cairn o'Mount, bike parked against a stone retaining wall

Climb begins by riding up Old Military Road from Clattering Bridge Restaurant (B974).

Clattering Bridge gets a 4.7 Google Rating on 369 reviews as of November 2022. 

The name “Old Military Road” originates from General Wade's Military Roads which were a network on military-serving roads constructed by the British Government to address conflict beginning with the Jacobite rebellion of 1715.  This particular military road was a major route from Fettercairn and was maintained by the military from 1761 to 1784 (Wikipedia - Military Roads of Scotland).

photo collage shows aerial drone view of the remains of an old Scottish cottage

The remains of an old stone Scottish cottage are on the left one-half mile from the start.

photo collage shows roadway stretching through wide open hillsides and country landscapes

Plenty of sweeping views along the climb.

spray painted notes on roadway include: Uh Oh, Oh Me, No Pain No Gain, and Feel the Burn

Agree 100%!

photo collage shows stone cairn, sign for 14% grade, and sign with a bike on it reading "End of Route"

No question where the climb ends.

The climb ends near a hiking pass to our left and Cairn O’Mount, which is the high point in the area at 455 meters (1,493’).  Before the road softens a bit over the last 100 yards, there is a 500-yard segment averaging 13% which is the steepest segment of the entire climb.

old stone cairn at climb summit dating back to 2000 BC

Cairn at the summit of the climb which dates back to 2000 BC.

That’s a wrap!

But, a little more of possible interest - This climb is located in Cairngorms National Park in north east Scotland and is the largest park in the British Isles (Wikipedia - Cairngorms National Park).

“Cairn O' Mounth/Cairn O' Mount (Scottish Gaelic: Càrn Mhon) is a high mountain pass in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. The place name is a survival of the ancient name for what are now the Grampian Mountains, earlier called "the Mounth" (in Gaelic: "monadh", meaning mountains). The name change happened from circa 1520 AD. The Ordnance Survey shows the name as Cairn o' Mount.

It has served as an ancient military route at least from Roman times through the 13th century AD. The alignment of the Cairnamounth, Elsick Mounth and Causey Mounth ancient trackways had a strong influence on the medieval siting of many fortifications and other settlements in the area comprised by present-day Aberdeenshire on both sides of the River Dee.

Cairn O' Mounth is at 1493 feet (454 m) above mean sea level,[4] and there are various commanding views of the surrounding landscape which extend as far as the North Sea.

Before the modern A90 road was constructed, the pass served as one of the eight major crossing points for those travelling over the Grampians to Deeside and into Northern Scotland; this entire crossing trackway is historically known as the Cairnamounth. Deriving from this theory, a small village grew up in the pass. The high granite tor of Clachnaben overlooks the road (now called the B974 road) through the pass. The Scottish Tourist Board describes the modern B974 as an "adventurous" road, and it is often impassable due to snow or flooding in winter. In the summer fatalities are commonly reported in the press.

In the 11th century AD, Mac Bethad (commonly known as Macbeth) survived the original English invasion, for he was defeated and mortally wounded or killed by Máel Coluim mac Donnchada on the north side of the Mounth in 1057, after retreating with his men over the Cairnamounth Pass to take his last stand at the battle at Lumphanan.[2] The Prophecy of Berchán has it that he was wounded and died at Scone, sixty miles to the south, some days later.[5] Mac Bethad's stepson Lulach mac Gille Coemgáin was installed as king soon after.

The Cairn O'Mounth pass was used by Edward I's English army in 1296 AD, en route back to England. It was also used twice by Viscount Dundee's army during the first Jacobite rising of 1689. The route over the pass is probably prehistoric: there is a cairn in the pass that has been dated to approximately 2000 BC. It is possible that this cairn is the one named in the name of Cairn O'Mounth, “(
Wikipedia - Cairn O’Mounth).