Scottish Climbs: Bealach-na-ba

The Bealach-na-ba, or the Pass of the Cattle in Gaelic is located in the Applecross peninsula in Wester Ross. It climbs 626metres (2053feet) from sea level in 10km (6 miles). Wikipedia lists it as the second-greatest ascent of any road climb in the UK, while sportive organisers Hands On Events say it is the UK’s biggest road climb.

Picture by Anthony Robson, who writes the Citycycling magazine. Used with permission– thanks!

The climb starts at the Tornapress junction on the A896. The initial slopes are not too extreme, but after the road turns into the steep glacial valley beneath Sgurr a’ Chaorachain, the gradients increase. A long straightish section of road hugging the side of the valley will really sting the legs but here riders must pace themselves, because after it veers right slightly into the upper corrie you will experience gradients up to 20%. Towards the end of the valley the road is engineered in a similar way to Alpine passes, with tight hairpin bends.

The first cyclosportive event was run in the summer of 2006 by Hands On Events, after an idea by local cycling legend Clifford Davidson. There are now two rides- The Bealach Mor, which retains the original route of 90 miles and the Bealach Beag, a shorter distance of 43 miles. I did the 2009 Bealach Beag and did a report- one of my first posts on this blog.

Bealach Beag route