Scottish Climbs, Nic O The Balloch, Ayrshire

One climb that the now-defunct Davie Bell road race used in the past is the Nic O’ The Balloch in Ayrshire.

It is one of the Ayreshire Alps, that have been promoted as a South Ayrshire ‘road cycling park’. The 3.5km, 7.6% climb is one of the hardest in the area.

The Ayrshire Alps website promotes the area as an on-road trail centre, with climbs graded green to black, to attract new cyclists and also to appeal to new sportive riders and experienced racers. Information on all the climbs including downloadable GPS files, journey planning details, details on local facilities and the option for cyclists to log on and register each climb they complete is there to access any time of the day or night.

The official launch took place in the car park in Straiton, where many people start their cycle ride when tackling the famous Nick o’ the Balloch cycle route.

The site showcases the fantastic cycling in and around the South Carrick area, with 15 categorised climbs in total, including Tairlaw and the Screws. The cycling festival will show case some of the lesser known climbs in the park area including Carleton and Knockgardner.

The concept for the park came from Christopher Johnson, a local race organiser.

He explained how the idea came about: “I was speaking to partners in the Council about creating a legacy from the cycling events in the South Carrick area when it struck me that there is nowhere else in Scotland that offers the same fantastic road cycling. Within a fifteen mile radius we have an amazing selection of testing hill climbs, on quiet roads and in beautiful scenery − far more than even most local cyclists are aware of. It is not unusual for me to cycle 40 miles in the park and come across less than 10 vehicles – that’s one for every four miles travelled.”

The area is well known to racing cyclists, with top professionals including Mark Cavendish and Chris Boardman, having competed in the Girvan Stage Race and more recently the Tour of Britain, which visited the area.