Applecross Pass – Strathcarron, Scotland - Atlas Obscura

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Applecross Pass

Strathcarron, Scotland

This single-track road rewards brave drivers with stunning Scottish scenery. 


This route winds through stunning Scottish scenery. Crags blanketed in grass loom on either side like daunting roadside guardians. With its sharp curves and coils, it almost looks like a giant asphalt snake slithering through the Highlands.

This five-mile (nine-kilometer) road became part of the scenic North Coast 500 route when it was launched in 2015, which has greatly increased the traffic levels on the pass. However, this single winding track has been around a lot longer.

It was originally a droveway, a track used to move livestock from one place to another. Its Gaelic name is Bealach na Bà, (pronounced byee-alluch nuh bah), which means “pass of the cattle”. It was the only access in and out of Applecross until 1975.

The road is beloved of cyclists keen to test their legs. It has the steepest ascent of any road in the United Kingdom, starting from sea level and rising to 2,054 feet (626 meters). Its challenging hairpin bends are a magnet for bikers and its outstanding views over to the Isle of Skye and magnificent topography delight tourists and locals alike. However, it is not for the faint-hearted.


Know Before You Go

There are plenty of passing places along the road, but however tempting the photo opportunity looks do not park in them. It is very selfish and you could cause bottlenecks, congestion, or even an accident. There are lots of suitable places to stop at the summit. Wait until you get there.

Inexperienced drivers, large motorhomes, and towing caravans should not attempt this. The road is also impassable in wintery conditions. There is a safer road into Applecross on the A896. Join the alternate road via Shieldaig then take the C1091 to Applecross (the turn-off is marked with a black HGV sign).

The southern turn-off onto the Bealach na Bà is accompanied by a distinctive set of warning signs, one blue and one red, but these are often obliterated by a multitude of stickers placed by irresponsible tourists. 

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