The Best Road Cycling Climbs In Scotland

Updated on April 10, 2013
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Liam Hallam is a sports science graduate. A keen cyclist, runner, and obstacle racer, he ran his first ultra-marathon in 2016.

Scotland Offers Dramatic Cycling Scenary

Scotland offers some pretty awe-inspiring scenary and some amazing cycling climbs
Scotland offers some pretty awe-inspiring scenary and some amazing cycling climbs | Source

Scotland Offers Cyclists Some Awe-Inspiring Cycling Climbs

When you think of Scotland- You generally think of Whisky, amazing castles and coastlines, Ben Nevis, Tartan fabric, Mel Gibson in Braveheart or the Loch Ness Monster. It doesn't generally bring to mind that Scotland has some amazing roads and cycling routes to consider.

The road cycling climbs of Scotland give a cyclist access to some of the most beautiful scenary in the UK. With challenging cycling climbs in the Scottish Highlands, Cairngorm Mountains and some of the more remote areas of the country it offers challenges for a cyclotourist or weekend warrior.

Bealach-Na-Ba- Britain's (and Scotland's) Toughest Cycling Climb

The trip to the Holy Grail of Scotland's cycling climbs is not for the faint hearted in itself as Bealach-Na-Ba (OS24 NG 775 423 is in the North-West of the country and offers views out towards the Island of Raasay and the Isle of Skye.

Despite it's heavily mountainous nature Scotland's roads rarely have to leave the valley floors but the Bealach-Na-Ba climb links the village of Applecross on the West coast to Locharron and the Western Highland's.

Heading north for a mile on the A896 from the shores of Loch Kishorn take the left turn at Tornapress and the road slowly starts to climb upwards with the river bed to your left as you make a beeline for the huge rocky mountains in the distance which are fast approaching.

The gradient increases as you swing to the left beneath an almighty tower of rock before meandering tightly up the mountainside with a safety barrier for added dramatic effect.

Once you hit the top of Bealach-Na-Ba nothing else in your life with really matter for those few brief moments at the top of Scotland's hardest cycling climb. You've gained 623 meters in altitude in over 30 minutes of climbing on what is arguably the UK's toughest cycling climb

The Valley Before The Mennock Pass Climb

The base of the valley prior to the climb of Mennock Pass
The base of the valley prior to the climb of Mennock Pass | Source

Climb To Scotland's Highest Village Over Mennock Pass

Mennock Pass in the Lowther Hills of Dumfries and Galloway takes cyclists up to the highest village in Scotland-Wanlockhead. Gaining 318 metres in altitude over the course of almost 10 kilometres on one of Britain's longest cycling climbs and offers gradual gradients wind up from the base valley with steep, imposing sides towering over you in impressive fashion.

The climb starts at Ordnance Survey Map OS78 Grid Reference 880134 at the pan flat, valley floor although the imposing view signifies what lies ahead over the course of the next 40 minutes or more of this extremely long climb. By the time you reach Wanlockhead village after around 8 km you'll have almost finished the hard work on this challenging yet not obsessively steep climb.

Climb Out Of Hell's Glen On Rest And Be Thankful

The Climb of Resat And Be Thankful on the B828 takes cyclists through the aptly named Hell's Glen and over a pass first built in 1753.A stone was placed atop the pass by soldiers who built the first road. The stone bears the words 'Rest-and-be-thankful'. Sadly that stone has long gone but the poinient name remains.

The video below takes you through the climb which gains a total of 253m in altitude over four and a half kilometres of riding.

Rest And Be Thankful, Cairndow, Argyll And Bute

The Cairnwell Climb starts to get hard as the road snakes right

Part of the Cairnwell climb up to Glenshee Ski Area in the Cairngorm's. The climb from the Spittal Of Glenshee starts to become more challenging as the road turns right.
Part of the Cairnwell climb up to Glenshee Ski Area in the Cairngorm's. The climb from the Spittal Of Glenshee starts to become more challenging as the road turns right. | Source

Pass Through The Carngorms On The Cairnwell Climb

The Cairngorm Mountains offer some truly breathtaking scenary for and one of the best cycling climbs in Scotland in the Cairnwell.

Named after the Mountain to the west at the top of the climb The Cairnwell actually forms part of the runs of Glenshee Ski Resort with the surrounding Mountains of Cairn Aosda, Meall Odhar and Glas Moel surrounding the summit of the climb.

The climb of The Cairnwell is on the main A93- The Old Military Road which runs north from Blairgowrie through the Carngorm National Park. The climb itself starts at the Spittal Of Glenshee gradually gaining altitude through the beautiful, lush valley.

Once the road heads to the right out of the Spittal Of Glenshee, the gradient intensifies up to 12% for the final section to the finish for a well earned coffee and slice of cake at the cafe at the top after the lung-bursting push up over the steep last kilometre.

From the Glenshee Ski area you can drop to to Ballater where there's a fantastic range of accommodation options available.

Looking Back Down The Hardest Section Of The Cairnwell Climb

Looking down the steepest sections of the Cairnwell climb on the A93 Old Military Road
Looking down the steepest sections of the Cairnwell climb on the A93 Old Military Road | Source

The Lecht From Corgarff Castle

The Lecht climb starts beside Corgarff Castle
The Lecht climb starts beside Corgarff Castle | Source

The Lecht Climb, Aberdeenshire

Another fantastic climb through the Cairngorm Mountains is the road up to the Ski resort at The Lecht. Gaining 245 m of altitude from Cock Bridge and Corgarff Castle where the steep slopes seem more suited to skiing downwards rather than cycling up.

Starting in Cock Bridge on tha A939 road (OS37- 252118) the gradient ramps up for the first kilometre before respite comes in the form of a short downhill before the remainder of the climb and it's sheer magnitude comes into view, snaking up to the heavens.

The finish of the climb at The Lecht will be a very welcome sight

Cycling The Lecht

Some Of Scotland's Best Cycling Climbs And Their Geography

show route and directions
A markerSpittal of Glenshee- The Cairnwell -
Glen Shee, Perth and Kinross PH10, UK
get directions

From the Spittal of Glenshee the road climbs up to Glenshee Ski Area and offers impressive views of the Cairngorms via the climb of The Cairnwell.

B markerBealach-na-ba -
Bealach na Ba, Strathcarron, Highland IV54, UK
get directions

The Holy Grail of Scottish and Brittish cycling climbs

C markerMennock- Start of Mennock Pass -
Mennock, Sanquhar, Dumfries and Galloway DG4, UK
get directions

Take the B797 from Mennock up Mennock Pass towards Wanlockhead- Scotland's highest village.

D markerThe Lecht -
Lecht Road, AB36, UK
get directions

The climb up to the Scottish Ski Resort of The Lecht offers a magical ride

E markerTake the A838 to 'Rest-and-be-thankful' -
Cairndow, Argyll and Bute, UK
get directions

The climb of Rest And Be Thankful

Thanks For Reading

We hope you've enjoyed our insights into some of Scotland's best and toughest cycling climbs.

Here on Hubpages we're always on the lookout for your feedback- Have you riden any of these climbs? What did your think to them? Or are there any you think we've missed? Alternately if you're looking for some other cycling climbs across the UK consider Simon Warren's book: 100 greatest cycling climbs

Thanks for reading

Liam Hallam- CyclingFitness on Hubpages

Questions & Answers


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      • CyclingFitness profile image

        Liam Hallam 3 years ago from Nottingham UK

        Thanks Adam, Scotland has some fantastic riding. It can get bleak in places during the winter but the scenery is amazing and there's always somewhere to toast your ride with a nice whisky. If you're looking for a great area to ride I personally recommend heading to Speyside for experience.

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        Adam Ward 3 years ago

        Nice article. You have given me taste, I have never ventured further north than the Lake district - I will now!

      • CyclingFitness profile image

        Liam Hallam 5 years ago from Nottingham UK

        Thanks bikesbikesbikes, Scotland is an amazing cycling landscape although in summer you shouldn't need to worry about the cold unless it's a very wet day. The photos I took featured in this hub are actually from a recent skiing trip although they showcase the roads and environment well. Cf

      • bikesbikesbikes profile image

        Bikes 5 years ago from Vancouver

        What an amazing adventure this would be. Scotland is incredible, though by the looks of it warm clothing is a must. Nice article!