Travel StoriesAndy's Scottish Expedition
Bealach na Bà Ain't So Bad
By Andy Dray
Day 8: Strontian to Applecross
Very damp & misty night last night and too bright from nearby streetlights to be able to see the northern lights that were going a little mad.
Didn’t manage to get going this morning, combination of too many beers and not enough sleep. Got back from dinner last night as a biker from Edinburgh arrived. He’d deciding that morning to go to the most westerly point in mainland Scotland, to visit the Ardnamurchan Lighthouse at Acharacle. Tough ex-army lad turned plumber, slept under a tarp in a bivvy bag.
Anyway I was forced to have a beer with him at the campsite owner’s party. Then I was chatting with him & Tim this morning.
No sat nav route planned today, just a list of roads & towns in the tank bag.
Got packed up and on the road by 10:30. Headed out following the north shore of `Loch Sunart then heading inland past Loch Sheil. Hit the coast again with views out to Laig island and then headed towards Fort William on the A830 where I finally managed to find that 4th, 5th & 6th gears still work.
I had planned to stop at the Glenfinnan viaduct (Harry Potter fans) but it seemed absolute chaos (I suppose it is Sunday) so I just drove past.
Headed back on the single track around the south of Loch Eil with views of Ben Nevis hidden in the clouds. Arrived at the Carron (Ardgour) ferry just in time to ride straight on, £3 for this short crossing.
Loch Eil with Ben Nevis in the middle (honest)
I’d just ridden along the other side, right to left
Then headed north on the A82 through Fort William and on to Spean Bridge where I visited the Commando Memorial in a great location surrounded by mountains. Headed back to The Bridge Cafe in Spean Bridge for a good lunch before heading north towards Applecross. This is where the scenery gets awesome, proper mountains & forests. North to Invergarry then west past Eilean Donan Castle. The car park here is free, they charge £10 to visit the castle but you can park, take photos, use the cafe & toilets for free.
The Commando Memorial, Spean Bridge
Heading through Glen Shiel
Eilean Donan Castle
Time was getting on and the weather was looking like rain so instead of going to the Kyle of Lochalsh and following the coast to Plockton, I cut the corner off by heading north to Stromeferry and the inner part of Loch Carron. Big road works here as they are shoring up the rock face.
It was then time for the A896 aka Bealach na Ba (pass of the cattle) aka The Applecross Road. It boasts the steepest ascent of any road (almost 20%) in the UK & is the 3rd highest road in Scotland. Now this is built up as being a difficult/dangerous road but compared to alpine roads or even Wrynose Pass in the Lake District, it’s only got a couple of hairpins and the road surface is excellent. I suspect the main danger is traffic coming in the other direction. It is spectacular and the view at the top looking down the pass to the sea is excellent. Over the top and the low cloud had moved in and the visibility was almost zero for a few hundred yards.
The start of Bealach na Ba
The view back down the pass
Just over the highest point, think it was 2025ft
The view from the top looking West
Almost at the bottom of the pass is the Applecross campsite which is a big site but wasn’t too busy and was only £9. For NC500 regulars, the second field now boasts new heated shower/toilet block.
The walk down to the cafe & pub follows a steep footpath, looks like a heart attack on the way back. Didn’t get much further than the Junction Cafe as they advertised pizza and sold beer!!
Down in Applecross itself
After getting back to my tent, I realised I was missing my hat which I’d forgotten to pick up when I left the cafe! Back down the hill but the guy who’d found it had put it somewhere safe & gone home. Hopefully it will turn up in the morning. Stop press: my hat has just been delivered back to my tent by the staff from the cafe.
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Upt'North said :-
The pass of the cattle, looks like you had better weather than we. Just....
24/01/2020 04:41:57 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Cor! That's a fair old image Upt'.
25/01/2020 08:36:55 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
More excellent stuff and photos Andy. But steepest road at 1 in 4? I don't think so, there are lots steeper eg Hardknott at 30% (1 in 3), Porlock and Rosedale Chimneys which is even steeper. But a superb ride nevertheless.
Keep 'em coming!
26/01/2020 12:49:26 UTC
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Travel StoriesAndy's Scottish Expedition