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Home 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.

Thick heavy clouds, grassy shoreline and mountains in the mist all at Loch Eil near Fort William
Loch Eil with Ben Nevis in the middle (honest)
The ferry with a it's bridge and a selection of cars on the green painted deck
Corran Ferry
Loch Eil again this time from a pebble beach looking into grey skies over the hills
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.

A large brass statue of 3 WW2 commandos on a plinth to recall the brave soldiers
The Commando Memorial, Spean Bridge
Looking over the screen we see the road heading off between dark mountains and cloudy skies
Heading through Glen Shiel
The castle atop a promontory into the lock among the waters and mountains
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.

A large bulbous hill and a narrow lane at the start of the pass of the cattle
The start of Bealach na Ba
Looking back down the valley we see the twisting road of the pass of the cattle
The view back down the pass
Andy GPS screen reads a height of 2011 feet
Just over the highest point, think it was 2025ft
Again gray skies but islets, mountains, lochs and the sea all seen from the top of the pass
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!!

From the shore the clouds are orange-red as the sun sets over the waters
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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Llangollen Andy starts his trip to Scotland... by going to Wales! It is a long way from London Village to The Highlands though, give the man a break.
Friends And Finally Scotland Day 2 and 3 of Andy's Scottish expedition - and he's only just reached the borders. He's having way too much fun and should be focused on heading North.
Bad Weather, Brilliant Roads Andy's first proper ride into Scotland is proving to be a cracker even if the weather is dire.
Exploring Arran and The Mull Of Kintyre There's wildlife and scenery aplenty for Andy as he explores Arran and The Kintyre Peninsula. "Mixed" weather is keeping him on his toes though.
Easy Onto Mull Andy is taking in the splendid West Coast of Scotland at a sensible pace. From the Kintyre Peninsula to the Isle Of Mull there's a lot to take in.
Walking On Iona Andy is using Shank's Pony to get himself around the small island of Iona. Thing is the island isn't quite as small as Andy's feet had hoped for.
Mulling Around To The Mainland When Tobermory is a major town you know you've been somewhere remote. Andy is making his way up the West Coast of Scotland now.
Bealach na Bà Ain't So Bad Andy is making his excuses for a late start today, but it's all self-inflicted. It's time to be overwhelmed by the not really scary Applecross road.
The Wonder Of The West Coast Andy is up on the West Coast of The Scottish Highlands now, and it shows with his achingly beautiful pictures.
The Wonder Of Even More West Coast Andy is exploring the remote and lonesome shores of the North West of Scotland. Geology, beauty and single track, all in another day's ride in The Highlands.
Out Of The Good Stuff, Into The Weather After The splendour of The Highlands and West Coast of Scotland Andy is now at the top of the country. Is there much to report?
The Scottish North East Coast Andy after reaching the tip of the UK is now meandering his way south along the east coast. Being back in civilisation means proper food in solid buildings.
No Nessie And Wet Cairngorms Andy looks at Loch Ness and The Cairngorms, well, when the weather allows at least.

Reader's Comments

Upt'North said :-
The pass of the cattle, looks like you had better weather than we. Just....
Upt'North.

Posted Image
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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