Bealach na Ba (Scottish Gaelic for Pass of the Cattle) is one of Scotland’s most scenic driving routes, although it’s also one of the most dangerous. The single-track road runs through mountains of the Applecross peninsula in Wester Ross. A region in the Northwest Highlands of Scotland, which takes drivers over 2,000 feet above sea level.
The road winds throughout the entire stretch of the Bealach na Ba, including several tight hairpin bends up and down the hillsides. Gradients reach up to 20% along the route, making it the steepest road ascent in the entire UK.
The winding single track road through the mountains of the Applecross peninsula, is as much terrifying, as it is beautiful.
Can Anyone Drive the Bealach na Bà?
While Bealach na Ba is accessible for all drivers, it is recommended that learner and inexperienced drivers avoid the route. Large vehicles, including caravans and motorhomes, are not advised to the drive the route either, as the tight bends and steep ascents make it especially dangerous.
You should be able to comfortably, if needed, reverse up or down hill on a very narrow and steep single track road. It can become quite busy on a nice summer’s day. Many doing the North Coast 500 route that are towing a caravan, often opt to detach the caravan in Applecross, while proceeding to do the loop in the car, before coming back to pick up the trailer and drive the alternative safer route.
Best Time to Travel over the Applecross Peninsula
You would be wiser to plan your drive between April and October, as the road often becomes inaccessible during the winter months. Snowfall is prominent during winter while the days are much shorter, making Bealach na Bà even more dangerous to navigate. There is snow gates at each end of the pass if the weather on the road becomes too extreme.
Furthermore, you want to enjoy the incredible scenic views the route offers, so it’s best to visit during spring and summer as there is less likelihood of clouds that could ruin the amazing views along the route.
Planning a Drive Through Bealach na Ba
Lochcarron is the starting point of the Bealach na Bà. You take a short drive towards Kishorn. Here, you can take in the view of Loch Kishorn and grab a bite to eat from one of the local eateries before setting out for Shieldaig.
However, you aren’t going directly to Shieldaig!
Around 3 miles from Kishron Loch you will see a road sign leading left towards Applecross. You’ll see the imposing mountain pass rise from here, where you drive for several miles and take in some truly breath-taking scenic views.
As you ascend through Bealach na Bà, you’ll come across a parking area near the top of pass. This is the perfect place to stop and take in some of the best views in Scotland, including mountain ranges in the nearby Isle of Skye, so try make sure you make the drive on a clear day to make the most of the view!
After reaching the top of the pass there is a relatively simple drive back down towards the village Applecross. An expensive woodland area opens as you descend the Bealach na Bà, including a public track you can walk through if you have the time to spare.
If not, simply continue towards Applecross, where can stop for a visit of the small village, or head along the road towards Shieldaig – this route offers beautiful views of the Scottish islands Skye, Rana, and Raasay.
Located at the end of the road, Shieldaig is one of the most picturesque villages in the region, boasting a stunning view of the mountainous and coastal landscapes. This completes the famous Bealach na Bà route through the Scottish Highlands!