7 of the best cycling hill climbs in Scotland

Take your cycling to the next level with one of these hill climbs.
Bealach Na Ba is arguably the toughest hill climb for cyclists in Scotland (Photo: Shutterstock)Bealach Na Ba is arguably the toughest hill climb for cyclists in Scotland (Photo: Shutterstock)
Bealach Na Ba is arguably the toughest hill climb for cyclists in Scotland (Photo: Shutterstock)

Edinburgh son Sir Arthur Conan Doyle once said "When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle."

While the author was most likely referring to a casual cycle along the capital's seafront, his words still resonate for the masochists among us who enjoy a steep, hard climb.

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Though Scotland's climbs may struggle to reach the heady heights of the Mont Ventouxs and Alpe d'Huezs universally revered by the cycling world, there are still devilishly challenging ascents to be tackled in the country's wild and rugged countryside.

If looking for a new cycling challenge in Scotland, take on one of these dizzying climbs.

Tornapress to Bealach Na Ba, Wester Ross

Scotland's third highest road is also its most spectacular.

Starting from Tornapress, this ancient and narrow road carves a winding path through the ancient and otherworldly Torridonian sandstone unique to the area.

Consisting of several sheer hairpins, this is as close as a Scottish cyclist can get to the thrills of the alps without visiting the continent itself. Inclines reach 20% and average out at 7% over the 5 kilometre stretch. Following your hard work reward yourself with a peak back towards Loch Kishorn, before descending to the delightful village of Applecross.

Distance: 5.9 miles

Ascent: 2093 feet

Fettercairn to Cairn O' Mount, Aberdeenshire

The Cairn O'Mount is the highest point of an old military road which slices its way through the heather dressed hills of rural Aberdeenshire.

Starting in the pleasant village of Fettercairn, this climb is a gradual, but knackering pull up the B974 with an average gradient of 10%. As you approach the climax of this climb, a sudden increase in incline meets you which ought to sap any remaining energy in your legs.

Distance: 5.8 miles

Ascent: 1243 feet

The Lighthouse, Argyll

The sheer climb up a narrow footpath from the Mull of Kintyre Lighthouse to the apex of a public road linked to the village Ferolan is spoken about in hushed tones by Scottish cyclists, due to its unforgiving average grade of 13%. Though just over a mile long, the Lighthouse climb offers a genuine challenge to hardcore cyclist.

If the climb becomes all too much you can always hop off and enjoy the exquisite views of the Atlantic Ocean.

Distance: 1.2 miles

Ascent: 1043 feet

Tak Ma Doon Road, North Lanarkshire

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Glasgow cyclists looking for a challenge should head up (rather than 'doon'_ the Tak Ma Doon Road in North Lanarkshire. Starting in Kilsyth, cyclists head along the Tak Ma Doon Road and up a series of sheer steps.

Riders should consider linking this cycle with a ride along the B818 to Gonachan before taking on the Crow Road and returning to Kilsyth.

Distance: 2.5 miles

Ascent: 843 feet

The Cairnwell, Glenshee

Though Glenshee is better known as a playground for those who enjoy flinging themselves down black runs, it is also the location of one of Scotland's most popular cycle climbs.

Starting at Spittal of Glenshee, enjoy a leisurely start and forgiving incline for the first 3 miles or so, before grinning and bearing it up a 10% incline to the Glenshee Ski Centre. Surrounded by several peaks over 3,000 feet, those who complete the climb can crown themselves the King of the Munros.

Distance: 5 miles

Ascent: 1076 feet

Megget Stone, Tweedsmuir

Situated in the Scottish Borders this short but sweaty climb offers a challenge to Borders based cyclists. Starting at Tweedsmuir riders should cross the River Tweed, before following one of its tributaries knowns as Talla Water. If you can, cycle on past the Talla Reservoir and Talla Waterfall before you reach the road's highest point.

Distance: 1.2 miles

Ascent: 597 feet

Bealach Na Craige, Perthshire

Among the rolling roads of Perthshire, this climb out of town Aberfeldy is the most popular among Scottish cyclists. From Aberfeldy cyclists should head southeast along the A826 until they reach its pinnacle alongside the Lochan na Craige. This ascent is gradual and consistent in its gradient.

Distance: 3.1 miles

Ascent: 984 feet

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