Video: why cars roll uphill on the Electric Brae

The sign warning of the weird goings-on at Electric Brae. Picture: Raymond Okonski [] (CC)
The sign warning of the weird goings-on at Electric Brae. Picture: Raymond Okonski [] (CC)
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Turn off the engine on the Electric Brae in Ayrshire and your car will magically roll uphill.

That’s the effect of the mysterious attraction on the A719 between Drumshrang and Knoweside that attracts hundreds of visitors each year, keen to try out the gravity hill for themselves.

A parking lane at the side of the road is the perfect place to test the phenomenon for yourself.

Placing a car in neutral facing downhill, the car begins to roll backwards up the hill instead of rolling forward.

Known locally as Croy Brae, the half-mile stretch might appear to be running up or downhill, but an optical illusion created by the surrounding landscape dupes the brain into contorting reality.

Locals have spent years throwing around outlandish explanations for the road’s mysterious incline, including a buried chain of powerful magnets, minerals in the rich coastal soil, misbehaving gravity and outlandish suggestions the brae was haunted by witches from a time long ago.

Fortunately, there’s a much simpler explanation. Taking in the wider surrounding area, by using the horizon line, it’s possible to see the top of the apparent uphill slope is actually at the bottom of the hill.

In the context of the immediate surrounding area, the optical illusion is formed due to the entire landmass being on a slope.

The west end of the stretch overlooking Croy Railway Viaduct is 286 feet Above Ordnance Datum, compared to the eastern end of the slop towards Craigencroy Glen, which is 303 feet above sea level.

Over half a mile, it’s easy for the brain and eyes to miss a rise of 17 feet but it’s enough to make cars, bottles and balls roll, what’s mistaken for, ‘uphill’.

The name ‘Electric Brae’ dates back to a time when it was incorrectly thought that magnetic or electric forces were behind the phenomenon.

Even President Dwight D Eisenhower took his party to be baffled by the phenomenon while residing nearby at lodgings in the grounds of Culzean Castle.

In recent times, South Ayrshire Council added a lay-by for visitors to experience the illusion first-hand, after decades of cars stopping in the middle of the road to roll uphill.

Steel signs have been replaced with the stone plinth that explains how the trick works.

Ayrshire’s Electric Brae is one of hundreds of so-called gravity hills around the world - at least six can be found elsewhere in the UK.