At the peak of the breathtaking Bealach Na Ba pass is a fantastic hike to Sgùrr a Chaorachain. Accessed from the Bealach Na Ba Viewpoint and Car Park, the walk up this impressive Corbett mountain offers sweeping views of Loch Kishorn and the wider Applecross Peninsula. If you’re driving the NC500, this is a worthy hike you’ll want to add to your list, and really make the most of travelling one of Britain’s most famous scenic drives.
In this guide, we’ll talk about where Bealach Na Ba and Sgùrr a Chaorachain are and also let you know how to pronounce them! We’ll also take a look at the trail preview and discuss the hike to Sgùrr a Chaorachain. Towards the end, we’ll answer some FAQs, go through a suggested packing list and cover some bonus tips.
To see footage of the Sgùrr a Chaorachain hike, then please watch our NC500 Hikes YouTube production. For your convenience, when you press play below, the video will start exactly at the section showing Sgùrr a Chaorachain. Though, feel free to watch all of the footage for some North Coast 500 inspiration.
For other great hikes along the NC500 in Scotland, read our guides on Beinn Alligin, Suilven and Quinag (guides coming soon). Otherwise, read our Complete Guide to Hikes Along the NC500 post, where we talk about 18 excellent NC500 hikes.
Where is Bealach Na Ba and Sgùrr a Chaorachain?
Bealach Na Ba, or the C1087, is a winding trail of switchbacks and hairpin turns passing through the Applecross Peninsula in the Wester Ross region of the Scottish Highlands. The road was built back in 1822 and means ‘Pass of the Cattle’, as that was its original use. It’s the steepest road in the UK, not to mention one of the most spectacularly scenic. Beginning from Tornapress, on the banks of Loch Kishorn, it ends at Applecross.
At Bealach Na Ba’s peak is a small lay by parking area and viewpoint. Subsequently, the views from up here are quite incredible. Stretched out in front are views across the Skye Cuillin and the Isle of Rum. To the left, and back down the picturesque switchback road are views of Loch Kishorn and Loch Carron. To the right, and behind is the expanse of the Applecross Peninsula.
But, there’s so much to enjoy from Bealach Na Ba, other than just a quick snap from the viewpoint. In fact, from the parking at Bealach Na Ba Viewpoint, you’ll find the trailhead to the incredible Sgùrr a Chaorachain hike, which is the hike we’ll talk about below.
Sgùrr a Chaorachain: A Corbett Mountain
For those familiar with the Scottish classification system of mountains, calling Sgùrr a Chaorachain a Corbett will make complete sense to you. But, for those unfamiliar, let me explain a little.
Mountains in Scotland are divided into three classes (or types) of mountains. They are Munros (over 3,000ft or 914.4m), Corbett mountains (2500–3000ft or 762–914.4m) and Grahams (2000–2500ft or 508.6–762m).
At 792m above sea level, Sgùrr a Chaorachain on the Applecross Peninsula, therefore, falls into the Corbett mountain category.
In addition to height requirements, Corbett mountains also need to have a drop on all sides of at least 500m descent. So, as you can see, despite not being in the same class as Munros, arguably Scotland’s finest mountains, Corbett mountains can still be dramatic and picturesque. Sgùrr a Chaorachain is a great example of this.
Bealach na Ba and Sgùrr a Chaorachain Pronunciation
If you’re wondering how to pronounce Bealach Na Ba and Sgùrr a Chaorachain (like I was!), then allow me to enlighten you. Bealach Na Ba is pronounced balack-na-bah. Fairly straightforward. Sgùrr a Chaorachain is sgurr a hurr-a-hen. Nope, I didn’t see that one coming either; nevertheless, it’s lovely to say.
Sgùrr a Chaorachain Hiking Preview and Map
- Trail Type: Out & Back
- Distance: 7km
- Time: 2–2.5 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 390m
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Trailhead: Bealach Na Ba Viewpoint
Sgùrr a Chaorachain Trail Description
After enjoying the stunning views across the Skye Cuillin and the Isle of Rum, cross over the Bealach Na Ba Road and join the trailhead to Sgùrr a Chaorachain.
At first, the Sgùrr a Chaorachain hike follows a stoney but well-defined vehicle track towards a radio mast at the top. It’s around a 1.5km walk to the mast, and although the views across the landscape and down below to Loch Kishorn, from here, are breathtaking, this does not signal the reaching of Sgùrr a Chaorachain. For that, you’ll have to walk a little further.
Applecross Peninsula Views
The trek continues along behind the radio mast. From here, the trail becomes somewhat undefined and boggy in sections. So, we found following a GPS map very helpful. Feel free to use our GPS map. The trail is rocky and covered over by grass, so take care underfoot.
As you descend behind the mast, expansive views of the Applecross Peninsula open up. You’ll be struck by the incredible rock formations of the mountainside as they drop into the valley below. Surrounding Sgùrr a Chaorachain are other mountain peaks, including that of Beinn Bahn, another Corbett mountain that you can hike.
Incredibly, back at Bealach Na Ba’s viewpoint, you’d have little clue as to the jaw-dropping landscape on show, just a stone’s throw away. In fact, few of those you’ll see at the viewpoint will take on this hike, or venture further than the radio mast.
Sgùrr a Chaorachain
A more obvious trail appears as you begin to ascend back up the rocky ridge towards Sgùrr a Chaorachain. Upon reaching the peak, you’ll be greeted by a cairn, to help signal your arrival.
From the peak of Sgùrr a Chaorachain, the views across the Applecross Peninsula are truly superb. For Dan and I, this was the first mountainous hike on our NC500 trip. It couldn’t have been better. The Scottish Highlands were looking at their finest, the drive up Bealach Na Ba was truly adventurous and the views over Loch Kishorn and Loch Carron were simply breathtaking. This really is a hike not to miss along the NC500.
To return, simply retrace your steps.
Other Routes to Sgùrr a Chaorachain
If you’ve more time to spare than Dan and I, you might consider a different route to Sgùrr a Chaorachain. Even taking part in our favourite speed hiking, we still didn’t have the time. But, it’s possible to combine Sgùrr a Chaorachain with neighbouring Beinn Bahn on the Applecross Peninsula. Again, the hike begins from Bealach Na Ba and passes Loch Nan Arr in the valley between the two mountains, heading up for perfect views across Loch Kishorn, Carron and, of course, towards Bealach Na Ba mountain pass.
What’s speed hiking? It’s our favourite way to hike! Find out more about speed hiking here.
Bealach Na Ba FAQs
Here, we’ll cover some frequently asked questions in regards to Bealach Na Ba and access to Sgùrr a Chaorachain.
How Long Is The Bealach Na Ba Pass?
The Bealach Na Ba pass is 11.4 miles (18.3km) long.
Is Bealach Na Ba One-Way?
Bealach Na Ba is a single-track road that can be driven in either direction. Traditionally though, if driving the NC500, drivers will start the drive in Tornapress and end in Applecross, driving from east to west.
Is Bealch Na Ba Dangerous?
Bealach Na Ba is one of Britain’s most scenic drives containing hairpin bends, steep switchbacks and gradients of up to 17%. It’s considered unsuitable for learner drivers, and should not be used by those with very large vehicles. There’s some debate on whether motorhomes should use the road. Given the tight bends and gradient, it’s advised to travel Bealach Na Ba in nothing larger than a VW Camper. If you are travelling in larger than this, you should use the alternative route, going around to Applecross.
That being said, this advice, despite warning signposts at the start and end of Bealach Na Ba, is often ignored. You’ll find many a story online about huge RVs, campers and caravans getting into difficulty on those tight turns. When they say this road isn’t suitable for large vehicles, they mean it!
There are passing places to allow drivers coming from the opposite direction to pass by safely. It’s also not uncommon for the roads to be closed during periods of heavy snow, although the road will be opened once the snow has been cleared.
For all those reasons, Bealach Na Ba is considered a fairly dangerous road to pass. But, if you’re a confident, considerate and careful driver, Bealach Na Ba is a mountain pass not to miss out on, and certainly, nothing to cause any concern over.
Is Bealach Na Ba on the NC500?
Yes, Bealach Na Ba is part of Scotland’s famed North Coast 500, one of the world’s most scenic drives. Indeed, Bealach Na Ba, and its viewpoint, is one of the most impressive parts of the entire route.
How Steep is Bealach Na Ba?
The summit of Bealach Na Ba stands at 626m above sea level. That’s quite an ascent over just 10km from Tornapress to the Nealch Na Ba Viewpoint. Gradients can be as steep as 17%.
Where Does Bealach Na Ba Start and End?
Bealach Na Ba, also known as Applecross Road in Scotland, begins in Tornapress, a little outside of Kishorn and its beautiful loch, and ends in Applecross.
Bealach Na Ba Viewpoint and Road Map
Five Hiking Essentials
These are our five hiking gear essentials for the Sgùrr a Chaorachain hike in the Applecross Peninsula, Scotland! For a more extensive hiking gear list, check out our 66 Travel Accessories That You Must Travel With. Alternatively, for a general summary of everything you’d need for a trip to Scotland and the North Coast 500, visit our Ultimate Packing Checklist.
Why do you need this?
See it in action
These hiking boots are comfortable and well suited for hikes in the Scottish Highlands
This camera is the best compact digital camera on the market. Lightweight, compact and durable, the Sony Cybershot RX100 VII takes great photos and high-quality 4K videos
I wouldn't dream of hiking in Scotland withour a good wind and rain jacket. Fingers crossed it's not needed though
A great backpack for hiking, which has plenty of space to store all your gear and is very comfortable to wear
The DJI Mavic Air 2 is an awesome drone that takes world-class aerial footage. With newer models available, you can pick up the DJI Mavic Air 2 for a very cheap price
The Best Way to Travel the NC500
Undoubtedly, the best way to travel the NC500 is with your own set of wheels. In addition, something small, like a car is best for tackling Bealach Na Ba. If you don’t have access to your own car, then we really recommend hiring something. When hiring a car for a trip, we always get the ball rolling with a search on RentalCars.com. Booking a car with Rentalcars.com is easy and stress-free, plus they offer an unbeatable free cancellation policy.
Bonus Tips For Bealach Na Ba and Sgùrr a Chaorachain
- Cycling: cycling Bealach Na Ba is a true test of mettle. It’s one of the most famous cycle routes in the UK as well as one of the most difficult. However, it’s so beautiful it would be a shame not to try once if you love cycling. I don’t, so will stick to hiking.
- Congestion: on the topic of cyclists, don’t be alarmed if you get stuck behind a convoy whilst driving Bealach Na Ba. It’s not unusual, but do take care as this is a single-track road and there’s very little opportunity for overtaking. Also, the summer months and peak tourism times of the year will mean a busier Bealach Na Ba and viewpoint. Again, be patient, cautious and sit back and enjoy the views if the going is slow.
- Tourist responsibility: Bealach Na Ba and its viewpoint are one of the most touristic and photographed parts of the NC500. Due to the design of the road, and its potential hazards, DO NOT stop at any point on the drive unless in a designated pull-in point or car park. No matter how good the photo opportunity is, it’s dangerous for yourself and others to do so.
- Lakeside vistas: en route to Sgùrr a Chaorachain and driving Bealach Na Ba, Dan and I enjoyed stops at the exquisite Lock Carron and Loch Kishorn. Because, when in Scotland. Plus, they give fantastic views up to Sgùrr a Chaorachain. Swing by Strome Castle too for some fabulous ruins. We even stayed the night before on the banks of Loch Kishorn. Perfection.
More of the NC500…
For other great stops along the NC500, check out our guides on the Bone Caves Circuit, Duncansby Head and the Fyrish Monument (guides coming soon). Or, let us know your favourite parts of the NC500 in the comments below.
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