Black Climbs

Black Climbs (Difficult)

The only way to understand the reputation of these climbs is to ride them

Glenalla 3.4km 6.5%
Glengennet 2.8km 6.9%
Nic O Balloch 3.5km 7.6%
Wallacetown 2.3km 7.8%

Glenalla (Auchengairn)

  • Distance: 3.4km
  • Elevation: 170m
  • Max Gradient: 13%
  • Average: 6.5%

The climb of Glenalla from North Balloch gets off to a false start. You rise out the valley, only to have to drop down to a bridge over a burn, hit a cattle grid, and start all over. A tough gradient awaits, but you should have the assistance of a favourable wind. The road snakes enough not to taunt you with the sight of ever riser tarmacadam, but every time you find your rhythm be sure you will lose it round the next corner!

Beware of cattle grazing here in summer months – it is open hillside and they are quite oblivious when they wander onto the path of oncoming cyclists!


  • Distance: 2.8km
  • Elevation: 153m
  • Max Gradient: 13.2%
  • Average: 6.9%

Glengennet is one of the shorter climbs of the Ayrshire Alps, but makes up for it with a rather relentless gradient. Pluses are if you can find a rhythm you are onto a winner, and the views down the west side onto a streaming waterfall are marvellous. Negatives are: your only alternatives are even longer climbs out the end of the East end of the valley floor.

You ascend onto the top of Hadyard Hill, with the sleek wind turbines chopping at the sky. Pause and watch them in awe.

Nic O Balloch

  • Distance: 3.5km
  • Elevation: 248m
  • Max Gradient: 20.4%
  • Average: 7.6%

Nic O Balloch holds a fearsome reputation among Scottish cycle racers. Too many have seen their race come undone on its slopes. At an average 7.6%, you’ll be looking for extra teeth as the road goes ever higher. Hope for a tail wind!

The Nic O Balloch used to feature a lovely high tree line – no more! You now pop out the trees to be met with the gruesome sight of a long straight climb into the sky. Those familiar with the climbs are hypnotized by counting the road barriers. We suggest you try it – you’ll have little else to take your mind off the effort!

Wallacetown (AKA ‘The Black Cock’)

  • Distance: 2.3km
  • Elevation: 148m
  • Max Gradient: 14.2%
  • Average: 7.8%

Tucked away at the north end of the Ayrshire Alps, Wallacetown (alternatively known as “the Black Cock”) is a rather neglected, oft-forgotten suffer-fest. Well no more, we say – you’ve had it too easy for too long. Wallacetown is firmly back on the map. You’re going to love it, with its Alpine style switch backs, the race up through the forest, and the gruesome ‘are we nearly there yet’ summit. This is one that your legs will remember! Carry on west from the Summit for some of the best views of the Ayrshire Coast including Turnberry and Ailsa Craig.