Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

The Electric Brae – Indian style

Most of us are familiar with the Electric Brae in South Ayrshire, real name Croy Brae, which can be found about three miles (5 km) northwest of Maybole, and about a mile (1.5 km) south of Dunure in South Ayrshire. The brae gets it name courtesy of an optical illusion arising from the layout of the land, which gives the impression that a vehicle can freewheel uphill, against its apparent direction of slope.

Although the road slopes gently downhill, from the land towards the sea (travelling east to west), it seems that human perception judges such things relatives to the surroundings of the observer, and visual cues such as the angles of the hillsides in the background fool the mind into seeing the road apparently slope downwards from sea to the land. In fact, the landward or eastern end of the road is some 17 feet above the coastal end, resulting in an overall gradient of 1 in 86. Stop in the lay-by provided at the side of the road, release your handbrake, and you will roll west, towards the sea, although the road looks as if it slopes inland towards the east.

It seems that someone suggested that mysterious electrical forces were overcoming gravity, and the name stuck. Often described incorrectly as a cairn (which is a mound formed from a pile of smaller stones), a stone slab has been installed at the lay-by, and carries the following inscription which describes the effect:

“The ‘Electric Brae’, known locally as Croy Brae.
This runs the quarter mile from the bend overlooking Croy railway viaduct in the west (286 feet Above Ordnance Datum) to the wooded Craigencroy Glen (303 feet above A.O.D.) to the east.
Whilst there is this slope of 1 in 86 upwards from the bend at the Glen, the configuration of the land on either side of the road provides an optical illusion making it look as if the slope is going the other way.
Therefore, a stationary car on the road with the brakes off will appear to move slowly uphill.
The term ‘Electric Brae’ dates from a time when it was incorrectly thought to be a phenomenon caused by electric or magnetic attraction within the Brae.”

The stone can just be seen to the left of the cars in the lay-by pictured below. The view should appear to show a road that slopes downhill – away from the photographer – but actually slopes downhill towards the photographer.

Croy Brae

Croy Brae, looking uphill © Mary and Angus Hogg

Over the years, a number of metal signs preceded the stone – unfortunately, these appeared to prove too attractive to souvenir hunters, and often disappeared soon after being installed. At one stage, the local council even published leaflets describing the brae, so frequent were requests made about it.

Magnetic Hill – Ladakh

It seems that while the phenomenon may be rare, it is not unique, and a number of similar sites can be found listed in the International Directory of Magnetic Hills, Gravity Hills, Mystery Hills and Magnetic Mountains.

The first I spotted before becoming aware of this directory was found in India, in Ladakh, where the Magnetic Hill, or Gravity Hill, lies about 30 kilometres from the capital city Leh, and is located on the Leh-Kargil-Baltik national highway, some 14,000 feet above sea level, and is bordered by the Indus river which originates in Tibet and flows through Ladakh on its way to Pakistan. It is said that the magnetic power here is such that a vehicle – with the engine switched off – will soon be found to be moving up the hill at a speed of about 20 kph.

Ladakh magnetic hill

Ladakh magnetic hill - Source:

Ignoring the boring reality of the phenomenon, numerous myths have been built around the existence of the hill, with stories that those flying around the region can feel the pull of magnetic field, from the hill which is supposedly packed full of magnetised iron. As reported by the local people and Indo Tibetan Border Police, when aircraft come within the influence of this hill, they start to jerk, and to avoid accidents, fliers are advised to fly at specific speed and height.

The area has also become a popular sightseeing place, because of the nearby Gurdwara Pather Sahib, a Sikh holy shrine that is maintained by the Indian army. Guru Nanak Dev, the first of the ten Gurus of Sikhism meditated near this hill in the 17th century. Guru Nanak is said to have come to this place for meditation when a demon living atop the hill threw a rock to kill him. Legend has it that the rock turned into wax when it hit Guru Nanak. The demon ran downhill to check if Guru Nanak had died and kicked the rock on finding him alive. The rock carrying the imprint of Guru Nanak’s back and the demon’s foot is kept at the gurdwara.

The experience is described as a Himalayan wonder, and combined with the religious connotations is promoted as a must-see feature if you happen to venture into this part of the world.

One cannot help but think that the Scottish Tourist Board and VisitScotland are clearly missing an opportunity with Croy Brae.


13/06/2010 - Posted by | Civilian, council | , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. “The Electric Brae” in Scotland is more than a simple optical illusion. It is demonstrably on a powerful ley line between FOUR volcanic plugs. Volcanic plugs have a very weak magnetic field, much too weak to have any effect on a car, but many ancient sites were built between volcanic plugs – perhaps enough to cause an optical effect? – doesn’t seem likely, but there is more to this than meets the eye, literally. See my website


    Comment by David Cowan | 15/06/2016

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