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May 6

South Ayrshire, Scotland

Electric Brae Gravity Hill Illusion

An optical Illusion once believed to be an electrical phenomenon. 

Named “The Electric Brae” by Victorians, this cliffside road was thought to be pulled by the “electricity” of the offshore island of Arran because when you think you are going up, you are actually going down, and vice versa. Electricity was a new enough phenomenon that many unusual things were attributed mysterious “electrical” properties. A roadside marker reads:

“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 A.O.D.) to the east.

Whilst there is this slope of 1 in 86 upwards from the bend to 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’ dates from a time when it was incorrectly thought to be a phenomenon caused by electric or magnetic attraction within the Brae.”

Known as a “gravity hill” it is actually a type natural optical illusion. The curve of the vergeside of the cliff road gives the impression of the elevation but it is opposite to what actually is. The road is one of the more famous gravity hills, and during WWII General Eisenhower would bring guests to marvel at it.

Today, locals still have to beware of people stopped in the road amazed at their cars seemingly freewheeling uphill. Others will stop and put a ball in the middle of the road and watch it roll uphill.

 

Know Before You Go

It is on the A719 between Croy Shore and Dunure village, South Ayrshire and is well worth a visit if you are in the area.

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