Electric Brae, Ayrshire

electric_brae.jpg

There is, literally, nothing to see at Electric Brae (known locally as Croy Brae). Unsuspecting travellers following the A719 coastal road near Dunure in Ayrshire will see the sign: "Electric Brae: Slow vehicles ahead". Mysteriously there is nothing until you get round the bend and a queue of stationary cars sits in the middle of the road. If it's anything like it used to be when I went there as a kid the cars will be full of beaming children slackjawed with wonderment for Electric Brae is a magical place, a "gravity" or "magnetic hill" where the laws of physics seemingly don't apply and cars roll upwards.

There are similar sites around the world with equally grandiose names - Magnetic Hill in New Brunswick, The Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz, Confusion Hill in Pennsylvania. I wonder if they all have a special place in their nation's hearts in the same way that Electric Brae does. Going here on the way home from the seaside used to be a childhood bank holiday treat. The normal rules of the road go out of the window as on this small stretch of road dawdling is permitted, if not downright encouraged. Indeed at one point Ayrshire Council were getting so many enquiries about the place (probably from Arthur C. Clarke fans) that they produced a leaflet about it. It also proved popular with the Yanks who were stationed at Prestwick during the war, particularly one General Dwight D. Eisenhower who used to bring visitors here when he stayed nearby at Culzean Castle.

[Spoilers ahead] Sadly there is no electricity or magic trickery involved. It's just an optical illusion created by the lay of the land. The cairn in the middle of the brae explains it all:

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."

If the magic of the brae isn't enough, on a good day this is a beautiful drive along the west coast looking out over the sea to Arran and beyond. Continue northwards and you come to Dunure with its ruined castle which is quite a nice spot to spend a while.

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Ooo... there is a place like that in South Dakota, near Mt. Rushmore! I never knew how it worked. =)

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