On a quarter-mile stretch of road in South Ayrshire on the West Scotland coast, there’s a very weird phenomenon. Known as “Electric Brae,” the road features an optical illusion that makes cars that are in neutral — appear as if they are rolling uphill.
Why is it called Electric Brae?
Electric Brae is a unique quarter-mile stretch of the A719 road in South Ayrshire, Scotland. It attracts many drivers that want to experience the strange “gravity-defying” phenomenon for themselves. Also, in recent years, it achieved cult status.
Electric Brae got its name because people originally believed that the strange phenomenon was caused by electric or magnetic attraction within the Brae. The term brae is a Lowland Scots word, which means slope. Along with magnetism, other unusual explanations for why cars can bizarrely roll uphill include a curse by witches and minerals in the soil.
Electric Brae is one of the ‘gravity hills’ around the world
However, the weird phenomenon in which cars in neutral appear as if they are rolling uphill is just an optical illusion. Electric Brae is one of a small handful of roads around the world called “gravity hills.” Electric Brae, like other gravity hills, features a configuration of the land in which there’s an appearance of an upward slope — when it’s actually a downward angle.
The unique configuration of the land creates a mostly obstructed horizon. As a result, it’s challenging for a person to view the slope of the road since there’s no reliable reference point. The optical illusion tricks the brain into perceiving a downward slope as upward.
As detailed by Atlas Obscura, other notable gravity hills around the world include spots in:
- Prosser, Washington
- Lake Wales, Florida
- Piercy, California
- Klamath Falls, Oregon
- Mooresville, Indiana
- Springer, Oklahoma
- Belo Horizonte, Brazil
- Pekina, Australia
- Albano Laziale, Italy
Conversely, the opposite of a gravity hill is a “false flat” — a term that bicycle racers use. A false flat is an upward slope that appears as a flat road.
What’s it like to drive on Electric Brae and other gravity hills?
Driving a car in neutral on the Electric Brae is a very strange experience. As you can see in the video, Bridget Barbara from Atlas Obscura puts the gravity-defying phenomenon to the test. She got into her Ford Fiesta and placed the car in neutral. Lo and beyond, the car rolled upward on the road.
“This is crazy. I’m not doing anything. I’m just steering a little bit, but I am going uphill,” said Barbara. “I feel like I’m being abducted by aliens.” Later, Barbara set a ball on the optical illusion road, where it also mysteriously rolled uphill.
To commemorate Electric Brae, known locally in Scotland as “Croy Brae,” there’s a roadside headstone. As detailed by Mirror, the headstone reads: “Whilst there is a 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 fame of the weird optical illusion at Electric Brae dates back many years. While staying at nearby Culzean Castle during World War II, Dwight Eisenhower brought visitors to the road to test out the strange phenomenon. American soldiers visited the site as well.
Additionally, Electric Brae inspired the literary world. Electric Brae: A Modern Romance, a novel by Scottish writer Andrew Greig, is named after the mysterious road.