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Grid Ref: NS 253 131
Uphill or Downhill?  The Illusion at Electric Brae.
Uphill or Downhill? The Illusion at Electric Brae.

South of Ayr the A719 takes a scenic coastal with some superb views out to the Isle of Arran and Ailsa Craig. A detour along a minor road takes you to the pretty village of Dunure and its ruined castle. Back on the A719, just over a mile south of Dunure, the road turns sharply inland, offering magnificent views from the corner over Culzean Bay to Culzean Castle.

Information Stone
Information Stone

Having turned inland, the road descends along a quarter mile stretch of road known locally as Croy Brae. Or does it? Stop in the layby that's thoughtfully been provided by South Ayrshire Council (which is as well: until it was constructed, people used to stop in the road to do this). Once stopped, release your handbrake. You get the very odd sensation of starting to roll uphill, back towards the corner and the sea.

Over time, this oddity made Croy Brae famous, though under its more usually applied name of Electric Brae, a name first given by someone who presumably thought that gravitational forces were being overcome by some sort of electric force.

The truth is less mysterious. As the stone placed by the layby explains, the effect is the result of an optical illusion. The inland end of this stretch of road is actually 17 feet higher than the coastal end, giving an overall gradient of 1 in 86. Yet because of the way the surrounding landscape slopes, the road appears to incline the opposite way, from its coastal end down to its inland end.

The illusion is a powerful one, and the resulting effect is very weird, even when you know its cause. Unusually, it is possible to capture the illusion in a photograph. The header image is taken with the photographer's back to the sea, looking towards the inland end of Electric Brae, its coastal end. The image is therefore looking slightly uphill along the road, and if the vehicle in the picture had its handbrake released, it would roll towards the photographer. Yet even in the photograph, the slopes of the nearby field and more distant hillside make it appear as if the camera is actually pointing downhill and that if the car's handbrake was released it ought to roll away from the photographer.

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