Cycling Bwlch Penbarras to Jubilee Tower, Wales
Ride 3.1 miles gaining 1,511’ at 9.3% average grade.
Bwlch Penbarra is a great climb in the far north of Wales. If you continue up and past the actual paved pass (bwlch means “pass” in Welsh) and ride the gravel to Jubilee Tower, this becomes one of the hardest bike climbs in all of the UK. You double the length of the traditional Penbarra route by riding to the tower, qualifying the climb as the fifth hardest bike climb in the UK. Since we did the climb on road bikes with 28mm wheels we have included this climb in the Top Bike Climbs of Wales and of the United Kingdom. This climb is manageable with a road bike, but it is extremely challenging due to the final four-tenths of a mile that averages 14.2%. There is actually a stretch on the paved portion that is 16% for a quarter-mile so it’s not just the gravel that will challenge you.
Climb summary by PJAMM Cycling’s Brad Butterfield - he climbed this one in 2018 and 2022.
It is really tough to crown just one climb in Wales as a favorite after riding so many over our few weeks of riding in June 2022. That said, Bwlch Penbarra is certainly a top three for me. We parked at the Church in the town of Llanbedr Dyffryn Clwyd (try saying that TWO times fast . . ), and I recommend parking there and not attempting to traverse any part of the actual climb route in a car. In fact, there is a sign at the start warning that the road is ‘Unsuitable for motor vehicles.’ Although I assume this is mostly to keep tourists away as we intersected multiple residents traveling the road in their cars.
Climb starts at the intersection of Lon Cae Glas Road and A494.
The lower slopes are wooded, steep and narrow. Then a switchback brings you above the treeline and onto the mountain proper.
Thick tree cover through the first four-tenths of a mile.
As we climb, we enter open grazing pastureland. We also have noticed that the cloud formations of Britain, at least during June, August, and September when we’ve ridden there, are picturesque unto themselves.
Gate at mile 0.6.
A few sheep along the way.
Offa’s Dyke Path hiking trail at the top of the (paved) climb.
The paved road cuts across the side of a mountain and ends at a parking lot used by hikers. Here, we made the choice to continue riding on the well maintained gravel hiking trail. We were both on 28mm road tires and had no issues riding carefully. There is an 1800s Jubilee Tower atop a hill that our gravel trail ends at. Make no mistake, it is a very, very tough gravel climb, but doable on a road bike with caution. Gradients of 20%+ stair-step up to the tower. There, you’ll be rewarded with some of the greatest views in all of Wales. The addition of the gravel hiking trail to the paved road makes Bwlch Penbarra one of the very toughest climbs in Wales - and one of the most rewarding.
TO JUBILEE TOWER
This climb is ignored by the vast majority of cyclists who climb the paved portion of the roadway (6,558 Strava members had done the paved portion as of June 2022, while only 63 had ventured on up the gravel to Jubilee tower: Strava Penbarra - Moel Famau Climb segment).
Road to the top.
Jubilee Tower was built to commemorate the golden jubilee (50th anniversary) of George III in 1810 (his full reign was actually an unbelievable 60 years - 1760 to 1820). The tower was never finished due to a lack of funds.
Finish at Jubilee Tower.
This is a pure wonderful Welsh climb - steep, narrow, a little gravel, and of course, a castle. We HIGHLY recommend this epic bike climb.