Kirkstone Pass (The Struggle; SW #181) Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

3 mi
1,317 ft
8.2 %



Kirkstone Pass is one of the top climbs in the mountainous and scenic Lake District and Lake District National Park. The most difficult ascent is from Ambleside, otherwise known as The Struggle.

Visit our Top UK and also our Top English hill climbs pages for photos, summaries and statistics for their respective top hill climbs. 
Average grade is 8.2% (9% climb only).  There is a broad range of gradients on this climb: 7% is descent, 24% is at 0-5% grade, 30% is at 5-10%, 29% is at 10-15%, and 10% is at 15-20%.  The steepest 500 meters is 14.3%.

See more details and tools regarding this climb's grade via the “Profile Tool” button.
Roadway:  The first 500 meters are through the northeast residential section of Ambelside on a narrow road which is in good condition.  The final kilometers are along a similarly narrow road but with wonderful views of rolling hills up a road bordered on at least one side by a stone wall to the finish.  

Traffic:  Mild. 

Parking:  One option is to park at the top (Kirkstone Pass Car Park) and use that as your hub for doing any of the three climbs to the pass you desire.  There is also public parking a block from our climb start (MapStreet View). 
Provisions:  Plenty in Ambleside and also the 15th century Kirkstone Pass Inn at the top (Google Map + Reviews). 
Before heading out on any cycling adventure check out our Things to Bring on a Cycling Trip and use our interactive check list to ensure you don't forget anything.
This route to Kirkstone Pass and the Kirkstone Inn is very scenic and popular.  Consider parking at the top in the car park, doing 1, 2, 3 of the routes to the pass (see also Kirkstone Pass - Penrith (#83) and Kirkstone Pass - Troutbeck).  If we were doing this again, we'd stay overnight at the Inn (Trip Advisor Reviews). 



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Cycling Kirkstone Pass from Ambleside (south)

Ride 3 miles gaining 1,317’ at 8.2% average grade (9.2% climb only).

Kirkstone Pass from Ambleside is ranked the fourth hardest climb in England and twelfth toughest for the UK via the Fiets Index. If we do not count a 7/10th of a mile segment that averages only 1% and has a brief descent, the average grade for the climb approaches 10%.  The steepest quarter mile is 15% and is located near the finish of the climb.

Cycling Kirkstone from Ambleside (The Struggle) - road sign for Kirkstone along a stone wall, white building with sign noting Kirkstone Pass Inn with PJAMM Cycling bike and jersey propped up against it, road winding through countryside hills, sign for 20% grade and advertising hazardous winter conditions

This is an epic bike climb with steep grades, great stone walls and sweeping scenery.

Climb summary by PJAMM’s Brad Butterfield who has climbed Kirkstone Pass in 2018 and 2022.

The Lake District is one of the premier destinations in England. For hikers, cyclists, tourists, and even spa goers.  The Lake District has a little bit of something for everyone. The start town of our climb up Kirkstone, Ambleside, is situated right in the heart of the Lake district and is called home base by adventurers of all kinds. From the town center, you’ll ride double digit gradients past hotels, residences and an old church before leaving the town proper. Out of the town you enter the farmlands overlooking the town and lake below. There are dozens of massive bulls on the hillsides here that make for a unique landscape. Of course - the ever present sheep roam here too. A final burst of steep grades brings you to the summit where there is a nice cafe serving coffee and snacks.

Climb begins in the center of Ambleside

Ambleside is a good size and quaint town of about 2,500.

This imposing sign is just after the start of the climb.

St. Anne’s Chapel is on the right about 100 meters from the start.

There has been a chapel on this site since the 1550’s and the building currently occupying the lot dates to 1812.

We pass The Struggle sign one-quarter mile from the start.

Kirkstone Pass is the highest roadway in the Lake District at 1,492’.


Cycling Kirkstone from Ambleside (The Struggle) - stone fences along roadside with pastureland and sheep grazing, stretches of one lane road, aerial view of countryside pastureland and road, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner

Views along the climb.

This climb is on our Top 10 Greatest Stone Wall Bike Climbs of the UK.


As with so many of the top and most epic bike climbs in the UK, there’s livestock along the route.

“The Struggle” up to the top of Kirkstone Pass was made (in)famous by Sir Bradley Wiggons during 2016’s Tour of Britain, when he dismounted from his bike and ran up the top section of the hillside “in a tribute to the events that befell ex-teammate Chris Froome on the slopes of Mont Ventoux” (Road Cycling UK).


Bradley Wiggins walks up the climb in his nod to Froome.

Photo: leeblack321.

The climb finishes at Kirkstone Pass Inn.

That applies to us, too . . . 👍

These climbs are within Lake District National Park, 236,200 hectares (583,663 acres) established in 1951:

“The Lake District, also known as the Lakes or Lakeland, is a mountainous region in North West England. A popular holiday destination, it is famous for its lakes, forests and mountains (or fells) and its associations with the early 19th century writings of William Wordsworth and the other Lake Poets, Beatrix Potter, and John Ruskin. A National Park was established in 1951 and, following a minor extension in 2016, now covers an area of approximately 2,362 square kilometres. It was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017.

It is located entirely within the county of Cumbria, and all the land in England higher than 3,000 feet (914 m) above sea level lies within the National Park, including Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England. It also contains the deepest and longest bodies of water in England, respectively Wast Water and Windermere”  (
Lake District National Park).

That’s a wrap!!