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

3 mi
1,314 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.
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 from Ambleside (The Struggle) - aerial view of one-lane, stone wall lined road winding through countryside hills, sheep grazing in pastures

Kirkstone from the south (Ambleside).

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

Road Cycling UK has a nice article on the 10 best cycling climbs in the English Lake District (a mountainous area in northwest England with roughly 10 very sizeable lakes in close proximity):

“Kirkstone Pass had to be part of the list simply because it’s the Lake District’s highest pass open to traffic, and here we’re focussing on the A592 road starting from Lake Windermere. The segment is 8.5km long, with a rolling first couple of kilometres to get you warmed up before the long rolling drag up.

At around 2.5km the road pitches up once more, just registering over ten per cent, but the difference this time is that there’s no roll down the other side. Instead, the road flattens off before climbing again, this time with a 14 per cent peak slope.”  


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.

“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.

Cycling Uphill writes of this climb:

“Kirkstone pass is the highest major road (A592) in the Lake District. It reaches a height of 1,489 feet (454 m) and affords great views of the surrounding lakes. There are three different routes to the top of Kirkstone Pass, each offering there own challenges. The hardest is ‘The Struggle’ which takes the shortest route from Ambleside to Kirkstone Pass. It is the shortest in distance but the steepest and requires over 400 metres of climbing. The other two ways, on the main road (A592) are less steep, but make good long challenging climbs.”

There are three primary routes up to Kirkstone Pass: from Penrith, from Ambleside, and from Troutbeck.

From Penrith  (100 Greatest Cycling Climbs, Britain #83)


Steepest kilometer begins at km 1.6 (12.8%)

From Ambleside (south; The Struggle)


Steepest kilometer begins at km 4.1 (15.1%)

From Troutbeck (south)


Steepest kilometer begins at km 2.9 (8.9%)

Cycling Kirkstone from Ambleside (The Struggle) - hand written sign saying "Welcome to the Kirkstone Inn", bike parked in pastureland with PJAMM Cycling jersey draped over it, sign atop the Kirkstone Pass Inn, narrow one-lane road winding atop hillside pastureland

At the pass -- climb’s finish.

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).

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