Swain's Lane (SW #27) Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

0.6 mi
235 ft
7.7 %



At 900 meters, Swain's Lane is a short and stout climb on a very narrow road in Highland area of north London.  The climb borders Highgate Cemetery to the left and Waterlow Park to the right nearly its entire length.  Highgate Cemetery is a point of interest as many notable people are buried there, most notably Karl Marx. This is a very fun bike ride.
7.8% for 900 meters gaining 73 meters with 0 descent.  58% of the climb is at 5-10% and 20% is at 10-15%.
Roadway:  Very narrow - one lane road in excellent condition. 

Traffic:  Moderate city traffic. 

Parking:  On the street at the start of the climb - MapStreet View
Provisions:  The climb is in London so there are many options - there are about seven pubs and cafes within two blocks of the top of the climb. 
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 is the only climb of Simon Warren's 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs, Britain in London.  Use the “Routes in Area” button on the menu bar above to see other bike climbs in the region.  



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This is a brief and steep climb in London that borders Highgate Cemetery to the left and Waterlow Park to the right nearly its entire 900 meter length.  

The cemetery is a tourist destination and during our brief time in the area, we observed many individuals walking through the grounds in a more casual manner than those present to pay their respects.  Karl Marx and other famous/notable persons are buried in this cemetery - see Wikipedia - Highgate Cemetery.  

This is one of the more notable hill climbs in London and travels through the posh neighborhood of Highgate Village.

The climb ends just past the radio tower 900 meters from the start.

The roadway is in great condition and wide but there is a fair amount of traffic due to the popularity of the cemetery.  The neighborhood was pleasant and this is, while brief, a nice climb.


Start of steepest ½ kilometer begins at 200 meters (9.4%)

Cyclist.co.uk calls this “The toughest climb in London.”


“Enter Swain's Lane, a punishing hill in leafy North London where riders can train in relative peace.

An urban Alpe: Swain's Lane averages around 8% gradient and maxing at 20% over 900m, making it a way off an alpine ascent on paper. But it's become a fixture of London's cycling culture. It’s the location of the annual Rollapaluza Urban Hill Climb and earned an entry in Simon Warren’s 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs: A Road Cyclist's Guide to Britain's Hills, which has helped it become legendary amongst London’s cycling community.

Whether a session of club hill-reps, an organised race, or seeking to beat an elusive best time, a huge number of London's cyclists will have a tale to tell about tackling this short, sharp, brutal slope.

Perhaps one of the climb's main draws is that despite its central location and steepness, it's a pleasant spot to spend a training ride. Located in the posh and picturesque hills of Highgate Village, it sits alongside the resting place of some of London’s most famous deceased residents – Highgate cemetery.

The road itself has a colourful history, dating back to 1492, when it was called 'Swayneslane', through for several hundred years it was referred to by the less fetching ‘Swines Lane’. The latter might feel most fitting to the cyclists who empty themselves on its inclines.

Granted, it’s one twentieth the height and length of the Stelvio pass, and high stone walls rob us of the potential pseudo-panorama of north London, but it’s quiet, picturesque and, crucially, a punishing climb.”  

#4 England per Telegraph.co.uk:

“In short : Swains Lane is arguably the most famous climb in London. Nestled in-between Hampstead Heath and Highgate Cemetery, it’s an iconic spot for training. At the bottom are a handful of lovely cafés and as a reward at the top The Flask always has a fine selection of brews.

An average of 9pc over 0.6km means it’s not the longest hill in the land, but it definitely has a sting in its tail. The hill starts deceptively, with a gradual increases up to about 9pc, before a brief respite as you pass the entrance to the cemetery. It then rears up to its full 14% for 40 meters or so, before rolling off at the top.”  

The climb is located in London (population 8,787,892 [2016):

“London (/ˈlʌndən/ (About this sound listen)) is the capital and most populous city of England and the United Kingdom. Standing on the River Thames in the south east of the island of Great Britain, London has been a major settlement for two millennia. It was founded by the Romans, who named it Londinium. London's ancient core, the City of London, largely retains its 1.12-square-mile (2.9 km2) medieval boundaries. Since at least the 19th century, "London" has also referred to the metropolis around this core, historically split between Middlesex, Essex, Surrey, Kent and Hertfordshire, which today largely makes up Greater London,a region governed by the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.”  Wikipedia - more on London