Cycling Winnats Pass, England.
Ride 1.2 miles gaining 672’ at 11% average grade.
This climb comes in at number 33 on Simon Warren’s list of the 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs in Great Britain. Warren writes of this climb, “for sheer drama, nothing matches Winnats Pass, a winding road through a natural cleft, surrounded by towering, grass-covered limestone pinnacles” (100 Greatest Cycling Climbs). When we asked Simon for a list of his 10 most epic bike climbs in England, Wales, Scotland, and the UK, he listed Winnats Pass as #1 England and #4 UK (after Bealach na Ba, Stwlan Dam, and Bwlch y Groes
Climb summary by PJAMM Cycling’s Brad Butterfield (2018 and 2022):
Winnats Pass is Central England's not-so-good kept secret. The roads that trace the countryside are sure to be packed with cars, RVs, motorcycles, and of course fellow cyclists. Of my three weeks of travel through the UK, the Winnats Pass and surrounding Peaks National Park have been the most packed with fellow tourists - and for good reason too. Winnats Pass is an absolute must-ride while cycling in England.
Our climb starts at the intersection with the road that leads to the now defunct Odin mine - which for centuries was mined for lead, copper and zinc ore.
Ride between stone walls for 4/10ths of a mile up to Winnats Gorge.
The climb road is narrow, with no shoulder and almost certainly very heavy traffic. The road is barely wide enough for two cars to pass in most sections, and not wide enough in others. So, while cycling, cars will likely build up behind you and wait for their gap to pass. It makes for an interesting ride. What can’t be denied despite the heavy traffic, is the unbelievable canyon scenery that our road winds up.
On the late June day in 2022 that I rode Winnats Pass, the sun was out and lighting up the fluorescent canyon grasses, creating a truly stellar spectacle for the short climb. As you bend right up the canyon you meet a cattle grid.
Midway through this climb is a short but spectacular canyon. On the day we climbed Winnats Pass in August 2018, there were sheep grazing along the roadway in the shade of the steep hillside on the northern side of the road.
This climb is all about the limestone gorge running 6/10ths of a mile beginning at mile 0.4.
From here the gradients ease up to the finish point at an intersection with a main road. Parking can be found along some of the pull-outs on the highway that runs perpendicular to the finish point. Additionally, paid parking is available at the dirt lot near the base of the climb.
Extraordinary rock formations in Winnats Gorge.
Aerial views of Winnats Gorge.
You can hike to the overlook of Winnats pass via Google 360° view.
Winnats Pass has hosted the British National Hill Climb Championships in 1947 (Vic Clark), 1949 (Bob Maitland), 1953 (Roy Keughley), 1957 (Erick Wilson), 1959 (Gordon Rhodes), 1972 (John Granville Sydney), and 1977 (John Parker). Although Winnats Pass was the most popular site for the Championship from 1947 to 1977, it has not hosted the event since then because a nearby road collapsed in a landslide, making Winnats too important for transport connections to close the road for a cycling event.
While the climb has very steep sections (16.5% for a quarter-mile from 0.6 to 0.85) we did not experience any gradients reaching 20%.
The climb begins just west of Castleton at the “Peak Cavern Peveril Castle” sign.
Start of climb.
Visit Peveril Castle while you are here for your climb. This is a ruined 11th-century castle overlooking the village of Castleton. The castle is one of England’s earliest Norman Fortresses built by Henry II in 1176. During your visit also consider tours of Peak Cavern and Speedwell Cavern.
Lower right: Peakcavern.com
The climb is 1.9 kilometers at a stout 11.1% average grade. The 450 meters just after bending right halfway through the midpoint canyon gets your attention at 16.5%.
You can hike from the Speedwell Cavern parking lot 300 meters from start to overlook the canyon.
The Winnats Pass climb begins just west of Castleton (population 642 in 2011), a village in the High Peak district of Derbyshire, England. Castleton was the location of one of the manors owned by William Perverel around the time of 1086. Another interesting historical location in the area is a medieval leper hospital, called the Hospital of Saint Mary in the Peak, which is thought to have been the village’s eastern boundary. In 1837, St. Edmund’s Norman church was restored from its 13th century ruins. Throughout the years, Castleton has also prospered as an area for lead mines (including Odin Mine, one of the oldest lead mines in England). Visitors to the area can tour four caverns created by mining: Peak Cavern, Blue John Cavern, Speedwell Cavern, and Treak Cliff Cavern (Castleton).
This is a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
There is evidence of sea creatures dating roughly 350 million years in and around the limestone gorge. Thus, the area has been designated an Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) under the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981. There are over 4,100 such sites in Great Britain, Northern Ireland, and the Isle of Man.
The climb is located in Peak District National Park, which is the UK’s oldest national park (established 1951):
“The Peak District is an upland area in England at the southern end of the Pennines. It is mostly in northern Derbyshire, but also includes parts of Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Staffordshire, West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire. An area of great diversity, it is split into the northern Dark Peak, where most of the moorland is found and the geology is gritstone, the southern White Peak, where most of the population lives and the geology is mainly limestone, and the South West Peak, with landscapes similar to both the Dark and White Peaks.
With its proximity to the cities of Manchester, Stoke-on-Trent, Derby and Sheffield, and easy access by road and rail, it attracts millions of visitors every year” (Peak District).
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