Mennock Pass Climb Summary
This is the southernmost of the GCC 100 climbs that are located in Scotland. This one is special. In addition to its scenic beauty, we pass through the highest village in Scotland on our way to the summit.
This is a gorgeous, bucket list-worthy climb that winds its way through a canyon which was covered by heather in purple bloom when we rode through and up it in September, 2018.
Share the road; purple blooms of heather on the hillsides (km 9)
The first 5 ½ kilometers of this climb are close to flat at 1.4%, but we respect Simon Warren’s start point because the beauty of those kilometers are worth the wait for the tough stuff.
The end of the initial 5.5 km flats - net 4 km at 5%
The climb begins with a very gradual slope (5.5 km @ 1.4%) followed by 4 km @ 5%, a brief descent then another 2.2 km at 5.6%, another descent (500m @ -4%) and a final 900m push to the top at 6.7%
180m to go at 7%
Steepest ½ kilometer begins at kilometer 5.7 (8.6%)
“A long steady climb in Scotland. This goes up hill for 7 miles. THe first half is really quite gentle, like the approach up a valley to a mountain climb. After 3 miles, the gentle gradient of 2-3% kicks up to 12% – breaking the rhythm from the gentle approach. There are then two false flats, which reduce the average gradient and make the climb look easier on paper than it is. With a long exposed climb like this the wind direction will be important. But, with a more difficult second half, it is not a climb to be under-estimated.” More
“Five 'hidden' British climbs that are worth you seeking out - and conquering by bike . . . If great Dun Fell is England’s Mont Ventoux, then Lowther Hill is Scotland’s Great Dun Fell, although not as steep as its English counterpart it’s every bit as spectacular. If you combine the climb with the ascent of the Mennock Pass, from base to summit you get close to 15km of climbing; that’s longer than Alpe d’Huez.
“Surely not, not in Britain,” you cry. Oh yes! The first 11 kilometres out of Mennock rising to the village of Wanlockhead are relatively mild, but these steady, beautiful slopes are just the warm up, the starter for the following main course.
It’s when you leave the B797 that the real fun begins taking a right turn into splendid isolation on a silky smooth road to the sky. Following negotiation of the heavily padlocked gate (don’t worry it’s perfectly fine to ride up) you can begin your journey, twisting, and rolling across the silence of the empty hill sides high above the world below.
The further you climb the more Alpine it feels as you rise from the surrounding hills searching out the huge spherical radar at the summit. Never too steep but always epic this final four kilometres are a pure joy to experience and if the organisers of our national Tour are listening, would make the perfect stage finish, we reckon.” More
Simon Warren’s 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs in Britain passes through Wanlockhead at kilometer 10. Wanlockhead is the highest town in Scotland:
“Wanlockhead is a village in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, nestling in the Lowther Hills and one mile south of Leadhills at the head of the Mennock Pass, which forms part of the Southern Uplands. It is Scotland's highest village at an average height of around 410m and can be accessed via the B797, which connects it to the A76 near Sanquhar and the A74(M) motorway at Abington.
The village was called Winlocke until 1566, derived from the Celtic Cuingealach (the narrow pass).
Wanlockhead owes its existence to the lead and other mineral deposits in the surrounding hills. These deposits were first exploited by the Romans, and from the 13th century they began to be worked again in the summer. The village was founded permanently in 1680 when the Duke of Buccleuch built a lead smelting plant and workers' cottages.
Lead, zinc, copper and silver were mined nearby, as well as some of the world's purest gold at 22.8 carats, which was used to make the Scottish Crown. Wanlockhead became known as "God's treasure house" from the richness of its mineral resources.
William Symington, Engineer.
Despite a branch railway (see Leadhills & Wanlockhead Railway), also the highest in Scotland, which served the village from 1901 to 1939, lead mining declined in the 20th century and finished in the 1950s. From 1850 the Glasgow and South Western Railway had provided sidings at Mennock Lye Goods Depot for the use of the Wanlockhead and Leadhills mines.
The village had a curling club which was formed in 1777 and there were also quoits, bowling clubs, a drama group and a silver band which had instruments purchased for them by the Duke of Buccleuch.
William Symington was from Leadhills, but lived and worked in Wanlockhead. His fame lies in the fact that he designed the engine used to power the world's first steamboat. This boat was successfully tested on Dalswinton Loch near Ellisland on 14 October 1788. Dalswinton was the home of Robert Burns's landlord, Patrick Miller.” Wikipedia - Wanlockhead