This is the southernmost of the GCC 100 climbs 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.
Visit the Mining Museum during your trip
This is a gorgeous, bucket list-worthy climb that winds its way through a canyon that was covered by heather in purple bloom when we rode up in September 2018.
Share the road.
Purple blooms of heather on the hillsides (km 9).
The first 5½ 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 climb begins with a very gradual slope (5.5 km at 1.4%), followed by 4 km at 5%, a brief descent, then another 2.2 km at 5.6%, another descent (500m at -4%), and a final 900m push to the top at 6.7%
Steepest ½ kilometer begins at kilometer 5.7 (8.6%)
Cycling Uphill says of the Mennock Pass Climb:
“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.”
Cycling Weekly also has a wonderful summary of the climb:
“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.”
Mennock Pass, one of Simon Warren’s 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs in Britain, passes through Wanlockhead at kilometer 10. Wanlockhead, a village in Dumfries and Galloway, is the highest town in Scotland (around 410m) and is nestled in the Lowther Hills right at the head of Mennock Pass.
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
To round out your stay in the Wanlockhead area, check out Trip Advisor’s top 10 things to do around Wanlockhead here.