United Kingdom 10 Hardest Cycling Climbs

#1
The Cowlyd
United Kingdom
#2
The Great Dun Fell (SW #186)
United Kingdom
#3
Bwlch y Groes (SW #91)
United Kingdom
#4
Bealach na Ba (SW #69)
United Kingdom
#5
Bealach na Ba (Applecross)
United Kingdom
#6
Bwlch Penbarra to Jubilee Tower
United Kingdom
#7
Hardknott Pass West (SW #84)
United Kingdom
#8
Porlock Hill (SW #4)
United Kingdom
#9
Electric Mountain
United Kingdom
#10
Mull of Kintyre
United Kingdom

Climb List: United Kingdom 10 Hardest Cycling Climbs
(sort by distance, difficulty, elevation and more)

Cycling the United Kingdom 10 Hardest Cycling Climbs

The Top 10 road bike climbs in the UK are presented in reverse order below.  Also see our our general United Kingdom Climbs page, UK Most Epic Bike Climbs (per Simon Warren) and our Simon Warren 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs, Britain page.  

The following Top 10 UK Hill Climbs are ranked by the FIETS Index[1].

#10 UK HARDEST HILL CLIMB

MULL OF KINTYRE, SCOTLAND

Cycling Mull of Kintyre

Ride 1.3 miles gaining 1,024’ at 13.5% average grade.

Mull of Kintyre is the southernmost tip of Kintyre Peninsula in a very, very remote part of Scotland - it’s a chore to get to, but well worth the trip.  Mull of Kintyre was made wildly famous by Paul McCartney and Wings song by the same name which was the band's biggest hit in Britain.  Paul McCartney has owned High Park Farm, 20 miles north of our start, since 1966.

The Mull of Kintyre climb is one of the most remarkable climbs that I have ever done, unquestionably. Situated on the southernmost point of a remote peninsula, the Mull was once used as an access point to Scotland by early humans. Now, a lighthouse stands on the rocky outcrop overlooking the coastline. The road itself is marked as ‘Not for public use.’ But, I don’t think you’ll have any issues riding the road on a bicycle. It is a steep ‘road’ which more resembles a walking path. The pavement quality matches the surrounding landscape - rough and rugged. On a clear day, these views are unmatched and simply astounding.

We understand why Paul McCartney wrote longingly about Mull of Kintyre

Mull of Kintyre

Oh, mist rolling in from the sea

My desire is always to be here

Oh, Mull of Kintyre

Far have I traveled and much have I seen

Dark distant mountains with valleys of green

Past painted deserts the sunset's on fire

As he carries me home to the Mull of Kintyre

Mull of Kintyre

Oh, mist rolling in from the sea

My desire is always to be here

Oh, Mull of Kintyre

Sweep through the heather like deer in the glen

Carry me back to the days I knew then

Nights when we sang like a heavenly choir

Of the life and the time of the Mull of Kintyre (Wings, 1977; the bands #1 all-time hit in Britain)

#9 UK HARDEST HILL CLIMB

ELECTRIC MOUNTAIN, WALES

photo collage, bike parked at various points along the climb, one-lane country roadway

Cycling Electric Mountain, Wales

Ride 4.8 miles gaining 1,775’ at 6.9% average grade (7.7% climb only)

This is a long one with a 9/10’s of a mile of flat that skews the overall average gradient reading - the climb averages 8.1% with the flat removed.  A mile of the climb averages 11%.  This is one of 4 Top 10 UK Hardest Bike Climbs.

#8 UK HARDEST HILL CLIMB

PORLOCK HILL

  Cycling Porlock Hill - #5 hardest hillclimb in UK, road signs pointing toward Porlock Hill, tall shrubbery along roadway, large white house leading into town, logo for Simon Warren's 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs #4   

Ride 1.6 miles kilometers gaining 1,003’ at 12.1% average grade.

England:  South-West Region

        

Porlock Hill packs a punch from the get-go.  The first 300 yards average 11% (a nice warm up) followed by the 450 meter double hairpin section at 18.5% average grade.  This 2.5 kilometer climb is difficult throughout and is bordered for the first kilometer by bushes and trees until opening up with pasture lands and northerly views of Bristol Channel for the final mile..

Cycling Porlock Hill - roadsigns for Porlock Hill, 13% grade, warning to use low gear, sheep grazing in field with blue sky                         

#7 UK HARDEST HILL CLIMB

HARDKNOTT PASS, ENGLAND

Hardknott Pass

Ride 2 miles gaining 1,041’ at 9.9% average grade.

Hardknott Pass is a magnificent bucket list climb for all cyclists, not just British citizens.  Hardknott Pass is ranked a 10/10 by Simon Warren and while that means its difficulty is 10 on a scale of 10, it is also a 10 for Epic and Scenery. This ride is simply an amazing experience - “The king of climbs and arguably the hardest road in the land, the legendary Hardknott Pass is an amazing sliver of tarmac.” (Simon Warren, 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs, A Road Cyclist’s Guide to Britains Hills, p. 143).

#6 UK HARDEST HILL CLIMB

BWLCH PENBARRA TO JUBILEE TOWER, WALES

narrow country roadway stretches up green hillsides to Jubilee Tower 

Cycling Bwlch Penbarras to Jubilee Tower, Wales

Ride 3.1 miles gaining 1,511’ at 9.3% average grade.

Bwlch Penbarra is a great climb in the far north of Wales.  If you continue up and past the actual paved pass (bwlch means “pass” in Welsh) and ride the gravel to Jubilee Tower, this becomes one of the hardest bike climbs in all of the UK.  You double the length of the traditional Penbarra route by riding to the tower, qualifying the climb as the sixth hardest bike climb in the UK. Since we did the climb on road bikes with 28mm wheels we have included this climb in the Top Bike Climbs of Wales and of the United Kingdom.  This climb is manageable with a road bike, but it is extremely challenging due to the final four-tenths of a mile that averages 14.2%.  There is actually a stretch on the paved portion that is 16% for a quarter-mile so it’s not just the gravel that will challenge you.

photo collage shows Jubilee Tower and descriptive plaque, PJAMM Cyclist Brad Butterfield at climb summit

#5 UK HARDEST HILL CLIMB

BEALACH NA BA FROM APPLECROSS, SCOTLAND

Cycling Bealach na Ba from Applecross

Climb 8.3 kilometers gaining 596 meters at 7.2% average grade.

This side of the climb begins in the Scottish Highlands’ village of Shore Street on Applecross Bay.  The ascent from Applecross is statistically just as challenging and nearly as long as the traditional climb from the west.  

#4 UK HARDEST HILL CLIMB

BEALACH NA BA, TRADITIONAL ROUTE, SCOTLAND

Cycling Bealach na Bà

Ride 5.1 miles gaining 2,019’ at 7.5% average grade.

           

Bealach na Ba is one of the most scenic, challenging and exceptional climbing experiences in the UK.  This road is one the farthest outliers of all the hardest and most epic of Britain’s hill climbs, situated in the far northwestern Highland Council Area of Scotland.  Perhaps the greatest testament to Bealach na Ba is that it is the only climb in the United Kingdom  listed in Daniel Friebe’s exceptional climbing books, Mountain High and Mountain Higher (pages 28-31 of Mountain Higher).  This is a bucket-list climb, a chore to get to, but well worth the effort.

This bike climb is just pure epic and an absolute must for any UK bucket list.

Not only is this the most hardest bike climb in Scotland nad #4 UK, it is also ranked by Simon Warren (Top UK Cycling Climbing Books) as the most epic bike climb in all of the United Kingdom (see oue UK Top 10 Most Epic Hill Climbs page).

4/10’s mile of serpentine road and hairpins leading to the finish.

“This is it: The Holy Grail, the toughest and wildest climb in Britain.  Anything you have read or been told about this amazing road is likely to be true.  For once, you can believe the hype.” Simon Warren, 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs, A Road Cyclist’s Guide to Britain’s Hills, p. 121.

#3 UK HARDEST HILL CLIMB

BWLCH Y GROES, WALES

Cycling Bwlch y Groes - aerial drone photo of road and hillside 

Cycling Bwlch y Groes (Hellfire Pass)

Ride 1.6 miles gaining 1,206’ at 14.1%

This extraordinary climb is in the northwestern section of Wales in the Snowdonia mountain region. This is the highest paved road and hardest bike climb in Wales.  Bwlch y Groes means “Pass of the Cross.”  

We completed this jewel in August 2018 and because it is so epic,  came back for a second go in June 2022.

photo collage shows aerial drone view of Bwlch y Groes road, PJAMM Cyclist riding on one-lane country road, plaque for Snowdonia National Park

#2 UK HARDEST HILL CLIMB

THE GREAT DUN FELL, ENGLAND

sweeping view of green pastureland and straight stretch of newly paved roadway

Cycling the GREAT Dun Fell, England

Ride 7.5 kilometers gaining 625 meters at 8.4% average grade.

This unique road bike climb is both the second hardest (by Fiets) in the UK and the highest paved road in England.  The climb takes us from 714 meters, to the radar dome 848 meters (2,782’) above sea level in just 7.5 kilometers!  The road ends at an Air Traffic Control facility that services Northern England and Southern Scotland.

Charlie Thackeray (Essex, UK) Everested Dun Fell July 22-23

Read about Charlie’s Everest at Thoughts on Everesting

#1 HARDEST BIKE CLIMB IN THE UK

cattle guard at climb finish

Cycling The Cowlyd, Wales

Ride two miles gaining 1,329’ at 12.5% average grade. 😓

WOW - enough said!  This climb is simply a monster with several stretches in the red zone - above 16%, including one massive stretch at 20% for 200 yards.  

photo collage shows green hillsides along climb, steep switchback road, shaggy sheep in roadway

We spent 6 weeks in 2018 documenting Simon Warren’s Britain’s 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs and returned for 2 months to document the hardest and most epic bike climbs of the UK and Ireland for 2 months in 2022.  Before our 2022 trip, we asked Simon for his top picks for UK climbs and he graciously spent the time to provide us the Top 10 Hardest and Top 10 Most Epic lists for England, Wales, Scotland and the entire UK.  His Top 10 UK Hardest Hill Climbs are:  Simon Warren’s Top 10 Hardest Bike Climbs - United Kingdom:  (1) Bamford Clough, England,  (2) Afon Ddu, Wales, (3) The Cowlyd, Wales, (4) Bealach na Ba, Scotland, (5) Hardknott Pass, England, (6) Melin y Coed, Wales, (7) Bwlch y Groes, Wales, (8) Rosedale Chimney, England, (9) The Lecht, Scotland, (10) Mull of Kintyre, Scotland.

See also, Simon Warren’s Top 10 Most Epic UK Hill Climbs. 

That’s a wrap from Bealach na Ba summit!!


[1] This website is primarily about climbing by bike. We have chosen to use an objective index to quantify and rank climbs, known as The Fiets Index (developed by the Dutch cycling magazine Fiets).

The actual formula is: [H^2/D*10] + (T-1000:1000; but only if greater than 0)

H = ending elevation minus starting elevation in meters.

D = total distance traveled in meters.

T = Height in meters.

Note: Only add T-1000 if that number is greater than zero.