United Kingdom 10 Hardest Cycling Climbs

#1
The Great Dun Fell (SW #186)
United Kingdom
#2
Bwlch y Groes (SW #91)
United Kingdom
#3
Bealach na Ba (Applecross)
United Kingdom
#4
Bealach na Ba (SW #69)
United Kingdom
#5
Porlock Hill (SW #4)
United Kingdom
#6
Dunkery Beacon (SW #5)
United Kingdom
#7
Kirkstone Pass (The Struggle; SW #181)
United Kingdom
#8
Wrynose Pass East (SW #85)
United Kingdom
#9
Hardknott Pass West (SW #84)
United Kingdom
#10
Bwlch Penbarra (SW #88)
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, and our Simon Warren 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs, Britain page.  These climbs are ranked by the FIETS Index[1].

#10 UK HARDEST HILL CLIMB

BWLCH PENBARRA

Cycling Bwelch Penbarra - #10 hardest hill climb in UK, PJAMM Cycling jersey draped over bike leaning against stone fence overlooking pastureland and hillsides

Ride 2.3 kilometers gaining 262 meters at 11.4% average grade.

Wales

This is a 2.3 kilometers climb at a fairly steady 11.4%!  There is a 200 meter section beginning at 900 meters that averages a punishing 18%.  As we climb we enter open grazing pasture land.  We also have noticed that the cloud formations of Britain, at least during August and September when we rode there, are picturesque unto themselves.

#9 UK HARDEST HILL CLIMB

HARDKNOTT PASS

Cycling HARDKNOTT PASS - #9 hardest climb in UK, PJAMM Cycling jersey draped over bike at top of hill, stone wall with road sign in front advertising 30% grade, pavement at top of climb with hand written writing on it saying "WELL DONE"

Ride 3.2 kilometers gaining 314 meters at 9.8% average grade.

England:  North-West Region.

This climb is our favorite of Simon Warren’s 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs.  The Official 100 climb begins at the bridge over River Esk three kilometers from the pass.  Starting at the bridge gives us a nearly flat (1.5%) 800 meter warm up until one of the greatest cycling challenges in the United Kingdom begins.  The final 2.2 kilometers are at a very tough 14% average grade!  There is a 300 meter segment near the pass that averages just over 21%.

#8 UK HARDEST HILL CLIMB

WRYNOSE PASS EAST

Cycling WRYNOSE PASS EAST - #8 hardest hillclimb in UK, aerial view of hillside with narrow lane road winding down side, 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs #85 logo in corner

Ride 2.5 kilometers gaining 282 meters at 11.2%.

England: North-West Region.

Wrynose Pass East is a very remote and difficult climb in the middle of Lake District National Park.  The first 250 meters of the climb average 12%.  The first two kilometers are an extremely challenging 13.2% average grade, with the final 700 meters of that first segment coming in at a brutal 17.5%.  Hang in there because you can almost coast the final 500 meters to the summit, with a 3.6% average.

Cycling WRYNOSE PASS EAST - #8 most difficult UK hillclimb, road sign advertising 25% grade, PJAMM Cycling jersey draped over bike, narrow roadway with stone fence, creek

#7 UK HARDEST HILL CLIMB

KIRKSTONE PASS - THE STRUGGLE (AMBLESIDE)

Cycling KIRKSTONE PASS - THE STRUGGLE (AMBLESIDE) - road sign along stone wall saying "Kirkstone", white building with sign for Kirkstone Pass Inn with PJAMM Cycling jersey and bike parked next to it, view from top of hillside looking down to road winding through hillside, road sign for 20% grade and warning of winter conditions that can be hazardous

Ride 4.8 kilometers gaining 401 meters at 8.2% average grade.

England:  North-West Region

Kirkstone Pass is the highest pass in England’s Lake District that is open to traffic, reaching a height of 1,489 feet (454 m).  Riding “The Struggle,” you’ll cycle 4.8 km (just under 3 miles) at an average 8.2% grade.

#6 UK HARDEST HILL CLIMB

DUNKERY BEACON

Cycling Dunkery Beacon - #6 hardest hill climb in UK, road signs for Dunkery Beacon and Wheddon Cross, forestation and ferns, logo for Simon Warren's 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs #5 in corner   

Ride 3.2 kilometers gaining 323 meters at 10.3% average grade.

England:  South-West Region

The first 200 meters of the Dunkery Beacon climb are very steep at 17.5%, tapering to 11.5% for the next 650 meters, until finally easing to 1.5% for a restful 400 meters that is the calm before the next storm: 1.4 km at 12.7%.  We coast home over the last half kilometer at 5% average grade.

Cycling Dunkery Beacon - road signs for Luccombe, Minehead, Allerford, Bossington, Horner, and Porlock, bike parked atop hillside, road leading up hillside, blue sky

#5 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 2.5 kilometers gaining 302 meters at 12.1% average grade.

England:  South-West Region

        

Porlock Hill packs a punch from the get-go.  The first 300 meters average 11% (a nice warm up) followed by the 450 meter double hairpin section at 18.5% average grade.  This 2.5 kilometer climbs 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 last 1.5 kilometers.

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

#4 UK HARDEST HILL CLIMB

BEALACH NA BA (east - traditional route)

Cycling Bealach na Ba - road sign, loch and road

Ride 9.2 kilometers gaining 625 meters at 6.8% average grade.

Scotland

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 Britain’s 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs, situated in the far northwestern Highland Council Area of Scotland.  Perhaps the greatest testament to Bealach na Ba is that is 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.  Though a chore to get to, it is well worth the effort.

Cycling Bealach na Ba - green pastureland, bright blue sky, stone retaining wall with creek passing through it, under road, road sign warning "Road Normally Impassable in Wintery Conditions"

#3 UK HARDEST HILL CLIMB

BEALACH NA BA (Applecross - west)

sign for Bealach na ba Viewpoint from the Automobile Association

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

Scotland

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.  

#2 UK HARDEST HILL CLIMB

BWLCH Y GROES

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

Ride 2.6 kilometers gaining 368 meters at 14.1% average grade.

Wales

This is the second highest paved mountain pass in Wales, and is a gorgeous climb beginning in the midst of lush pastureland.  Bwlch y Groes has been a renowned climb in Wales and is considered the most difficult climb in the area.

Cycling Bwlch y Groes - photo collage showing winding, misty roads, red berries hanging on tree over narrow, one-lane road, guardrail and roadsigns along road

Cycling Bwlch y Groes - cyclist wearing PJAMM cycling jersey standing next to snowdonia National Park sign, holding bike, Cattle Grid warning road sign along single lane road

#1 HARDEST BIKE CLIMB IN THE UK

THE GREAT DUN FELL

Cycling The Great Dun Fell - pastureland, lots of sheep crossing the road, sign for the Great Dun Fell with road bike leaning against it, air traffic control center

The Great Dun Fell is the most difficult hill climb in the United Kingdom

Ride 7.5 kilometers gaining 625 meters at 8.4% average grade

Scotland

This unique road bike climb is both the hardest 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.

THE LONGEST BIKE CLIMB IN THE UK

LOWTHER HILL

cycling Lowther Hill - gorgeous open views of rolling hills covered in bright green grasses overlooking more pastureland in distance, bright blue skies, bike leaning against small yellow poll in foreground

Lowther Hill is the longest bike climb in the UK

Ride 15.7 Kilometers gaining 536 meters at 2.9% average grade.

THE MOST EPIC BIKE CLIMB IN THE UK

BEALACH NA BA

Cycling Bealach na Ba - green pastureland, bright blue sky, stone retaining wall with creek passing through it, under road, road sign warning "Road Normally Impassable in Wintery Conditions"

Bealach na Ba

The most epic bike climb in the United Kingdom.

Bealach na Ba the #2 most difficult climb Britain’s top 100 GCC and the sixth longest, is a scenic jewel.  It is one of the more popular with 6,300 Strava members recording the route as of October, 2018 despite its geographic isolation. The climb is 9.2 kilometers and averages 6.8% grade.

THE HIGHEST BIKE CLIMB IN THE UK

THE GREAT DUN FELL

Cycling The Great Dun Fell - bike parked in a couple inches of snow, bright blue skies with straight one-lane road and blue sky, sun peaking through cloud coverage, lots of trees

The Great Dun Fell takes top position for hardest and highest bike climb in the UK

This climb ends at 848 meters above sea level.

THE STEEPEST BIKE CLIMB IN THE UK

CONSTITUTION HILL

Cycling Constitution Hill - cobblestone roadway lined with buildings, two road signs marking do not enter

Constitution Hill in Uplands, Wales is the steepest bike climb in the UK

300 meters at 22.1% average grade!!

OUR FAVORITE UK HILL CLIMB

HARDKNOTT PASS

Cycling Hardknott Pass - sign for 30% grade, bike leaning against stone fence, PJAMM Cycling jersey draped over bike, roadway at top of climb

Hardknott Pass is a magnificent bucket list climb for all cyclists, not just British citizens.  This is our favorite of Simon Warren’s 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs.  Hardknott Pass is a 10/10 in Simon Warren’s book and while that means it’s difficulty is 10 on a scale of 10, it could be a 10 for challenge and a 10 also for scenery.  This ride is simply an amazing experience.


[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.