We have traveled through the United Kingdom in 2018 and 2022 to document its hardest and most epic climbs there. This page is a list of Simon Warren’s (Greatest Cycling Climbs Books) picks for the 10 Most Epic Bike Climbs in England.
Photos clockwise from top left: #1 Winnats Pass; #2 The Great Dun Fell
#5 Fleet Moss; #4 The Burway; #3 Hardknott Pass
The top 10 in descending order:
SIMON WARREN #10 MOST EPIC CLIMB IN ENGLAND
Cycling Birker Fell
Ride 2.4 miles gaining 851’ at 6.2% average grade (7.8% climb only).
You’ll reach Birker Fell after traveling some amazingly narrow farm roads lined with tall hedges. The narrow road traverses the side of the mountain and challenges riders with double digit gradients for most of the first half of the climb. The second half of the climb exits the rocky canyon and enters a plateaued area surrounded by the tall mountains of the Lake District. This is active cattle ranch land and of course you’ll be among the sheep out there as well.
#9 MOST EPIC
Cycling Bowland Knotts
Ride 4.7 miles gaining 1,043’ at 3.9% average grade (5.3% climb only).
Deep in the farmlands of the Yorkshire Hills, Bowland Knotts begins just past an old stone bridge. The opening miles are a real tease, as you pass a couple of homesteads and the everpresent sheep that roam freely out in this area. Don’t be fooled by the seemingly standard Yorkshire scenery here though (and even here the sight is really something quite unique). Past the midpoint of the climb, you’ll leave the farms behind as the road cuts across the barren Yorkshire landscape and the scenery has the feeling of being from a strange separate planet.
#8 MOST EPIC
Cycling Newland Pass
Ride 1.2 miles gaining 711’ at 11.5% average grade
The Newlands Pass climb begins in our favorite corner of England - the Buttermere Lake and surrounding mountains. These tall mountains seem almost out of place - at least in our image of what England should look like. While the landscape could be mistaken for being the Pyrenees mountains in Italy, the climbs in this area have a distinctly English flavor to them. The Newlands climb begins just past the town of Buttermere. From the first to the final meters of the climb, the gradient is tough and the views are just stellar. You’ll have a waterfall behind during the opening portion of the climb, with views of many high mountains in the distance. At the finish, there is yet another amazing waterfall, which is also a popular hiking spot as well. And, despite being fairly off the beaten track, this area is frequented by many tourists.
#7 MOST EPIC
Cycling Cheddar Gorge
Ride 2.2 miles gaining 561’ at 4.8% average grade.
Cheddar Gorge is one of the most scenic of the GCC 100. What it lacks in challenge (it’s a relatively steady 5% grade over 3.6 km), it more than makes up for in stunning scenery, particularly the shear limestone walls of the gorge as we climb from the western edge of Cheddar (pop. 5,755, 2011) eastbound up the B3135.
Aerial drone views of Cheddar Gorge.
#6 MOST EPIC
Simon Warren writes of this climb, “the giant Buttertubs Pass is brilliant to climb from either direction." (100 Greatest Climbs p. 87). This great pass was also featured on Stage 1 of the 2014 Tour de France. Buttertubs is one of two Yorkshire climbs on Simon’s 10 Most Epic Climbs of England list.
#5 MOST EPIC
Cycling Fleet Moss
Ride 3.3 miles gaining 1,061’ at 6% average grade.
Of the climbs we have done thus far in England (50+ top bike climbs in 2018 and 2022), Fleet Moss is a strong contender for the top spot. She brings everything you could want to the table in a climb. We’ll start this one with the ancient town of Hawes (it really is ancient: producing cheese for over 1,000 years). They even have a popular creamery and museum near the start point of the climb. A tough kick of double digit gradients takes you out of the town and past a few last old stone buildings. After the scattered stone building it will be just you and the cows on the steep slope as the road follows the canyon up to the summit. Hawes is in view for most of the climb and old stone fences parallel the road for the duration. Fleet Moss is a must do in the Yorkshire area. Hope for good weather!
Since “Most Epic” is purely subjective, we will weigh in here - we put Fleet Moss at the top of England’s most epic climbs. But, rather #5 or #1, this is a Must Do bike climb - you will not regret the trip to Yorkshire Dales AONB to get ‘er done.
#4 MOST EPIC
The Long Mynd is a heath and moorland plateau that forms part of the Shropshire Hills.
Ride 1.9 miles gaining 920’ at 9.3% average grade.
In 2018, we began our 30 days of 100 Greatest Climbs Challenge near London, where most of the climbs are along routes bordered by trees blocking our views. GCC #39 is further north and approaching the eastern-central border of Wales, in this region there are wonderful open views of the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The climb is quite challenging at 9.4% average for three full kilometers, although that high average is significantly influenced by a brutal 15.6% stretch beginning at 500 meters.
We returned to the United Kingdom in June 2022 to further document the 10 hardest climbs in each country via the FIETS index and also to document each of the Top 10 Most Epic and Top 10 Hardest climbs the UK has to offer, per Simon Warren’s personal opinion. Thus, the Burway was on our list again, this time as Simon Warren’s selection for England’s fourth and the UK’s ninth Most Epic Climb.
Our views are of moors (uncultivated upland) and dales (valleys) with a purplish hue from blankets of heather covering much of the terrain. This is grazing and farmland and we do encounter livestock along the way (predominately sheep).
#3 MOST EPIC
Cycling Hardknott Pass West
Ride 3.2 kilometers gaining 314 meters at 9.8% average grade.
Hardknott Pass is an amazing, epic, and solid bucket list climb - a MUST DO. This is one of the many great bike climbs in the Lake District. Simon Warren ranks Hardknott Pass as the third most epic climb in England and the second hardest (10/10 for difficulty). In his UK hill climbing treaties, 100 Greatest Climbs, Simon Warren writes “The king of climbs and arguably the hardest road in the land, the legendary Hardknott Pass is an amazing sliver of tarmac” (p. 143).
#2 MOST EPIC
THE GREAT DUN FELL
Ride 4.6 miles gaining 2,044’ at 8.4% average grade.
This unique road bike climb is both the hardest 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. Simon Warren ranks this not only the second most epic, but also the third hardest in all of England.
SIMON WARREN #1 MOST EPIC CLIMB IN ENGLAND
Cycling Winnats Pass, England.
Ride 1.2 miles gaining 672’ at 11% average grade.
Simon 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 - A Road Cyclist's Guide to Britain's Hills, p. 63).
Extraordinary rock formations in Winnats Gorge.
Aerial views of Winnats Gorge.
That’s a wrap on three months cycling the UK to document it hardest and most epic bike climbs!