United Kingdom - Top Bike 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
(sort by distance, difficulty, elevation and more)

Cycling the United Kingdom

photo collage shows rows of British flags, signs reading "Welcome to Scotland," "Welcome to Wales," and "Welcome to England"

Over summer 2018 we documented Simon Warren’s 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs, Great Britain.  We returned in 2022 to document the hardest bike climbs per (a) Fiets index (objective), and (b) Simon Warren’s picks.  Before our 2022 trip, Simon provided us eight Top 10 lists: Top 10 Hardest and Top 10 Most Epic for: England, Wales, Scotland, and the United Kingdom.

Our United Kingdom page is arranged by categories (default is hardest using the Dutch cycling magazine Fiets formula) which can be changed between hardest, longest, highest start/finish, lowest start/finish, greatest altitude gained, steepest gradients, or name using the filters to the left of the map mid-way down this page.

100 Greatest Cycling Climbs, Britain (located in the menu section under the home directory “Bike Climbing Books”) is arranged in order of the number Simon Warren has assigned to each of the 100 climbs (which is geographically oriented.  For example: numbers 1 (Cheddar Gorge) through 13 (Dovers Hill) are in the Southwest, 14 (Box Hill) through 27 (Swain’s Lane) the Southeast and so on.

THE HARDEST BIKE CLIMB IN THE UK - FIETS

THE COWLYD, WALES

view atop green hillside looking down narrow one-lane gravel roadway

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.  This climb is ranked #1 UK and Wales on PJAMM’s FIETS formula-based difficulty index, as well as the UK Top Hardest Climbs list provided to us by Simon Warren before our second trip to document the UK’s top climbs in 2022 -- thus, it’s The Real Deal!

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

THE HARDEST BIKE CLIMB IN THE UK - SIMON WARREN

BAMFORD CLOUGH

bike parked next to sign reading "unsuitable for motor vehicles"

Cycling Bamford Clough - the steepest bike climb in the UK.

Ride only 3/10ths of a mile but gain 381’ at 24% over that stretch!

photo collage includes roadsigns for Bamford in the High Peak, Cyclists and horse riders dismount, narrow paved road

Simon Warren’s Top 10 Hardest Bike Climbs - United Kingdom are: (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.

THE HIGHEST BIKE CLIMB IN THE UK

THE GREAT DUN FELL

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.

photo collage shows roadway stretching through vast green pastureland leading to white domed radio tower

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.

Garmin device reads 128 miles, 8954 meters

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

Read about Charlie’s Everest at Thoughts on Everesting.

THE LONGEST BIKE CLIMB IN THE UK

LOWTHER HILL

bike parked along roadside next to sign for Wanlockhead, highest village in Scotland

Cycling Lowther Hill, Scotland

Ride 15.7 kilometers gaining 536 meters at 2.9% average grade (4.6% climb only).

Lowther Hill is a climb up through Scottish history. The halfway point of the climb passes through the former, and aptly named, town of Leadhill. From our climbing route, former mining sites are visible in the distance near the old town of Leadhill. Additionally you’ll pass the oldest subscription library in Britain, which was started by the town's miners in the 1700s.  Past Leadhill and up a few tough pitches, you’ll cross the town line of Wanlockhead, which holds the title of being the Highest Village in Scotland. From Wanlockhead, you turn left onto a private access road to reach the radar stations at the summit of our climb. Although the road is marked as private, I think this is really just to keep cars out and is not applicable to cyclists and hikers. If you're lucky enough to have clear skies, the summit views are staggering. But, the sun rarely shines out this way, so be prepared for a wet day.

photo collage shows signs for Leadhills Miners Library, Dumfries and Galloway

Lowther Hill has 1.8 miles of descent in between longer ascents.  The longest hill climb in the UK without any descent is Bealach Na Ba in Scotland (see Most Epic UK Climb, below).

THE MOST EPIC BIKE CLIMB IN THE UK - SIMON WARREN

BEALACH NA BA

panoramic view of Bealach Na Ba climb in scottland, green mountainside with roadway cutting through center

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 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 it is the only climb in the United Kingdom listed in Daniel Friebe’s exceptional climbing books, Mountain High and Mountain Higher (see pages 28-31 of Mountain Higher).  This is a bucket-list climb; it’s a chore to get to, but well worth the effort.

photo collage shows panoramic views of gorgeous green valley and stair-step mountainsides, roadway cuts through center of valley

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

“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).

Not only is this the most epic bike climb in all the United Kingdom, it is also ranks as the hardest in Scotland and the fourth hardest in the UK.

photo collage shows serpentine road and hairpin turns up the green mountainside

4/10ths of a mile of serpentine road and hairpins leading to the finish.

Simon Warren’s Top 10 UK Most Epic Bike Climbs:  (1) Bealach na Ba, Scotland, (2) Stwlan Dam, Wales, (3) Bwlch y Groes, Wales, (4) Winnats Pass, England, (5) The Great Dun Fell, England, (6) Hardknott Pass, England, (7) Maovally, Scotland, (8) The Wall of Talla, Scotland, (9) The Burway, England and, (1) Fleet Moss, England.

THE STEEPEST BIKE CLIMB IN THE UK

BAMFORD CLOUGH

bike parked next to street sign reading 35% grade and Quiet Lane

The first 200 meters of this climb average 28%.

street sign reads "Cyclists and Horse Riders Dismount"

As of it’s 2020 paving, Bamford Clough is now the steepest paved road in the UK, by quite a margin.  It may also be the steepest paved road in the world, potentially just edging out Baldwin Street in Dunedin, New Zealand (Guinness Book of World Records).

sign for Guinness World Records, 40% grade

Ffordd Pen Llech

Ffordd Pen Llech was the previous Guinness World Record holder at 28.6% before a 2020 appeal by Baldwin Street representatives to Guinness.

OUR FAVORITE UK HILL CLIMBS NOT MENTIONED ABOVE

HARDKNOTT PASS

photo collage shows wet conditions, 30% grade road sign, road is spray painted to read "Well Done"

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 a 10/10 in Simon Warren’s Top 100 Climbs book (p. 143) and while that means its difficulty is 10 on a scale of 10, it could also be a 10 for challenge and a 10 also for scenery.  This ride is simply an amazing experience.

STWLAN DAM

view of one-lane roadway surrounded by green pastureland and rocky hillside, huge dam in middle background

Cycling the incomparable Stwlan Dam, Wales

Ride 1.8 miles gaining 916’ at 10% average grade.

This is a PJAMM Cycling favorite and a must do climb, even if you have to travel hours to do it. Simon Warren ranks this as the most epic bike climb in Wales and #2 in all the UK.

photo collage includes aerial drone view of roadway and dam

MULL OF KINTYRE

sharp U shaped turn in roadway at steep gradient

Cycling Mull of Kintyre, Scotland

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 the 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.

photo collage shows foggy overcast views along the climb; green pasturelands and steep gradients along the ride

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.

aerial drone view shows roadway snaking up green rocky pastureland

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

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