5 Hardest Climbs In The UK

Bealach na Bà
Check out the climbs a little closer to home (Credit: G Laird)

What the UK lacks in twenty-kilometre mountain passes it certainly makes up for in short, steep climbs. Although you won’t be climbing all day when tackling these brutes, you will have to face the UK’s toughest factor, the weather. Pedalsure has already brought you The 10 Toughest Climbs In Cycling and it got us thinking: what about the climbs a little closer to home? It is sometimes difficult to seek out tough climbs to tackle, so we've found them for you.

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Hardest cycling climbs in the UK
The 5 hardest cycling climbs in the UK (Please link to Pedalsure.com if using elsewhere)

Bealach na Bà

The closest to an Alpine mountain climb that the UK has to offer is Bealach na Bà (“Pass of the Cattle” in Scottish Gaelic) on the west coast of Scotland. Rising from sea level to 626 metres over a stretch of 9.2km, Bealach na Bà has the most elevation gain of any road climb in the UK. With sections topping out at close to 20%, this is an absolute brute of a ride. It’s not just the steep gradients you’ll have to contend with either, you may also be battling some ferocious weather. It’s all worth it though as the view from the peak over the Skye and the Outer Hebrides is breath-taking (pending the weather…). For an added challenge you can turn right at the top of the road and follow a gravel track up to the next peak.

Location: Wester Ross, Scottish Highlands

Length: 9.2km

Average gradient: 6.8%

Maximum gradient: 15.6%

Elevation gain: 626m

KOM time: 27:23

QOM time: 33:17

Stwlan Dam

Another picturesque and relatively long climb is Wales’s answer to Bealach na Bà, the track to Stwlan Dam. The road is closed to cars so after you lift your bike over a gate you should have the climb to yourself. After two kilometres of steep valley climbing, you turn the corner and are rewarded with an incredible view of the imposing Stwlan Dam, towering over you like a set piece to a James Bond movie. From there, you face the toughest challenge of the climb as you tackle eight tight hairpin bends, which are great for any rider keen for an Alpine fix.

Location: Ffestiniog, North Wales

Length: 2.8km

Average gradient: 9.7%

Maximum gradient: 16.8%

Elevation gain: 269m

KOM time: 08:57

QOM time: 12:23

Ffordd Penllech

How does ‘steepest public road’ in the world sound? With a maximum gradient of 37.45% the Guinness World Records gave Ffordd Penllech that accolade in 2019. It's certainly the steepest road in the UK. It’s so steep that the road is actually a one-way street going down, but cyclists can try their luck on this wall at the Harlech Hill Climb which had its inaugural running last year. The KOM and QOM times may be under two minutes and 300 metres may not sound like a lot, but most of the battle will be simply staying on your pedals. Very low gears needed for this one we think.

Location: Harlech, North Wales

Length: 300m

Average gradient: 16.3%

Maximum gradient: 37.45%

Elevation gain: 54m

KOM time: 0:51

QOM time: 01:45

Hardknott Pass

Hardknott Pass is one of the most legendary and well-loved UK climbs and for good reason. The pass features heavily in one of our Top 8 UK Sportives, the Fred Whitton Challenge. Like most climbs in this part of the country, the going gets tough straight away as the hardest gradients can be found at the base of the ascent. With hairpins, gradients and great views, there’s no wonder Hardknott Pass is a proper bucket list climb.

Location: Cockley Beck, Cumbria

Length: 2.2km

Average gradient: 13.3%

Maximum gradient: 20.5%

Elevation gain: 298m

KOM time: 08:41

QOM time: 13:07

Trooper Lane

If Bealach na Bà is the UK’s answer to Alpe d’Huez, then Trooper Lane is the UK’s version of the Koppenberg. The first 300 metres are on an energy sapping paved road with two steep speed scrubbing hairpins before the road surface quickly changes. You’d be forgiven for thinking you’d been teleported to a Belgian berg because you’ll suddenly be fighting for traction on a cobbled track with sections up to 27.7%. It would take a brave rider indeed to tackle the ‘Trooperberg’ in the wet…

Location: Halifax, Yorkshire

Length: 700m

Average gradient: 19.1%

Maximum gradient: 27.7%

Elevation gain: 137m

KOM time: 03:38

QOM time: 06:02

So, the UK does have some hard climbs. At first it may seem like we’re trumped by the rest of Europe’s combined strength of steep bergs and high-climbing cols, but on closer inspection we can see that there’s plenty of riding here too.

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