Top 5 Steepest Roads in the UK

Take a trip to the UK's steepest roads and discover some challenging tarmac to tackle – just make sure you have the right wheels under you.

Published 15 Jun 2018, 22:50 BST
The UK may not be home to the world's steepest roads or have miles and miles ...
The UK may not be home to the world's steepest roads or have miles and miles of twisting alpine tarmac, but there are still plenty of gems to find if you know where to go.

Whether on foot or behind the wheel, mankind has never been able to resist the challenge of a climb. And while the UK might not be the most mountainous country in the world it still has plenty of challenging inclines.

Here are five of the steepest climbs in the UK, each one a punishing workout for any normal car - but maybe less taxing for one of Subaru’s go-anywhere SUVs with their permanent four-wheel drive.

1 Porlock Hill, Somerset

Connecting Somerset to Devon and sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean and for a stretch, the Exmoor National Park, the A39 is a stunning drive - but one with a real sting as it leaves Porlock heading west.

The route is not recommended for HGVs and caravans but that hasn’t stopped several being saved by the two emergency escape lanes over the years. Trembling types can take the more relaxed toll road, but you needn’t fear The Hill in a Subaru thanks to the secure grip provided by permanent Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive.

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Peruse the local village museum’s photographic archive of drivers that got it wrong before ditching the car to tackle a section of the stunning south west coastal path.

Hardknott Pass in Cumbria is the second part of a climb out of Ambleside. The first and not quite so steep is Wrynose Pass and both provide a challenge to any driver.

2 Hardknott Pass, Cumbria

You get two tortuous routes for the price of one with this climb, because attacking the 393m tall Hardknott Pass from the tourist hub that is Ambleside means first tackling Wrynose Pass, a tough challenge in itself, but here only the warmup for the main event. Originally part of a Roman road, Hardknott is steeper, narrower and twister than its sister. Feeling brave? Try the route in reverse: the climb up Hardknott is much more serious than the descent. You’ll definitely be thankful for permanent four-wheel drive and the strong pulling power of a Subaru’s boxer engine.

See this:

Take a look at the remains of the Roman Fort or if the weather is poor - a real possibility in the Lakes - visit nearby Dove Cottage, former home of English poet William Wordsworth.

No matter which of our steepest roads you fancy driving, using a Subaru means you'll have Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive and great cornering agility. Ideal for peace of mind when heading up or down those steep inclines.

3 Bealach na ba, Scottish Highlands

Originally a drover’s road, hence the name, which translates from Gaelic as Pass of the Cattle, Bealach cuts through the Applecross Peninsula in the Scottish Highlands, but with its looping hairpin turns it could just as easily pass for a Swiss mountain road. Technically the 626m peak is only Scotland’s third highest, but because it rises from sea level, it’s also the steepest. Though only one lane wide but hosting traffic in both directions, there are numerous stopping places and a parking area at the top where you can catch your breath and grab some spectacular pictures of the valley below you.

See this:

Tackle one of Wester Ross’s famed mountain climbs or track the road around Loch Carron and cross the bridge to the Isle of Skye

Bealach na ba is Gaelic for Pass of the Cattle, and this single track road used to be a drover's road.

4 Ffordd pen llech, North Wales

The steepest road in the UK is not a spectacular pass cutting through a remote mountain range but a suburban street in North Wales. Bristol’s Vale Street might look more severe but Ffordd Pen Lech in Harlech, Snowdonia, is the steepest signed, public, sealed road in the UK - and it has the 40% grade badge to prove it. In fact the real figure is just shy of 37% but was rounded up in normal Highway Authority practice for the purposes of signage. Not that anyone who has tried to walk or drive up it will quibble over the odd percentage point.

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Built in the 13th Century by Edward I during his invasion of Wales, Harlech Castle is rated by Unesco as one of the finest examples of military architecture from this period in Europe


5 Rosedale Chimney Bank, North Yorks

Nothing remains of the 100ft high Victorian chimney that gave its name to this hill between Rosedale Abbey and Hutton-le-Hole in the North Yorks Moors. Once part of an ironstone mine, it was demolished in 1972, by which time the road had been sealed to make it safer, but the climb remains almost as punishing as it was a century ago. Soaring 568m in the space of 0.81miles, the average gradient is a moderate 13 per cent, but in places that rises to 1 in 3. Little wonder local cyclists call it ‘The Chain Breaker’, though it’ll take more than Rosedale to break a famously dependable Subaru.

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Rosedale is located right in the middle of the North York Moors National Park and there are several great walks close to the bank. Alternately, head for the coast and Whitby to see the Captain Cook Memorial Museum.



If you want to get away from the well travelled road, then you need a car that can tackle the steep and twisty back roads to take you to the heart of an adventure.
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