Climbing is a key skill in cycling, requiring stamina, technique, endurance and of course an incline to pit yourself against. The UK has a number of iconic road climbs which are tough and challenging for a number of reasons, whether it’s the gradient, length or even the exposed locations.
We asked Simon Warren, author of the 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs book series, to select 10 of the most iconic climbs in the UK. From Olympic favourites such as Box Hill in Surrey to remote and wild Bealach-Na-Ba in Scotland, these are the must-ride climbs that every cyclist should add to their bucket list. Ensure you embark upon some serious hill climbing training before attempting these.
These 10 climbs also feature on a new training DVD based around Warren’s popular books. The 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs DVD gives you the opportunity to experience these epic climbs from the comfort of your own pain cave – good training for taking them on in real life!
Related: Top 5 Toughest Cycling Climbs
1. Box Hill
- Location: Dorking Surrey
- Length: 2,480m
- Height gain: 120m
- 100 Climbs rating: 3/10
Box hill – iconic due to its inclusion in the 2012 olympic road race:
A view of the Box Hill climb taken from the 100 Greatest Climbs DVD
Let’s start with a nice easy one: Box Hill, now world famous thanks to it’s inclusion in the London 2012 Olympics road race course. Come rain or shine, day or night, you’re guaranteed company as riders of all abilities hammer themselves up the slopes to log a time on Strava. The gradient is steady and all but uniform and never too tough from base to summit, through the two fantastic hairpin bends cutting their way across the beautiful hillside to the café at the top.
2. The Tumble
- Location: Govilon Monmouthshire
- Length: 5,100m
- Height gain: 399m
- 100 Climbs rating: 7/10
The tumble, at govilon in monmouthshire. one of the most featured and frequently ridden climbs in wales. :
One of the most feared and frequently ridden climbs in Wales, The Tumble offers a substantial challenge to any rider and was
used as a ‘mountain top finish’ at the 2014 Tour of Britain. Begin the climb in the village of Govilon and climb gently past houses, then bend hard left where the road becomes steeper through the trees. Next, bending sharp right, the tarmac deteriorates as you begin the long abrasive slog to the summit. Pass Keepers Pond on the right and finish just past a junction on the left.
3. Hardknott Pass
- Location: Eskdale, Cumbria
- Length: 2,250m
- Height gain: 298m
- 100 Climbs rating: 10/10
Hardknott pass – hard by name, hard by nature:
Just about the hardest climb in the land, this legendary pass is enough to give even the strongest riders nightmares. Toughest from the east, enter the first of two sets of brutal switchbacks and wrench bike and body through the 25 percent corners. There’s a brief leveling then you get to the second set of switchbacks. Steeper still, these now 30 percent slopes will have you straining every sinew as your front wheel desperately searches for a kinder gradient and you weave from side to side fighting to stay upright. To put your foot down is to fail, but don’t worry, you are in good company because it’s happened to me on many occasions.
4. Winnats Pass
- Location: Castleton, Derbyshire
- Length: 1,680m
- Height gain: 198m
- 100 Climbs rating: 8/10
For sheer drama, nothing matches Winnats Pass, a winding road through a natural cleft, surrounded by towering, grass-covered limestone pinnacles – it’s just beautiful. With every grinding pedal stroke the sky opens up a little as the high banks fade away, but the slope never eases, not for a moment. The sign at the bottom says it’s 1-in-5 and it is, all the way to the top… meaning you’ll have plenty of time to soak up the amazing scenery.
5. Mow Cop
- Location: Mow Cop, Staffordshire
- Length: 1,505m
- Height gain: 170m
- 100 Climbs rating: 9/10
The final section of mow cop in staffordshire is so steep that sportive photographers position themselves here to catch the frequent sideways falls:
Mow Cop’s final section is so steep that during sportives photographers position themselves here to capture riders as they topple sideways. Cruel, maybe. Entertaining, certainly! To fully test your legs, begin from the railway crossing at its base – the road gets steeper and steeper until you reach the 25 percent 200-metre ramp. Here you must engage your lowest gear, get out of the saddle and push those pedals over to make it past the Cheshire View Inn without your feet touching the tarmac.
6. Cheddar Gorge
- Location: Cheddar Somerset
- Length: 3,540m
- Height gain: 150m
- 100 Climbs rating: 3/10
Cheddar gorge in somerset features a beautiful smooth road and stunning surroundings :
The beautifully smooth road snakes up through the famous gorge, with its rock faces towering around you. The stiffest climbing lies lower down its slopes where it hits 16 percent through a couple of bends. After sweeping right then left you’re through the worst and as the sides of the gorge diminish, so does the severity of the slope. With each revolution you’ll gain momentum, click up through the gears and finish with a flourish as the road flattens on the hilltop.
7. Nick O’ Pendle
- Location: Sabden, Lancashire
- Length: 1,300m
- Height gain: 145m
- 100 Climbs rating: 6/10
NIck o pendle:
This well-used hill climb course leaves Sabden, climbing steeply straight away at 14 percent, as you pass houses on your right and cars to your left. The rough surface, deteriorating at the edges, makes it very hard to keep on top of your gear in your fight against gravity. Heading upwards, dead straight, the cars and houses are soon replaced by grassy verges and gorse bushes for the rest of the journey to the infamous ‘Nick O’ Pendle’.
8. Rosedale Chimney
- Location: Rosedale Abbey, North Yorkshire Moors
- Length: 1,430m
- Height gain: 179m
- 100 Climbs rating: 10/10
Rosedale chimney at rosedale abbey, in the north yorkshire moors:
At the base of the infamous Rosedale Chimney the sign warns you of the 1-in-3 – yes, 1-in-3 – gradient to come. This wicked climb isn’t for the faint-hearted. Once out of the village the second bend is so steep it’s almost impossible to ride, but it’s still not the toughest part. When the road straightens it’s just ridiculous – your principle task here is simply pedaling your lowest gear without snapping your knees, never mind moving forward.
9. The Shibden Wall
- Location: Halifax, Yorkshire
- Length: 910m
- Height gain: 133m
- 100 Climbs rating: 8/10
The shibden wall in halifax, yorkshire, is one of the best cobbled climbs in the uk (if not the world!):
Forget the cobbles of Belgium, the best cobbled climbs are to be found in Halifax, Yorkshire. Don’t get me wrong, the Belgian climbs are tough, but in my opinion it’s Yorkshire that has bragging rights and the Shibden Wall is one of the best. It begins to climb on tarmac, so make the most of this because as you hit the rough stuff you will be thrown from your saddle. Ramping up over 25 percent round its steepest corner and featuring gaps between the stones big enough to swallow you and your bike, it is one almighty challenge to conquer.
- Location: Applecross, Highland
- Length: 8,980m
- Height gain: 623m
- 100 Climbs rating: 11/10
Bealach-Na-Ba is challenging at the best of times – add the frequent inclement weather and you’ve got a climb that’s not for the feint hearted:
Bealach-Na-Ba is the wildest climb in Britain, never mind its 9km length and 623m elevation gain, it’s the weather here that will get you, it’s always evil in some way or another! It’s incredible to ride either way, but it’s the road from Tornapress, heading north-west that has made this road a legend. It’s not too steep on the early slopes but boy is it steep later on, and past the halfway point it becomes simply brutal. For close to 500m you will be trapped on a stretch of 20 percent climbing, your whole life in limbo as you crawl up towards the relative safety of the tangle of hairpins at the top. Still fearsome through the corners but nowhere near as nasty as what proceeded them they mark the beginning of the end of this monster of a climb.
Your hill-climbing training this winter doesn’t have to be just on the bike either. BikeRadar has advice to help you improve at climbing without the hills, and coach Chris Baldwin has some tips to help you climb like a pro cyclist. Come the spring, there’ll be no stopping you.
Which of these 10 uk climbs is your favourite?