Cycling Hardknott Pass and Wrynose Pass
Cycling Up Hardknott Pass- England's Hardest Cycling Climb
The Climb of Hardknott Pass climbs out of peaceful and serene Eskdale from the west over a road which is believed to have been built by the Romans around 2AD. Their influence remains with Hardknott Fort situated at the top of this beast which is revered as the hardest cycling climb in England.
Hardnott and Wrynose Pass are just two of the mountain passes that can be cycled in the Lake District area of northern England.
Hardknott Pass From Eskdale
Climbing Out of Eskdale In The Lake District
The climb itself begins at the far eastern end of Eskdale after you cycle over the cattle grid at Jubilee Bridge (Ordnance Survey Map Grid Ref NY 213 012). The climb starts about two kilometres past the Woolpack Inn at Eskdale where lunch is definitely not recommended prior to your arduous ascent. They have an excellent on site brewery which should also be missed if you’re serious about getting to the top of England’s hardest road cycling climb.
The Hardest Cycling Climb In England
From the cattle grid at Jubilee Bridge the first of the hairpin bends begin with an average gradient around 25%. If you’re on a road bike for this climb you’ll likely be down to a 39x25 gearing or lower if you have any cogs further to go down. Compact chainsets must have been made with climbs like this in mind and there’s no shame in riding one (or even a triple chainset but that’s tantamount to treason amongst many road cyclists).
A glance upwards shows a meandering road twisting and turning into switchback after switchback up into the distant horizon
After the first hairpins you’re hoping the gradient will ease off and your wish is briefly granted for a few hundred metres as you hit the halfway point of the climb starting to question why on earth someone would build a road so torturous and starting to question your ability to rise to the challenge of Hardknott Pass. You’re hoping for more of a respite but that never comes as the the road instead reaches further for the sky with even steeper switchbacks averaging 30% for a further 500 metres of pain.
The road finally eases off for the final few hundred metres of the climb which takes you up to an altitude of 393m (Ordnance Survey Map Grid Ref NY 231 014) after a 2250m climb and showcases some of the amazing Lakeland Fells in the distance as you stop at the top to gulp in more air. You’ve done it- You’re at the top of the hardest road cycling climb in England.
You're Now At The Summit- Where To Next?
Congratulations. You've conquered arguably England's hardest Mountain Pass
You have three potential options from here.
- the challenging descent down to Cockley Beck and another mammoth climb over Wrynose.(Keep reading for more information)
- Turn off at Cockley Beck and follow the idyllic Dunnerdale to Seathwaite
- Or turn back in the direction you came up the climb for a well earned pint of real ale at the Woolpack Inn back in Eskdale to toast your achievement.
Hardknott Pass And Wrynose Pass In The English Lake District
The climb of Hardknott Pass starts after the Woolpack Inn, Boot. Continue East on the main road.
The tope of Wrynose Pass, with views out across the Lake District
The summit of England's hardest road cycling climb.
Take the turn-off at Cockley Beck and travel down Dunnerdale towards Seathwaite
England's Second Hardest Climb- Wrynose Pass
Wrynose Pass is much lesser known than the majestic and imposing Hardknott Pass but offers an amazing climb for cyclists visiting the Lake District to test their legs. Any Mountain Pass that cuts between the Coniston Fells to the South and Scafell Massif to the North (Including Scafell Pike, Englands Highest Peak at 978m) has to be treated with deep respect.
Cycling Wrynose Pass From Cockley Beck
Tackling Wrynose Pass from Cockley Beck offers a cycling climb that starts off similar in gradient to many continental Mountain roads but the British tradition of building over a hill, as opposed to around it is showcased with a steep final ascent which gives way to amazing views of the Langdales on the descent.
Wrynose Bottom And A 20% Push To The Summit
Wrynose pass has to be one of the most beautifully set roads in the Lake District. When tackled by bike from Cockley Beck the road starts to rise gently as you follow the course of the beck (which more resembles a river) along a valley dwarfed by great fells over each shoulder.
A kilometre of gentle valley road brings the impending climb closer and closer until you pass over a cattle grid. From here the road starts its first steep snakes upward through Wrynose Bottom with steep imposing fells on either side.
3 kilometres from Cockley Beck the road starts to rear up and get steeper. With an initial surge up over 10% followed by a period of around 200 meters at over 20% before the plateau that forms the summit and affords beautiful views out towards Langdale and the Eastern Lake District.
Once again you're going to need a gearing in excess of a 39x25 to tackle Wrynose Pass by bike.