When it comes to cycling nothing boosts your fitness more than a good hill climb. With that in mind, we've come up with a list of some of the toughest climbs in the UK for you to have a go at. Add one of these to your London Bikeathon training and Box Hill will suddenly seem a doddle by comparison!
1. Hardknott Pass, Eskdale, Cumbria
Raising you up almost 300 metres in the space of less than 2.5 kilometres, Hardknott Pass more than lives up to it's billing as one of the UKs toughest climbs. The leg-wrecking climb begins at the warning sign at Jubilee Bridge, which is a cue for most to turn round and pedal home. The initial 25% gradient through a small woodland will stretch even the most competent of riders. A short flat section follows, giving you the chance to catch some of your breath back before the switchback corners return with avengeance. This is not a climb for the faint hearted. Big heart and big lungs are essential.
2. The Lecht, Cock Bridge, Aberdeenshire
Starting at Corgarff castle deep in the heart of the Cairngorms, this brute of an ascent sees you climb a staggering 245 metres in some of the most breath-taking scenery you’re ever likely to see, especially the approach to the final ascent up to the Alpine ski centre at its summit. It’s probably just as well that the scenery is so inspiring as there is nothing appealing about the 20 – 25% slopes after 3km and 20 minutes of steady climbing!
3. The Devil's Staircase
The Devil’s Staircase is a deceptively difficult climb. The initial 4.5/5% average gradient is nothing out of the ordinary and will be accomplished with ease however the section after the cattle grid will have the most experienced of climbers puffing and panting with a seemingly endless one in four slope kicks in. After what seems an eternity two slightly more gentle hairpins come in before an easy 3% slope to the top of the staircase. Devilish indeed.
4. Asterton Bank, Asterton, Shropshire
Do not be deceived by the name or the compartively short length of this climb as this is far from a bank and is considered by many cyclists as one of the toughest single kilometre stretches they've ever encountered. Locals call it far more disparaging names and just one look at the climb it’s easy to see what all the fuss is about. The narrow path is gravelly throughout and is unrelenting from start to finish. This is as good a leg-burner as any you are likely to find and will make any other climb seem a doddle by comparison.
5. Talland Hill, Polperro, Cornwall
Referred simply as ‘the road that’s too steep for cars’, Talland Hill is a car free 100 metre climb that will have you wishing you had more than a Cornish pasty for lunch. By no means the longest or most glamorous of ascents on the list but definitely not one to be underestimated, either. A couple of trips up and down this hill will have your legs burning and your heart pumping harder than any climb you'll have done before.
6. Bwlch-y-Groes, Dinas Mawddwy, Gwynedd
Also known as Hellfire Pass, Bwlch-y-Groes on the edge of Snowdonia is the highest tarmacked road in Wales. With a total ascent of 385 metres, the sheer length of the climb’s steep section is what makes this such a tough ride. With no let up from the get go, you’ll need to draw on every ounce of energy to make it to the top. Lactic acid build up is inevitable but worth it for the stunning views and the smug factor you'll have as you fly down the downhill section on the other side of the pass.
7. Bushcombe Lane, Woodmancote, Gloucestershire
Bushcombe Lane is a super tough climb in an area renowned for its hills. Snaking its way on high above the Gloucestershire countryside, the section with a 30% gradient after one of the hairpin bends is regarded by many as the toughest single stretch in the whole of the UK. With the gradient steadily increasing from the outset, it's hard to argue to the contrary. If you're a glutton for punishment there are two further climbs around Cleeve Hill for to test the legs further.
8. Bealach-na-Ba, Applecross, Highlands
This is without question the wildest climb on the list and is also one of the most beautiful. Taking you up and over the top of Bealach-na-Ba. Rideable in either direction, the better climb is the one up from the road out of Tomapress. Head North-West and turn left at the Head of Loch Kishorn to begin the ascent which is comfortable enough at first. Don't be fooled, though, as before long you'll be tackling 20% gradients, overhanging cliff faces and a set of devilish hairpin bends. Thankfully the road levels at points between the bends, giving you a chance to catch your breath. Just shy of 9 kilometres in length 623 metres in total ascent this ride requires serious stamina, rendering it inadvisable for all but the most accomplished of riders.