Inspired by the Classics? Here are 15 of the UK’s toughest cobbled climbs

Forget the Tour of Flanders, here are the toughest cobbled ascents to tackle on these shores

The iconic cobbled climbs of the Tour of Flanders take centre stage on Sunday (April 1) for the 102nd edition of the Ronde, the second Monument of the year.

With the Muur back on the agenda, and the Koppenberg, Paterberg and Oude Kwaremont all set to play a key role in the race, Flanders’ cobbled bergs are as intrinsically linked to cycling as the biggest Alpine passes.

But if you want your own taste of the cobbled action, you don’t have to head to Flanders, with plenty of thigh-numbing cobbled ascents to test your mettle on UK shores.

You don’t have to go searching overseas for cobbled climbs to ride (pic – Allan McKenzie/

Flanders-inspired sportives such as the Cheshire Classic and Ronde van Calderdale have thrown the spotlight on the UK’s best cobbled climbs.

– The climbs of theTour of Flanders –

And, while generally speaking cobblestoned hills are becoming a thing of the past as local governments pull up the uneven surfaces in favour of tarmac, there are still some plenty worth tackling.

We’ve picked out 15 of the best…

Swiss Hill, Alderley Edge

Alderley Edge in Cheshire is better known for its big houses, resident footballers and the so-called ‘Cheshire Set’, but tucked away off the beaten track is one of the UK’s toughest cobbled climbs.

Swiss Hill is so tough, in fact, Team Sky have been known to use the climb as training ahead of the Tour of Flanders.

As with most cobbled climbs it is only short – though at half-a-kilometre it’s a positive giant compared to others in this list – and it ramps up nastily right at the start.

The gradient on the narrow, damp, cobbled climb eases from the one-in-five ramps at the start, but maintains an average gradient of 14 per cent.

Unsurprisingly, it is one of the highlights of the Cheshire Classic sportive as a result.

Vital statistics

Distance: 0.5km
Average gradient: 14 per cent
When to ride: Cheshire Classic sportive

The Corkscrew, Bollington

If Swiss Hill has you wincing at the thought of it, and puts you off the Cheshire Classic, then the Corkscrew is going to take it to another level.

It twists its way on a narrow stretch of rough cobbles and has an average gradient of one in three over just 0.2km.

The brutal cobbled climb of the Corkscrew is the highlight of the Cheshire Cobbled Classic (Pic: Cycle Classics)

At its steepest, the gradient touches 45 per cent, and Cheshire Classic organisers claim no rider – including the pros who have tackled the event – have ever made it all the way up the ‘absurdly steep’ ascent.

And yes, we did just say 45 per cent gradient – ‘absurdly steep’ doesn’t even do it justice.

Vital statistics

Distance: 0.2km
Average gradient: 33 per cent
When to ride: Cheshire Classic sportive

Michaelgate, Lincoln

Lincoln’s cobbled Michaelgate climb has become an iconic part of the British racing calendar, thanks to its place at the heart of the Lincoln GP.

Lincoln also hosted the National Championships in 2015, with the climb again taking centre stage, and it’s easy to see why.

Michaelgate is at the heart of the Lincoln GP and also hosted the British National Championships in 2015 (pic – Allan McKenzie/

Not only is it an iconic location in the city itself – flanked by the castle and cathedral – the 11 per cent average gradient and maximum slopes of 20 per cent gradient split races apart as riders invariably have to tackle it multiple times.

The cobbles themselves, thanks to its city-centre location, are well worn but only two Strava riders have ever dipped below the minute-mark on the ascent – Ian Bibby and Tour of Flanders-bound WorldTour pro Scott Thwaites.

Vital statistics

Distance: 0.3km
Average gradient: 11 per cent
When to ride: Lincoln GP Sportive

Old Lane, Luddenden

The real home of cobbled climbs on UK soil is Calderdale, however, with the Ronde van Calderdale sportive having picked out some of the best cobbled action to be found on these shores.

We could have picked out several to feature here, but in the interests of keeping things varied geographically we’ve honed in on some of the toughest.

And among those, Old Lane in the deceptively picturesque Luddenden is one of the sportive’s highlights.

It’s the sort of climb that demands you keep going, while simultaneously trying to drain every last sinew of energy from your legs.

It will burn, but lose momentum and you’ll be pushing your bike on foot the rest of the way up the 20+ per cent average gradient slopes.

Vital statistics

Distance: 0.2km
Average gradient: 21.8 per cent
When to ride: Ronde van Calderdale

Shibden Wall, Halifax

Another of the Ronde van Calderdale’s highlights is Shibden Wall, which also featured at the 2017 Tour de Yorkshire on a brutal third stage, which brought plenty of fans out to watch the pros suffer on the ascent.

As with Old Lane, the climb starts with a tarmacked section to get the blood pumping before you hit half a mile of cobbles – a relatively long climb compared to others in the list.

The Tour de Yorkshire got its own taste of Flanders last year, with fans lining Shibden Wall in the sort of numbers you would expect on the Muur at Sunday’s Tour of Flanders (Pic: Alex

The average gradient is a thigh-numbing 15 per cent, but that ramps up even further at a sweeping left-hander.

Instinct will tell you take the inside line around the bend, but the absurd gradient means you’re far better going the long way around so to speak.

Even then you must contend with gradients approaching the one-in-four mark. Anyone not on form when they hit the ascent is in for a nasty surprise – it’s not called the Shibden Wall for nothing.

Vital statistics

Distance: 0.8km
Average gradient: 15.3 per cent
When to ride: Ronde van Calderdale

Trooper Lane, Halifax

Sticking with Halifax, Shibden Wall may have been chosen by the Tour de Yorkshire, but locals will tell you the really tough test is actually Trooper Lane.

And on bare statistics it’s hard to argue, with a gradient rarely dipping below one-in-five, even before you hit the cobbles.

Trooper Lane is regarded as being even tougher than Shibden Wall (pic – Tejvan Pettinger, via Flickr Creative Commons)

A small bank of cobbles introduces the climb, before a section of tarmac ramps up sharply to ensure you are already close to the limit when the cobblestones start again.

The cobbles themselves are relatively well-maintained, but there are a few uneven sections to contend with towards the summit, by which point the gradient is nearer 25 per cent.

In short, Trooper Lane is relentlessly, brutally steep

Vital statistics

Distance: 0.7km
Average gradient: 19.1 per cent
When to ride: Ronde van Calderdale

Thwaites Brow, Keighley

Our final selection from Calderdale is the longest on this list, with Thwaites Brow some 1.2km in length, at an average gradient of more than ten per cent.

Where Trooper Lane is generally well-maintained, Thwaites Brow in Keighley is anything but, just to ramp up the difficulty even further.

An uneven camber, sweeping hairpins where the gradient reaches 25 per cent, and erratic cobblestones all add up to one seriously tough climb.

Vital statistics

Distance: 1.2km
Average gradient: 10.2 per cent
When to ride: Ronde van Calderdale

South Street, Durham

South Street in Durham is not the most difficult of cobbled climbs on this list, but it’s another that has found an integral place on the British racing calender.

A Tour Series regular, the cobbled climb is at the heart of the Durham race which has become such a fans favourite since its 2010 inception.

South Street’s cobbled climb is an integral part of the ever-popular Durham round of the Tour Series

At 0.4km long and with an average gradient of 3.9 per cent, it pales into insignificance compared to others on the list, but featuring at the end of a rapid descent, and climbing sharply from the bottom – on narrow roads – it can blow apart the criterium races.

Vital statistics

Distance: 0.4km
Average gradient: 3.9 per cent

Victoria Street, Edinburgh

Another cobbled climb to earn a place on the Tour Series itinerary is Edinburg’s Victoria Street, which formed the heart of 2016’s round in the Scottish capital.

It is shorter than South Street, at 0.2km, but almost twice as steep thanks to an average gradient of 8.6 per cent.

Victoria Street is Edinburgh’s answer to South Street for the Tour Seris (pic – Rapahel Checkroun, via Flickr Creative Commons)

Cobbled streets are relatively plentiful in Edinburgh, but Victoria Street’s return to the Tour Series route proved a popular one.

Throw in the rain the riders experienced that night, and you can ramp the difficulty level up another notch too.

Vital statistics

Distance: 0.2km
Average gradient: 8.6 per cent

Ramsay Lane, Edinburgh

Staying in the Scottish capital, another leg-sapping cobbled climb to ride is Ramsay Lane, which starts heading skyward at Mound Place at the heart of the city’s Old Town.

Pedestrian traffic could make it difficult to ride, but even when the street is completely clear you will find it hard to get momentum on the narrow, uneven surface.

At its steepest – nearer 20 per cent in gradient – as Mound Place becomes Ramsay Lane with a sweeping left-hander, it may be short but it is far from sweet.

Vital statistics

Distance: 0.2km
Average gradient: 11.4 per cent

Strawberry Berg, Dundee

Edinburgh isn’t the only Scottish city with some must-ride cobbled hills to climb – with Dundee offering Strawberry Bank.

Strawberry Bank in Dundee is short, narrow and steeper as it goes on (pic – Stuart Anthony, via Flickr Creative Commons)

Dubbed Strawberry Berg, the cobbled climb may be short at 0.3km but it shares many characteristics with the Koppenberg in that it’s super-narrow, straight up to the top and gets steeper as the summit approaches.

The average gradient of seven per cent is skewed by a modest opening section and a little descent before the end of the cobbled section, otherwise it’s up to 13 per cent at its steppest.

Vital statistics

Distance: 0.3km
Average gradient: seven per cent

Constitution Hill, Swansea

Tour of Britain fans will recognise Constitution Hill from the 2010 race, when Michael Albasini used the ascent as a platform for his stage-winning attack in Swansea.

It’s cobbled and it’s super steep, so the only Welsh entry to this list is certainly in good company in that regard.

The 19 per cent average gradient doesn’t mask its difficulty, but there is another steep pitch nearer 23 per cent as you approach the summit of what is an uneven climb.

One consolation is, however, the fact the cobblestones have been well maintained.

Vital statistics

Distance: 0.3km
Average gradient: 19 per cent

Gold Hill, Shaftesbury

Gold Hill enjoyed national fame as the ‘Hovis Hill’, scene of the iconic bread advert where the delivery boy is pushing his bike up the cobbled hill.

And it’s easy to see why he opted to push – anyone who has competed in the Bread Winner timed hill climb on the Dorset slope will attest to the fact this is one steep hill.

Gold Hill is famous for the old Hovis advert. It’s easy to see why the bike was being pushed up the hill in those iconic images! (pic – Graham Duerden, via Flickr Creative Commons)

You get a small welcome to the climb on a stretch of tarmac but the road ramps straight up as soon as the cobbles start.

The cobbles are surrounded by grass – less than ideal on a wet day, but only adding to the rural appeal of the cobbled slope.

As for the statistics, 0.2km at 16 per cent tells its own story – this is not a challenge for the faint-hearted.

Vital statistics

Distance: 0.2km
Average gradient: 16 per cent
When to ride: Gold Rush CX Sportive

Waltonberg, Halesowen

Like the Cheshire Classic, the Tour of the Black Country offers off-road Classics-inspired riding on UK shores.

And while it’s based more on Paris-Roubaix, the climb of the “Waltonberg” ensures there is some off-road elevation to negotiate as well.

It is a cobbled climb, but the amount of mud all the way up adds to the difficulty – particularly on a wet day, with the cobbled ascent covered by the trees.

While the 14 per cent average gradient is tough enough, there are sections nearer 20 per cent to contend with too.

Vital statistics

Distance: 0.6km
Average gradient: 14 per cent
When to ride: Tour of the Black Country

Catherine Street, Frome

Though the event is now defunct, Catherine Street in Frome, Somerset, hosted the “Cobble Wobble” hill climb in previous years.

The climb itself is just 179 yards long, on a super-narrow street among Frome’s 18th-century buildings, with an average 12 per cent gradient.

Frome’s Catherine Hill used to host the popular Cobble Wobble hill climb (pic – Richard Ellis, via Flickr Creative Commons)

With Red Bull formerly on board as sponsors, the Cobble Wobble proved hugely popular but has not been run since the 2013 event was cancelled.

The straight, narrow climb remains however, just asking to be blasted up on two wheels.

Vital statistics

Distance: 0.1km
Average gradient: 12 per cent


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