The Highest Road in Britain

Commonly described as the “backbone of England”, the Pennines are a more-or-less continuous range of hills and mountains stretching northwards from the Peak District at the southern end, through the South Pennines, the Yorkshire Dales and North Pennines to the Tyne Gap.

Great Dun Fell is, at 848 metres, the second tallest mountain in the range, nestled on the western side not far from Penrith.

On top of Great Dun Fell there is a radar station.

Visible for miles around on a clear day, and distinguished by its white radome resembling a golf ball perched high on the barren mountain top, the radar station is a key part of the air traffic control system for Northern England and Southern Scotland.

The construction of the radar station led to the repaving of a tarred road to the summit, which became Britain’s highest road.

A service road essentially, closed to public vehicles and with a perfectly maintained surface.

Accessible to cyclists though.

An out-and-back climb, its popularity – and notoriety – has only increased in recent years as more and more people come to learn about a climb with perfect tarmac, closed to cars, that has been dubbed ‘England’s Mt Ventoux’.

Starting from the village of Knock the climb is 7.3 km long, gaining 593 meters of elevation to the summit, with an average gradient of 8.6 %.

It’s tough, with nearly 2km in total of the ascent clocking over 12.5% gradient, and a max gradient of over 18%, coming with just over a kilometre left to climb.

A short downhill section just over half way provides a very brief respite, but with the road kicking up again steeply straight after, it’s not much more than a cruel trick.

Push on to the summit to be rewarded, on a clear day, with views that are nothing short of spectacular.

To the west, the Lake District Fells; to the north and east the Pennines; and to the south the Yorkshire Dales.

 

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