What is Hardknott Pass? The 4.6-mile-long Hardknott Pass is a mountain pass at an elevation of 400 feet above sea level in Cumbria, England. It’s also called the steepest road, with a 33 per cent grade (about 1 in 3). A single-track road runs between Eskdale in the west to the edge of the neighbouring Wrynose Pass in the east. On the western side is Harter Fell and the remains of Hardknott Roman Fort (200 metres (660 ft) above sea level).
Can you motorbike up Hardknott Pass?
The longest single-track roadway in the Lake District National Park, situated in Cumbria and running west to east for 20.76 kilometres (12.9 miles) from Eskdale to Little Langdale, is known as the Way of Stonegate.
However, long story short, yes you can motorbike up Hardknott Pass. In fact, that’s exactly what I did. You can watch my YouTube Video below to see how I got on.
It’s one of Great Britain’s most challenging roads. The road was destroyed during the Second World War and had to be rebuilt. After the war, the damage caused by the tanks during training was restored and tarmacked. It is the most challenging of all of the Lake District passes. Hard Knott gets its name from Old Norse harthr (hard) and knutr (knobbly hill), which roughly translates to “craggy hill.”
How dangerous is the Hardknott Pass?
The road is entirely paved. It’s a hairpin curve that will stop your heart. The pass has several sharp, narrow bends. The tarmac in certain sections has been polished, making the roadway even more frightening for automobiles and minibuses (heavier vehicles are advised not to use the pass).
The road is exposed, so don’t expect anything less than wind and rain to liven things up. It’s not suitable for all vehicles in winter weather. If you must pass a vehicle ascending the pass, give it plenty of room. This extremely steep road is generally open all year. However, it may be shut for lengthy periods during the winter when ice makes the bends hazardous. Look around before climbing to see whether there is any traffic behind or ahead of you; if possible, climb without being impeded by other traffic. It’s ideal if you can attain your destination without being delayed by other cars on the road.
How hard is Hardknott Pass?
It’s one of the most challenging and spectacular climbs on two wheels. The road gets particularly hazardous for brakes in a few sections, and it’s one of England’s most demanding sections of road. It is England’s steepest road, with a gradient of 1 in 3 (about 33 per cent). Even the greatest cyclists are pushed to their limits on roads like this. Descents are likewise arduous – check your brake blocks before riding. Cars and more oversized vehicles may have difficulties climbing this hill due to its steepness.
The first section of the grade has a cattle grid, which sucks any speed you may have had and leaves you with an extremely steep opening ramp. There is some relief for a few hundred meters before it becomes into the switchbacks, which measure over 30 per cent on the apex. If you make it that far, it’s a slog to the top, with most of the final 800 metres between 20 and 25 per cent. It’s worth looking back at the top – it’s challenging to comprehend how much you’ve climbed.
The history of Hardknott Pass
Around AD 110, the Romans built a road over the pass to connect Ravenglass with their garrisons at Ambleside and Kendal. The Romans called this route the Tenth Highway. After the Romans left Britain in the early 5th century, it fell into disrepair, becoming an unpaved packhorse route used to transport lead and agricultural products. By the Middle Ages, it was known as Waingate (“cart road”) or Wainscarth (“cart pass “): there is an 1138 record of a group of monks travelling across it in an oxcart.
Hardknott pass was originally known as Hardknothe
The ancient name for the Hardknott Pass area is “Gwastrau,” which is derived from Old Norse and means “turning or bending the earth.” From roughly 790 to 1220, this region was known as “Hardknothe.”
The Hardknott Pass and its surrounding area fell within the Lords of Millom’s territory, between the Esk River and Duddon River. In the 13th century, the Lords of Millom granted grazing rights to Furness Abbey monks.
The first vehicles went over Hardknott in 1913
The road from the Esk Valley to Fancott was in use before the railways, and both Hardknott and Wrynose passes were used by motor vehicles from 1913. The first automobiles were taken over the Hardknott and Wrynose passes on the Eskdale side in 1913.
The road was destroyed in WW2
In 1936, the Cumberland Highways Committee considered and rejected a plan to build a new road surface and make other improvements to make the pass more accessible to motorized vehicles. During the Second World War, however, the War Office utilized the area for tank training, completely demolishing the existing road surface. Subsequently, the damage was repaired, and the tarmac was laid on top of the old roadway.
A decade after local authorities had voted against extending motor access onto Windermere. The Roman and modern roads courses are not the same. On the west side of the pass, the Roman road is to the north of the contemporary route, while on the east, it is to the south.