Hardknott Pass and Wrynose Pass, are some of Britain’s most challenging roads. A very steep, twisting single track road that passes through the middle of the Lake District. If you love driving and seeing some of the most stunning views, then this is for you. A visit to the Lake District wouldn’t be complete without attempting to drive the Hardknott Pass and Wrynose Pass.

The title of steepest road in England is something mentioned quite often when talking about Hardknott Pass. Competing with the Rosedale Chimney in North Yorkshire, both manage to achieve a gradient of 1 in 3 (about 30%). For your safety and others, you need to keep a steady head if you are driving. There are some incredible views but eyes must be kept on the road. Both the Wrynose and Hardknott pass are more than achieveable using a family car in good dry conditions. I wouldn’t suggest it’s safe for any vehicle during the winter months for one second! Be prepared to enjoy this scary but fun road as you drive through the open landscape. Watch out for the mountain sheep, they are friendly but aren’t very good at crossing the road!


Driving Wrynose and Hardknott Pass

Driving from the North of Lake Windermere our experience began with Wrynose Pass. Once you are near to the start of the pass, you’ll be confronted by a warning sign explaining the dangers of both the Wrynose and Hardknott pass. Extreme caution must be taken as the twisty narrow road has severe bends with inclines of up to 30% (1 in 3). As you can tell, the sign is effectively asking “Are you sure you really want to go up here?”

The Wrynose Pass continues into the Hardknott Pass further ahead where it takes you between Eskdale and the Duddon Valleys. The climb up Hardknott Pass is noticeably different in comparison to the relatively straight ascent up the Wrynose Pass. By now you will have noticed the amount of hairpins you’ll take whilst climbing up what is one of the steepest roads found in Britain.


The road runs east to west and contains some of Britain’s most challenging driving, as well as some stunning scenery. A short walk from the car, you can see Roman remains, and a mountainscape opens up before your eyes, giving views of England’s highest peaks. In the summer, the road is very busy, in winter it is perilous, but if you choose your moment carefully, and get good weather, the road is worth going out of your way to experience.

The road twists and turns as it negotiates its narrow course and steep gradients. It is worth stopping (where it is safe to do so) in order that the driver can gain full enjoyment of the more distant views experienced by any passengers