Hill Climbs on the Yorkshire Wolds

With the increased popularity of cyclo-sportives there have been numerous articles in the national magazines covering some of the country’s toughest climbs. Also we now have a book describing the UK's '100 Greatest Climbs'. Not surprisingly none of our local climbs feature in any of these publications*. Our local roads do not have the severe gradients or the length to match those on the Moors or Dales and tend to be overlooked, but there are times when returning home from a ride Trundlegate feels like my personal 'Killer Climb'.

Burdale climb - Francis

Burdale: a short, sharp climb but is it long enough to be amongst the toughest climbs on the Wolds?

In addition to the various articles there are a number of web sites devoted to cataloguing climbs, and one site, climbbybike.com does list one of our local climbs, Staxton Brow. This site is different in that it gives each climb a 'Difficulty Score' in an attempt to provide a comparison between different climbs. Staxton scores 44 compared with Blakey Bank on the Moors at 70, and the Lake District's Hardknott Pass (West) which tops the English climbs with a score of 106. These scores show why climbs on the Wolds do not figure in national surveys. Nevertheless some of the climbs can offer tough challenges to a tired rider.

The Ordnance Survey map only shows three roads on the Wolds with a double chevron: Flixton, Staxton and Acklam, indicating a gradient of 1 in 5 or steeper. Both Flixton and Acklam have road signs confirming a 20% gradient, but the sign at the top of Staxton only shows 17%. In addition to these climbs there are numerous roads with a single chevron indicating a gradient between 1 in 7 and 1 in 5. Could some of these longer climbs be harder than the short but steep roads up Flixton or Acklam?

With digital Ordnance Survey maps it is now relatively easy to get an accurate profile of a hill to arrive at an average gradient and calculate a Difficulty Score.

However, it is one thing to sit at a computer and decide which is the hardest climb based on data from a map, the real test is to get out there and ride the climb. I also wanted to check the actual gradient since many of the minor roads lack a gradient sign and a single chevron on the map covers a range of 13% to 20%. One way to measure the gradient is to use an inclinometer. Searching the web I found a German model specifically designed for cyclists. This is a simple graduated spirit level that clamps to the handlebars and gives a reasonably accurate measure of the gradient. I tried the inclinometer on different bikes and decided that my Moulton gave the best reading as the suspension cuts out a lot of vibration to the bars. I also experimented with a cycle computer which calculated the slope by measuring the change in altitude, but this turned out to be very inaccurate, as do the GPS units which work on the same principle. So equipped with the inclinometer I have spent the autumn weekends exploring some of those vertical lanes which many of us go out of our way to avoid at all costs. I rode and checked all the climbs listed except the main road climbs of Staxton, North Grimston and Garrowby. On one afternoon I climbed 5 of the big climbs between Leavening and Bishop Wilton. I think my knees were trying to tell me something that evening!

Leavening Brow climb

Leavening Brow

The steepest and longest climbs lie on the northern and western escarpments, but away from the escarpment there are many shorter roads climbing out of the dry valleys that proliferate across the Wolds, with many of the best climbs lying in the Thixendale and Burdale area. However further east the isolated hamlet of Fordon nestling deep in a valley is also worth a visit, but here I have concentrated on the northern and western edges of the Wolds. Starting in the north eastern corner of the Wolds the first real climb is Folkton Brow (16%) which I found quite busy and unappealing. Moving west the next climb is Flixton Wold which is a real killer sporting a 300 metre ramp with gradients between 16% and 20%. This road is probably marginally steeper than Acklam but the steep section is not as long. Next come Staxton Brow, Ganton Wold and Sherburn Grits.

These are all 17% climbs in spite of the 16% sign at the top of The Grits. Because of their location adjoining the A64 we tend to avoid these roads which is a pity as The Grits is a super climb up a narrow lane with a leg sapping middle section of between 12% and 17% for nearly 700 metres. I last climbed this hill as a teenager over 50 years ago when it had a fearsome reputation. I then climbed it on a 5 speed Holdsworth with a 49 inch bottom gear, now I need something nearer a 29 inch gear.

Over the next section towards Birdsall the escarpment is more broken with a number of valleys cutting back into the Wolds, and the climbs become easier. However, West Heslerton which has been used on the Milk Race, is another tough climb. Don't be misled by the 16% sign at the bottom – the middle section is consistently steep with gradients between 12% and 17% for 400 metres.

Despite the 17% sign at the foot of Settrington it is not that hard with a predominant gradient between 10 and 13% and only two short steep ramps of 16% and 17%. Birdsall marks the north western corner of the Wolds as the escarpment heads south to the Humber, and the next section between Leavening and Bishop Wilton offers eight roads climbing up to the highest section of the Wolds. These range from the brutal Acklam Wold which attacks the escarpment head on, to the scenic climb out of Bishop Wilton which winds its way up an attractive wooded valley. Most members will have climbed Leavening Brow but how many of us are familiar with Uncleby or Worsen Dale?

Although only a short climb, Acklam Wold has a well-deserved reputation for being a killer climb on a par with Flixton. Leaving the village the road rapidly steepens to between 15% and 20% for 500 metres as it climbs straight up the hillside to the communication mast at the top of the wold.

Just south of Acklam village is another road heading up to the communication mast. Starting at the junction near Barthorpe Lodge Farm this road has the longest and highest ascent in the area at 3.5 km with 178 metres of height gain. With only one chevron shown on the map and an average gradient of 5% it looks quite easy. However, there are some steep sections of up to 15% on the lower road and a short but steep section of 20% near the top, but there are some level sections where the rider can recover. In spite of its low score this is a great climb. Heading south again the next village is Kirby Underdale. Nestling in the huge amphitheatre of Open Dale there are three roads climbing up the bank through woods and pastures. The first, Hanging Grimston, is not only my own personal favourite but is one of the best climbs on the Wolds. The two single chevrons on the map hide the true statistics of this 1.5 km 153 metre climb with an average gradient of 10% and a maximum of 20%.

Turning off the Kirby Underdale road the narrow lane to Hanging Grimston descends steeply to Salamanca Beck where the climb starts. Immediately the road kicks up at 15% to 20% for 100 metres. Fortunately the momentum gained on the downhill should get the rider up this stretch and onto an easier section where the gradient varies between 5% and 10% as the lane climbs gently though unfenced open pastures. Approaching the farm set back on the right, the climb steepens to 14% before rounding a left hand bend and a gate which may be closed. The rider then approaches the final section of road lined with beech trees, passing the old 1-in-6 road sign for the final 500 metres of 16% before the gradient finally eases. The road surface is quite rough and broken, but not potholed, and by using both sides of the road it is possible to pick a reasonable line. This is a super climb in lovely surroundings.

The next road is another lane through the little hamlet of Uncleby. This is a straight forward and unusual in so much that the gradient is pretty uniform throughout varying between 10% and 15% for a kilometre before easing back approaching the junction at the top. Although the narrow road climbs straight up the escarpment it is an attractive route bordered by mature trees and woodland. When riding this hill I felt it was the easier of the three Kirby Underdale climbs in spite of its high score.

The third climb is the popular Painsthorpe road which ascends from the church and quickly steepens to 17% as it passes the Hall before easing back to 10% approaching the hamlet of Painsthorpe. From here it is an easy 5% to the top of the wold. This route should be familiar to many members as it forms part of one of our GHS rides.

Bypassing the main road up Garrowby Hill, which has become a weekend race track for bikers, the next climb of interest to the cyclist is from Bishop Wilton village to Garrowby top. This is a lovely climb up through the mature beech woods of Worsen Dale. Starting in the village, climb gently along the stream past the village church, turn left at the head of the village past the primary school then right onto Worsendale Road and continue climbing, first at 5% gradually steepening to 10%. The road then continues with gradients up to 15% before easing and emerging from the woods at the junction with the main road close to the highest point on the Wolds.

Beyond Bishop Wilton the climbs become easier as more dales cut into the hills. The next climb of any distinction is Nunburnholme which we often climb on our Sunday runs. Fortunately, the steepest section of 14% is at the bottom of the climb, which is then followed by 800 metres of 5% to 10% steady climbing.


Trundlegate (image added later)

South of Market Weighton we are on home territory as the Wolds become lower. Nestling along the southern edge of the Wolds is one of my favourite climbs, Brantingham Dale. The pretty approach up the dale starts easily enough but the gradient steadily steepens to 10% for the final 300 metres, which includes two steeper ramps of 13% and 14%. The council have recently erected a sign at the top showing a gradient of 11% which is very misleading.

Brantingham Dale

Brantingham Dale

Finally, the sting in the tail is Spout Hill, nearly a kilometre of lung busting 10% with a maximum of 14%. Thankfully this is not used very often as it ends at bridleway, but has been used for many years by the racing lads for their hill climb competitions. I still have bad memories of struggling up this hill as a youngster in competitions, consequently this is one of my least favourite climbs.

Spout Hill

Spout Hill

Fortunately I managed to complete all but one of the climbs before the bad weather arrived at the end of November. Since then I have been able to review all the data gathered on the climbs to produce the table below. The list includes a Difficulty Score based on the climbbybike.com formula. This was originally developed for ranking long alpine climbs and can produce anomalies with short climbs, particularly on the Wolds where it can be difficult on some climbs to decide where to set the start and finish lines. It is based largely on the length of the climb and average gradient, not the maximum gradient. Also I have only included climbs of 800 metres or more. However, the results do make interesting reading to compare routes.

Hill Climbs on the Yorkshire Wolds chart - geographical order

* indicate my own maximum gradient readings
** indicate hills where my own reading was higher than the road sign
? Garrowby is the only hill I did not visit

The maximum gradient shown in the table is based on the higher of either my own reading or the road sign. As the signs are based on the old convention of 1 in 6 (17%) and 1 in 5 (20%) we do not see any signs for climbs of 18% or 19%. My inclinometer only had a maximum reading of 20% and it was difficult to get an accurate reading once over 17%, but I am sure that some of the signed 20% hills were less, and in due course I will be back to check out those hills. A nice ride for next spring.

A version of this post originally featured in the Winter 2010/2011 edition of the Woldsman.

*Simon Warren has since written a follow-up book, Another 100 Greatest Climbs. It includes Hanging Grimston.

34 Responses to “Hill Climbs on the Yorkshire Wolds”

  1. ChrisB wrote:

    Nice work, Roger. I still haven't ridden Hanging Grimston. I think I'll take a bike with a triple chainset when I do :eek:

    A cyclist from this area, Paul Bentley, is ticking off your Yorkshire Wolds climbs, I see.

    I was surprised that Burdale didn't make the list when I originally read this article in the Woldsman, but I eventually realised it was because that climb isn't very long. It's short enough to have a go at it and enjoy the climb, but the best part is the view over the Wolds when you approach and pass Warram Percy. And after climbing out of Thixendale a couple of weeks ago on the Heart of the Wolds sportive, I am also surprised that the road we took out of Thixendale towards Garrowby Hill didn't make this list. It seemed to go on for ever.

    I should be out tomorrow on a little loop with my brother-in-law (pictured below on his way up Burdale) who hasn't ridden up Trundlegate yet. We'll both be on triples :smile:

    Burdale climb

  2. Roger wrote:

    I did check out all the Thixendale climbs, but the long ones were not steep enough to qualify (10% or over) and the steep ones were too short, which is a pity as the climb up to Gritts Farm is one of of the steepest in the area at 17%. However deciding on the finish point for some of these climbs can be difficult as they often continue at 2 or 3% for quite a distance.

    Since compiling the original table of climbs I upgraded my inclinometer and revisited some of the steeper hills. In some cases making several ascents to check out the readings. I can now confirm that Acklam North is the steepest climb at 21%, with the bottom ramp at Hanging Grimston clocking 20% and Flixton lying third at 19%.

    Following a second visit there are three new climbs that should be included. These are:

    Burdale, 1.2km, 16% max, score 41.
    Great Givendale from near Wilton Lodge at 1.1 km, 14% max, score 41.
    Towthorpe Wold from Fimber village, 1.1 km, 12%, score 32.

  3. TIM RENNARD wrote:


    many thanks for collating all this information…sad person that I am I found it fascinating…can't wait to get out there and climb them!

    Tim Rennard

  4. ChrisB wrote:

    Ticked off Hanging Grimston at the weekend. It's a toughie, and the weather didn't help – it was scorching.

    Now then, what about the Beverley Road climb out of South Cave? How does that one measure up, Roger?

  5. Roger wrote:

    When I first checked out South Cave I only rode the top part of the climb which was no more than 9%. So left it out as it did not meet the 10% criteria. Going back today and riding the full climb, it turns out there is a ramp near the bottom which tops 10% for a few meters. This gives statistics of: 1.0 km, 10%, score 30.

  6. ChrisB wrote:

    Roger wrote: South Cave… gives statistics of: 1.0 km, 10%, score 30.

    It must be psychological, then. We go up Beverley Road from South Cave on one of the Standard Rides. I find Trundlegate (difficulty score 40) less ominous at the end of a long day in the saddle. In South Cave I am usually going backwards around Cave Castle :eek:

  7. Colin West wrote:

    Great piece of work compiling the Wolds Hill Climbs. Being a list loving person myself I set about doing them all, and did all but 4 in 2011. I am now finishing the 4 remaining in 2013. I don't know if I have got fitter or fatter in the intervening period, but they certainly seem tougher. Only one's beaten me so far though – Flixton. I will tackle that one first next time around.

  8. ChrisB wrote:

    Hi, Colin. I wonder if you put them together as a series of loops or just did them on an ad hoc basis. Good luck with Flixton. That's one I've not tried yet.

  9. Colin West wrote:

    Hi Chris, I did the hills in a series of loops, or as part of a circuit I was doing. I like to have a point or an objective when going out for a ride, so the list made several good excuses for getting the bike out.

  10. Chris wrote:

    You need an excuse to get the bike out???

    I'm looking to put a route together to do Bishop Wilton as well as Hanging Grimston and some other climbs soon. I think Flixton is a bit too far to include on that route though :sad:

  11. Charlie R wrote:

    Just finished the Roger England, CTC, top 26 Wolds climbs this afternoon and celebrated with a pint of Snaith Old Mill in Acklam.

    Highlights for me were the climbs of Hanging Grimston, Worsendale, Staxton, and the descent of Staxton. Low points were the climb of Flixton which was narrow, busy, and had poor visibility, also the A64 which links the North Wold climbs.

    The North Wolds deserve more attention.

  12. ChrisB wrote:

    Well done, that man. I passed through Acklam the weekend before last – and Bishop Wilton. I'd like to have a go at Worsendale from there.

    We stopped for quite a while in the Ramblers' Rest

    I wonder if there is a bridleway directly to Kirby Underdale from the top of Worsendale as you cross the A164. On a cross bike or tourer that would make a nice direct route to miss out a short uphill stretch of the main road to the Roman road turn off.

    Glad to hear you're getting the miles in, Charlie. You must be flying on that lightweight Giant.

  13. Charlie R wrote:


    My North Wolds route:


    Click on View Details then on the 'Player' tab to view the course of the route

  14. Charlie R wrote:

    Isn't Woodgates Lane in N.Ferriby long and steep enough to be included on this list?

  15. Roger wrote:

    I had forgotten Woodgates Lane. It's not a hill I visit very often. It is certainly long enough. Next time I am out I will check the max gradient.

  16. ChrisB wrote:

    Roger wrote: I had forgotten Woodgates Lane. It's not a hill I visit very often.

    Not sure about the maximum gradient, but I've cycled along this road only once (ironically on a ride with Charlie, although he had peeled off before the rest of us got there) and I went downhill that day.

    According to my Garmin track for the lane it is – in old money – .98 of a mile with a difference of 205 feet from top to bottom.

    Top of Woodgates Lane = 2.88 miles in to the ride; bottom = 3.86 miles in to the ride.
    Top of Woodgates Lane = 301 feet; bottom = 96 feet

  17. Charlie R wrote:

    Downhill on Woodgates? I was born on that road. Don't want to die there too!

  18. Roger wrote:

    Had a ride out to Ferriby this afternoon between the showers to check out Woodgates Lane. No easy start, but an immediate 8% soon steepening to 9% over the motorway bridge and then 10% for a few meters before easing off to 5%.
    Stats are: length 1km, Elevation 61 meters, Av Gradient 6%, Max Gradient 10%, Difficulty Score 26.
    Returned home via Elloughton Dale – a lovely climb through the woods with their autumn colours , much better than South Cave. I had always thought this was an 8% climb but it checked out at 10% as the road steepened at the top of the dale.
    Stats are: length 2km, Elevation 94 meters, Av Gradient 5%, Max Gradient 10%, Difficulty Score 23.

  19. ChrisB wrote:

    You beat me to it, Roger. I think I"ll have to do a cheeky loop to include uphill sections of Woodgates Lane and Elloughton Dale, maybe Brantingham Dale, too. Agreed that Beverley Road, South Cave is best for going downhill to lose height before climbing again.

    Looks like you'll need to get on to Excel and tweak that chart of yours :smile:

  20. Charlie R wrote:

    Thanks both. I guess the other road up to Swanland water tower isn't long or steep enough either? :?:

  21. Roger wrote:

    I've never checked the gradient up to the water tower, but a quick check on the map logs it as 660 meters which is outside the 800 meters I set as a minimum distance.

    I also climbed Kidd Lane on Sunday. This climbs from the top of Welton village over to Elloughton Dale. It is quite steep in places with a 12% ramp near the junction with the road over to Riplingham, but at 750 meters just falls short of the minimum distance.

  22. Paul B wrote:

    As mentioned above, I'm a big fan of your list and I'm slowly trying to get around each climb, which is easier said than done. Due to my location I tend to ride the South Wolds more than the North, with Burgate / North Newbald Hill my favourite training climb, although I have a love hate relationship with Trundlegate too. Speaking of Newbald, have you had a ride up Stoneknowle Hill on Beverley Road, it's not particularly steep, but it is challenging – I think it's tougher than Brantingham Dale.

    Towards the North Wolds I have managed to get my head around Nunburnholme Hill, I think my issue with that climb is that I'm usually tired by the time I get to it e.g. Big G 60/100km route, so it's legend is worse than it's reality – It's just a big Trundlegate really!

    This season I managed a few rides around Thixendale, so I've ticked off Fuller Gallery & Birdsall Brow, both which I thought were nice enough climbs. The same evening I rode Painsthorpe, which I thought was a killer, however the toughest climb of the night was Burdale, so I'm glad you've recognised it in your new list!

    I've not plucked up the courage to climb Hanging Grimston yet, although stupidly I did the descent and it's not for the faint hearted!

    Finally, in the same area is a small climb which I think worthy of comment, it's called 'Huggate Hill Climb' on Strava, but it's not the climb out of Thixendale, rather it climbs out of Fridaythope past a 14% sign, then steeply descends at 16% into the junction with the Fuller Gallery Climb – I suspect the 16% climb is tougher, so both could be worth a look.

  23. ChrisB wrote:

    Paul B wrote: Speaking of Newbald, have you had a ride up Stoneknowle Hill… I think it's tougher than Brantingham Dale.

    Hi, Paul. I've ridden that road several times – it's part of the Yorkshire Wolds Cycle Route. It always reminds me of that little dink out of Millington on the way to Garrowby Hill.

    Cycling in the Yorkshire Wolds - Hills

    Edit: going down the little dink towards Millington

    Personally, I find that Brantingham Dale is tougher. I think it's that last ramp before the top. Keep ticking off those climbs!

    I'll get back to you on that Huggate Hill Climb… :smile:

  24. ChrisB wrote:

    Okay now I'm thinking about that climb from Driffield up to Cowlam. And what about Beverley Lane from Sancton…?

    Although I'm no fan of those Sancton turbines they are an arresting sight when you pass so closely to them. That road is still closed, right?

  25. Charlie R wrote:

    Its open.

    Went up there yesterday on a CRC ride and could hear the windfarm blades whooshing in the strong wind.


    CRC 3 Hills ride:

  26. PaulMk wrote:

    Did a Kiplingcotes loop with ChrisB today. Can confirm Beverley Road climb out of South Cave should DEFINITELY be on the list. Hardest hill of the day by far, but great ride.


    Beverley Road, South Cave

    Beverley Road climb out of South Cave

  27. dom w wrote:

    I rode up Hanging Grimston in the rain today. I thought it was OK gradient- and length-wise, but the road surface is terrible – rough and broken up with loads of grit everywhere, and a slick of sheep poo mixed with mud from tractor tyres just to reduce traction even further. Having to stop to open a gate not once but twice on the way up is unwelcome, even though it gives you the chance to get your breath back a bit. In spite of these gripes I enjoyed it. The views back down into the valley from the top are worth all the effort. Headed back towards York down Acklam Wold – lots of wet leaves and bits of trimmed hedge (hawthorn twigs, etc.) plastering the road, but no mishaps I'm glad to say. Then decided to ride back up it. Really nice climb. Reminded me a little of one near where I grew up in Scotland (the Kirkgate in Currie, near Edinburgh – worth a look if you're ever up that way). Thanks a lot for the guide, Roger – very helpful for planning rides over the coming months!

  28. Charlie R wrote:


    This thread has been great fun to ride and follow online.
    Its only half the story though.
    What about the Wolds climbs the other side of the Humber?

  29. Roger wrote:

    Hi Charlie. Glad you enjoyed the climbs. I don't get over to the south bank these days so little chance to check out the climbs. I've been out and checked Beverley Lane, Sancton. A short section of 8% at the bottom and nothing over 6% beyond that. I also checked out Stoneknowle Hill. There is a short section of 10% at the top but most of the climb is 4 or 5%.

    I must make the effort and get round the central Wolds again. I did check out many of the climbs but discounted most of them as being too short. I may have to change the goal-posts.

  30. Nick wrote:

    Rode from Glossop in Derbyshire to Scarborough yesterday and cycled through the Wolds for the first time. Lovely countryside. The Uncleby climb is indeed pretty tough, particularly when you've already done 80 miles or so! Also did the climb out of Burdale which was much easier

  31. Nigel Briggs wrote:

    just read the review about hill climbs, which is very interesting. I have only just been into road cycling since Easter 2015 mainly to lose weight and get fit at my age of 58 even though I walk up to 8 miles a day as a postie. I was interested in the Garrowby Hill climb on the main York to Bridlington road, as I did this today in my 74 mile ride from my village near Selby, the timing was in approximately 16 minutes. I think the elevation is roughly 807 feet and was wondering if this was an adequate timing. Have also done a couple of the other climbs you mention namely Brantingham Dale which was a pleasure in doing and also I call it Walkington Hill from North Cave side up to Hunsley top. Will try a few of the others you have written about shortly. Regards Nigel

  32. ChrisB wrote:

    Nick wrote: … Also did the climb out of Burdale which was much easier

    I've only every gone down Uncleby, but I do enjoy Burdale – I prefer the short, punchy climbs. But the best part of climbing Burdale is the panoramic view from the top, especially on a clear day.

    Nigel wrote: I was interested in the Garrowby Hill climb on the main York to Bridlington road, as I did this today in my 74 mile ride from my village near Selby, the timing was in approximately 16 minutes. I think the elevation is roughly 807 feet and was wondering if this was an adequate timing.

    Crikey! That's a road we tend to avoid – except when we cross over it. I did see it listed as a hill to do in a 'Welcome to Yorkshire' or similar publication, but personally I wouldn't recommend it. Sixteen minutes is about fifteen minutes and fifty-eight seconds longer than I would care to spend on it! This is what Roger had to say about it:

    Bypassing the main road up Garrowby Hill, which has become a weekend race track for bikers…

    Glad to hear you are ticking off Roger's list. There are plenty of others in the area for you to have a go at. Enjoy, and get back to us with an update or two if you have the time :smile:

  33. Roger wrote:

    Nigel. I'm amazed that you have the energy to ride a bike after your postie rounds. You must be pretty fit already. Don't get too concerned about your times. The important thing is to find a steady rhythm and enjoy the climbing. Forget the race track of Garrowby and try some of the delightful climbs north of the A166.

  34. ChrisB wrote:

    In response to a tweet announcing the release, on 5th May 2016, of Cycling Climbs of Yorkshire:

    What do we reckon? Hanging Grimston again, and Acklam Brow/Thrussendale Road? That it?

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