Welsh town claims record title for world's steepest street
Harlech, a sleepy town set in the hills of North Wales, boasts a beautiful seaside, a 13th century castle and stunning
But the town can now add something else to the list - Harlech is officially the home of the world’s steepest street.
Ffordd Pen Llech, which snakes through the town of Harlech, has a gradient of 1:2.67 (37.45% stretch over fall). That
means those travelling on the street go 1 m up (or down) for every 2.67 m travelled horizontally.
This record beats Baldwin Street in Dunedin, New Zealand which has a ratio of 1:2.86. Baldwin street has held the record
for over a decade.
How is the street measured? The record is measured based on the steepest (highest gradient) section over a 10 m distance. If the average steepness
is taken, you could have a road where one section is extremely steep and the rest is flat, which is not a fair
assessment. The gradient is measured by taking the 10 m stretch road and dividing it by how much it rises/falls over the
10 m distance.
After hearing about Baldwin Street’s accolade, Harlech resident Gwyn Headley was convinced the winding street of Ffordd
Pen Llech had a steeper incline.
"I first realised this street was a contender for the steepest street in the world when my car slid straight down with
all four tires locked," he said.
After sharing his thoughts with other residents, they decided to apply for the official record title.
"I run a local page on Facebook and Gwyn had posted his ponderings about the steepness of the street," explained
resident Sarah Badham.
"I thought 'he’s on to something here' and decided to get behind him as did the whole community."
The process of verifying the steepness of the street was a long one and required measurement by an expert surveyor.
"Guinness World Records were very specific with the criteria and the qualifications that the surveyor would need to
measure the street. We had to get someone from Gwynedd Council who had the appropriate qualifications."
However, the lengthy process made the verification of the record even sweeter.
"I cannot say how pleased we are that Ffordd Pen Llech has now been recognised as the steepest street, not just in
Wales, not just in the UK, not just in Europe, but in the entire world," added Gwyn.
"The title, for the residents and the businesses of Harlech, means a tremendous amount. It brings Harlech onto the world
Sarah added: "As somebody who was born and raised here, I can’t really say how special it is. It’s amazing."
The street is already attracting visitors from around the world – and as the certificate was presented to Sarah and
Gwyn, Belgian cyclist Uerslype Hendrik was braving the hill.
"The first day of vacation we went to the shop and I bought some postcards for Belgium – and we heard about this climb.
It feels very good to climb up."
The potential for the record to inject additional tourism to the seaside town of Harlech is welcomed by the local
Glyn Roberts, the owner of Castle Cottage restaurant, is one such resident that is pleased about the newly certified
"We've lived here for 30 years. We’ve got a world heritage, grade one listed castle. It’s a lovely part of the world,
and to have this extra accolade can do nothing but good for the town and bring more people in."
Jerry Roberts, who owns the local shop Seasons and Reasons with his wife Janice, was jubilant about the new record
"It’s fantastic. We’ve got the castle, the record, the views. You can’t beat us!"
Harlech resident Myrddyn Phillips, who took the initial measurements of the street, was also excited about what the
title could do for the town.
"To have the steepest street in the world, recognised by Guinness World Records, is brilliant for Harlech, it’s
brilliant for Wales."
But how do the Harlech residents feel about taking the record from Baldwin Street in New Zealand, which has laid claim
to it for so long?
"I’m thrilled for us but in every game there has to be a losing team," Gwyn said.
"I feel sorry for them, but a record is a record, figures are figures – it’s inarguable."