Kirkstone Pass


Ullswater side – 3.3 miles.

Windermere side – 4.1 miles.

Max Gradient

Ullswater side – 15% near the top.

Windermere side – 15% for short sections.

Where to find it?

To tackle it from the shorter Ullswater side simply follow the A592 main road from Pooley Bridge to Glenridding, then onto Patterdale. The climb starts about three or four miles after the village. For the Windermere side look for the signs for the A592 Troutbeck at a mini roundabout. The road goes up then undulates for a couple of miles before the long slog starts.


The highest of all the Lakeland passes and with a stunning summit to match at the Kirkstone Pass Inn at the very top offering a great viewpoint on a clear day. There are three ways to the top, the other being the Struggle from Ambleside which is covered separately. The climb up from Ullswater is shorter and is perhaps the most aesthetically pleasing ascent, but both offer a worthy challenge.


Ullswater side – A good surface throughout, it starts at a shallow gradient and then gradually steepens as it winds its way up the head of the valley like a ribbon. Too long to attack it’s a case of finding a rhythm and sticking to the task, gaining a bit of recovery on the less steep bits. It never really has you in trouble as long as you don’t get overly ambitious with the steepest most sustained section at the top which probably never gets to much more than 15%, despite the 20% signs.

Windermere side – A real long one which is harder than it looks, with the elements and the poor road surface near the top grinding you down. The hardest bit, mentally at least, is the seemingly never ending grind up to the Inn at the top. Before you get here you have to negotiate a number of ramps interspersed by flatter sections. The variation in gradient while offering relief also seems to affect rhythm, a difficult climb to enjoy.


  • Paul – 7 (for both sides) – though weather plays a big part. After Whinlatter maybe the easiest of the big Lakeland passes, but as it’s the longest too it needs respect.
  • David P – 7 (Ullswater side) – ‘A long tough slog, would be similar to going up Clay Bank three times. Seems tougher when you’re on it, I think because you can see it winding up the hill’.
  • Dave K – 7 (Ullswater side) – ‘not too steep so you can spin up it easily on fresh legs’.


One reply on “Kirkstone Pass”

One of the extreme triathlons I have done starts with a 3.8km swim in Windermere and then the bike goes from Ambleside for around 180km loosely on the Fred. The bike starts up the struggle, which is a far tougher ascent of Kirkstone than the pass itself in my humble opinion. It’s some wake up call.

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