Porlock Hill (A39) Climb
Porlock Hill (A39)
Number 4 in Simon Warren's 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs, he warns this hill "isn't for the faint-hearted."
The A39 is the main road running through Porlock, it leads out of the village to the west, up the infamous Porlock Hill, towards Lynmouth in Devon. It is the steepest A-road in the UK, with sections of 1 in 4 (25%) in places.
The image above is taken from the higher, moorland part of the hill, the steeper section on the lower part of the climb is out of our view, as the road drops away from sight.
Up until 1843, Porlock was literally the end of the road!
When the road was built, the stagecoaches were able to travel directly between Porlock and Lynton - I'm not sure how they managed it by stagecoach, but apparently they did! The road climbs approximately 400 m (1,300 feet) in less than 3.2 km (2 miles) from the village up onto the moor.
From the village, as you leave the High Street, the climb starts immediately. Fairly gently at first, then as you approach the last of the houses, the gradient ramps up straight away to 25% on the first hairpin bend.
The next bend is another hairpin and it feels even steeper as you are on the inside of the bend this time, there is also an emergency escape exit on the opposite side of the road, for vehicles coming downhill that are out of control!
Although the road starts to level off a bit from here, it's still pretty steep, climbing at around 1 in 5 and then levelling off a bit more to approximately 1 in 8.
The cattlegrid is the start of the moorland section and the gradient eases to around 1 in 10, although it's more exposed to the elements from here on. There are further ramps to reach the summit of the hill, but it's a great place to stop and admire the view, you once you get there!
Descending Porlock Hill on a bike is NOT recommended, please only seriously consider this if you are a seriously competent cyclist! There is an alternative to the A39 Porlock Hill, the Porlock Toll Road is much kinder! Approximately a mile further, but the gradient is a leisurely 1 in 14. It is well signed at the top and bottom!
There are a couple of different segments in Strava titled "Official 100 Climbs No4 Porlock" so check where they finish before setting off, if you want to try for a good time.
This is the segment that we usually refer to, I recommend keep going until the road starts to drop down hill towards The Culbone (former pub on the left side of the road).