Breaking a Guinness World Record is one mean feat to accomplish, which is exactly one very unusual street did – by being crowned the world’s steepest street. The street of Ffordd Pen Llech in Harlech, a seaside resort better known for its castle, won the quirky accolade in 2019.
The bestowing of this award caused a diplomatic incident to brew, when representatives of the rival Baldwin Street in New Zealand, and the current holder of the title, claimed to still have the steepest street in the world. Tensions appeared to run high for both parties, which eventually led to deputies supporting Baldwin Street to visit the Welsh street, armed with measuring tapes.
As reported by Manchester Evening News, representatives of the antipodean street were sent to Harlech to take measurements of the street and by April 2020 Ffordd Pen Llech had lost its title to Baldwin Street. But the sign that was placed at its summit remains.
People still have their picture taken next to it and its status as a local landmark continues to grow with events such as ‘The World’s Steepest Street Run’ still being held. The street descends the rock spur to the north of the castle and has a gradient of 28.6%.
It had previously been measured as 36.63% and there is a warning sign of a 40% slope at the bottom. But in April 2020 the figure was lowered as part of a review by Guinness that found the best practice to calculate a street gradient is to take the measurement from the centreline – Baldwin Street has a gradient of 34.8%.
Ffordd Pen Llech is also popular with cyclists and bikers. The road is mostly one way, so upward journeys can only be done during events, otherwise the adjacent road, Twtil, which has a shallower gradient of 25% is used.
Myfanwy Jones has lived on Ffordd Pen Llech for over 40 years. She said: “The sign at the top of the street went up a few years ago.
“Then the people from Dunedin in New Zealand came over to measure it for themselves. The title went back to them.
“Now, it’s probably the steepest street in the Northern Hemisphere. The sign itself seems to attract people to the street.
“Before it went up, it wasn’t particularly well-known. Locals were aware, because of how steep it is, but that was it really.
“It’s still pretty quiet for much of the year, apart from the summer when people come to stay in their holiday homes. Living here definitely keeps me fit.
“I sometimes walk up and down the street to the shop a few times a day. It’s popular with marathon runners and I can see why bikers like to ride down it as well.
“The scenery is obviously stunning. I’ve lived here for over 40 years now and I wouldn’t live anywhere else.”