UPDATE 08/04/20: Baldwin Street, in Dunedin, New Zealand, has been reinstated as the world’s steepest street (road) after a formal record review. Full story here
Harlech, a sleepy town set in the hills of North Wales, boasts a beautiful seaside, a 13th century castle and stunning panoramic views.
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.
For the purposes of this record, a 'street' or 'road' is defined as a public thoroughfare that is commonly used by the public who have a right of access to drive vehicles along it to get from one destination to another.
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 stage."
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 community.
Glyn Roberts, the owner of Castle Cottage restaurant, is one such resident that is pleased about the newly certified street.
"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."
Gerry Brookes, who owns the local shop Seasons and Reasons with his wife Janice, was jubilant about the new record title.
"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."
Craig Glenday, Guinness World Records Editor in Chief said:
“The local community in Harlech has shown sheer will-power in their quest to earn Ffordd Pen Llech the title. We know the anticipation has been building for quite some time now and I’m pleased to see the outcome has brought such joy to the residents. I hope Harlech enjoys the celebrations and that the new title brings lots of people to the beautiful town, to experience the world’s steepest street for themselves!”