May 18, 2021

It's brutal. Demanding. Driving on the ragged edge. Pushing the limit. Proving what you can do against the clock.

The sport of hillclimbing is almost as old as the car itself, and people have been thundering up hillclimbs to demonstrate the speed of their machines since the turn of the century. It started small and quickly grew, so that now people flock from far and wide to compete and to observe these incredible events.

There are some who even build their own cars in the quest for glory, or go to extreme lengths to tune their pride and joy to achieve the maximum output. The community is incredible, and the rivalries are playful and fun. With no wheel-to-wheel banter, there's no chance of being hit off by another competitor. So the contest is purely you versus the clock. And on the hillclimb, it's even tougher than in sprinting.

Andy Priaulx MBE began his racing life in the hillclimb world and climbed (literally) up the ranks to ascend to the World Touring Car Championship which he won three times. So there's no question that to conquer these events you must have skill, bravery and raw natural talent. Check out the HSA website to learn more, but for now here's where you'll find these lean, mean, rapid machines....

Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria

Founded back in 1910, the Westmorland Motor Club runs hillclimbs at the beautiful Cumbrian locale of Barbon Manor which first held a hillclimb in 1951. The location also plays host to BTRDA Sporting Car Trials as well as motocross trials. The hill itself is only 0.627 kms in length, the average gradient is 1 in 9, and the fastest competitors blast up the hill in just 30 seconds, which of course gives competitors the chance for more timed runs over the course of a day. It is sight that has to be seen to be believed.

County Londonderry, Northern Ireland

The “Thiefs Hill” is a true community spirit venue after local resident Eddie Campbell worked with Maiden Motor Club and the local council to organise the first hill climb in 1981, and it has gained a reputation as one of the most challenging courses in Great Britain. Speeding past several houses and climbing an impressive 800ft on their way to the finish line, the weather plays a big part in the event from year to year as the course faces west towards the Atlantic, and everything from humpback bridges to fast flowing apexes spice up the action.

St Helier, Jersey

Arguably this is one of Britain’s most treasured hillclimbs in motorsport history, and has been ever since 1920. In the inaugural British Hillclimb Championship in 1947 the Jersey course at Bouley Bay featured, and it remains one of only five venues that has continued to be part of the championship. So in a way, this picturesque clifftop hillclimb is to the sport what Spa-Franchorchamps is to Formula One. Regularly running in conjunction with nearby Guernsey’s Le Val Des Terres, it’s a spectacular summer motorsport holiday in the Channel Islands. It also creates more sensational stories than most motorsport venues, such as the famous 55.9 second run of George Bainbridge in 1946 when he crashed after the finish line, with the car catching fire and breaking four of Bainbridge’s ribs. He did however still win the event!

County Antrim, Northern Ireland

One claim that can’t be disputed is that Cairncastle hosts the longest hillclimb course in Great Britain at 1.7 miles in length. Lined by hedges and stone walls and with spectacular fast sweeping turns and wide winding roads, the blast from the top of Cairncastle village to the finish line at Robin Young’s hill takes the fastest cars an astonishing 70-75 seconds. It is a hair-raising assault on the senses, and even the welly-wearing cramp-suffering spectators are never disappointed.

Lostwithiel, Cornwall

A 350ft climb to the finish line and a course that stretches 750m long doesn’t sound that daunting, but get it wrong at the mid-way point and you’ll end up skidding over a cattle grid. The racers that compete in the highest class want a time around 22 seconds. Which is of course insane. But that just adds to the thrill and charm of the course, with the Camel Vale Motor Club having run the Castle Hill hillclimb since 2000, and as one of the newer venues on the HSA calendar it is already one of the most popular.

Belfast, County Down, Northern Ireland

If you can push the limit around Craigantlet and set a time in under 40 seconds, you’re almost guaranteed to walk away with a trophy for your mantelpiece. But to do that is to negotiate a tough and brutal challenge: 1335 metres, humps, bumps, chicanes and over 100 years of history. Yep, the hillclimb outside the capital of Northern Ireland has been evolving steadily since the summer of 1914. No wonder then that it has never fallen from grace since its first appearance on the British Hillclimb Championship calendar in its inaugural 1947 season.

Holywood, County Down, Northern Ireland

At 900m long, Croft Hill is the shortest hillclimb course in the ANICC Championship, and just over a mile down the road from the gorgeous town of Holywood it is the perfect setting for motorsport. Racers first started challenging themselves against the might of the course in 1931, and the route has evolved as much as the car has in the last 80 years!! Of course it hasn’t been in continuous use – WWII curtailed racing up the hill until a revival in 1989 – but the history is evident throughout and even though the modern cars blast around in a near 32 seconds, you can hear and smell the nostalgia in the air wherever you stand on the course.

Holywood, County Down, Northern Ireland

In 1905, Cultra played host to a climb to the railway station but when it disappeared in 1911 it looked like motorsport on the south shore of Belfast Lough was over. However the Thoroughbred Sports Car Club had other ideas, and gained permission to hold a hillclimb at The Ulster Folk Museum. In 2005 they held a centenary event, and after a painful five year absence and a resurface racing up the hill at Cultra returned. At a shave under 700m it may not be the longest, but it’s a favourite amongst fans who can indulge in an amazing day out of history, cars and one of the most incredible landscapes in Britain.

Kilmadock, Stirling

Disgruntled by the construction of a housing estate on the sight of the famous Bo’Ness hillclimb, the Lothian Car Club set to work creating a new venue and in the spring of 1968 Doune was born. 1675 yards of fast twisting course provided quite a spectacle for competitors and enthusiasts alike and over the years the club has been able to adapt and evolve the route to meet the safety requirements and development of the cars to keep the event running smoothly. The fastest cars complete the climb in around 35 seconds which is almost impossible to believe, but then with corners such as East Brae, Oak Tree, Junction and Garden Gate inviting you to stretch your limits, it really is a superb place that needs a good all-rounder car that can be fast, light and nimble.

Bellarena, Northern Ireland

Since 1969 the Ballyrena landscape set around the Donegal slopes and with a picturesque view of the Atlantic has rung to the warble of horsepower. The Coleraine and District Motor Club has been running the hillclimb throughout and it is one of the most demanding in the British motorsport calendar. Bridges, hairpins and chicanes make up this spectacular run with corners such as Waterworks, Barn and the devilishly named “Hell’s Hole” to whet the appetite of the experienced ace or strong-hearted novice.

Mynydd Epynt, Powys

Motorbikes first christened the site of Mynydd Epynt for motorsport in 1948 and for 6 glorious years it became a staple of Welsh motorsport. Sadly the harsh winter of 1953-54 deteriorated the road surface and racing became unsafe, with only occasional rally stages passing through subsequently. It took half a century for the hillclimb to bring permanent motorsport back to the venue, and the Brecon Motor Club have held the Dennis Motorsport Epynt Hillclimb since 2007 with only modified-production and sports cars permitted to compete, and must be road legal. It adds a certain eccentric charm to the event, and it gives owners of Westfields, Caterhams and Locosts the perfect chance to take home the winners trophy and at a mile long, it’s one of the longest in existence today.

Hatton of Fintray, Dyce, Aberdeenshire

At Home Farm, Fintray has been part of the British and Scottish Hillclimb Championships since 1965 and for just four days a year, this beautiful working farm in the heart of Aberdeenshire resonates to the beauty and grace of motorsport for around 25 seconds a run. It doesn’t sound much, but the locals, competitors and enthusiasts couldn’t bare to be without it. The history stretches back half a century, and with safety improvements still being made it looks like the course will remain a permanent fixture for years to come. And it may just win the argument as the motorsport venue with the best catering anywhere in Great Britain. If you don’t believe us, try it for yourself!

Kirk o’Shotts, North Lanarkshire

You won’t find many hillclimbs in Great Britain with as majestic a surrounding as Forrestburn. Draped around the reservoir, the new motorsports complex was opened in 1993 and is one of the few hillclimb sites that remains functional as a permanent motorsport site. If you can lap the course in under 40 seconds you’re in with a shout of Best Time of the Day (BTD) and there are two occasions to visit for official championship events, although members of the Monklands Sports Car Club get to use the facility a little more often, including for a “fun night” during the year.

Broad Chalke, Salisbury, Wiltshire

50 years of proper British motorsport have sung across the valley of the River Ebble beside Broad Chalke village, and it never ceases to entertain. It’s an unusual hillclimb in that it features a downhill start before ascending 140ft. And looking at the course it seems fairly plain with Karousel and Deers Leap providing the only major challenges, but ask any racer who has put the power down and they will tell you respect is required for the course as naivety is punished. Gurston Down has a habit of biting back at the unprepared, and it’s now a permanent fixture of the British Hillclimb Championship calendar. Thanks to the British Automobile Racing Club there is also a hillclimb school there which should hopefully ascertain the future of the sport for many decades to come.

Leeds, West Yorkshire

Harewood Speed Hillclimb is one of the busiest venues of its type in the country with a full calendar overseen by the British Automobile Racing Club. The Stockton Farm site has been a hallmark of excellence in British hillclimbing since 1962, although the area was always destined for motorsport after a one-off event back in 1902 at Harewood Bank got the ball rolling. A 250ft climb over 1,584 yards with a 50 second run time over some of the most challenging and daunting corners up the hill make this one a favourite amongst fans and racers, and with 4 academy dates through the year as well as several organised competition for national and club championships you’ll find plenty of opportunities to immerse yourself in the joy of the sport.

St Peter Port, Guernsey

If British hillclimbing had a Monaco Grand Prix, it would be run at Le Val Des Terres. From St Peter Port to La Planque runs a stunning and majestic route which has become part of the soul of Guernsey since 1946 and is one of the courses where WTCC and Le Mans star Andy Priaulx made his name. Twinned with the Bouley Bay event the week before, it comprises one of the most popular motorsport double headers in Britain and despite the course only taking around 28 seconds for the fastest competitors to negotiate, it is a prolific part of motorsport in the region. Drivers come over not only from the mainland but further into Europe too with several French competitors over the years. It is the core venue of the Guernsey Motor Cycle and Car Club and the hillclimb scene would look wrong without it on the schedule, in the same way Monza or Monte Carlo would in Formula 1.

New Moat, Pembrokeshire

The Swansea Motor Club has run since 1924 but it really struck gold with Llys-y-Fran Country Park. At this point it is the only hillclimb in Wales and has been in operation since the summer of 1995. The club runs two hillclimbs a year there usually in May and July and the course usually takes the fastest single seater entrants around 44 seconds as the route is only 800 yards in length. But the fans love it and the competitors continue to come flooding in, and the future continues to look strong for the venue as a magnificent location for motorsport with spectators and competitors also welcome to use the park’s facilities. Not a bad place for a motorsport themed holiday then!

Alberbury, Shrewsbury, Shropshire

As Loton Park approaches its 60th anniversary, this marvellous Shropshire cathedral of speed continues unabated. Since 1960 motorsport has had a home on Sir Michael Leighton’s amazing facility, and it is far from disappearing. In fact as recently as 2012 Sir Michael was planning to extend the course to 1.3 miles which would make it the longest hillclimb course in Britain. His support of the location as a speed demon’s playground means that the establishment of hillclimbing in Great Britain is unlikely to move from Loton Park. Since Hagley & District Light Car Club took over running events in 1970 it has grown and grown, with a drivers school at the facility to entice newcomers to the school. Dates are already selling out quickly and advance bookings are definitely needed!!

Charmouth, Dorset

On the Dorset coast lies the Manor Farm Holiday Park. Since 2010, holidays have been a little more interesting there thanks to Woodbridge Motor Club. One of the most fascinating courses in British hillclimbing has sprung up and is celebrating much success in its first decade of operation. Through trees and hedges, storming through a tunnel under the A35 and running from the campsite to the top of the paddock, it has become a perfect replacement for the fondly remembered Longleat course in Somerset. It only takes about 23 seconds to negotiate for the fastest racer but that doesn’t deter the wily racer, and the Three Clubs Hillclimb is a popular event organised by the Motor Clubs at Burnham-on-Sea, Taunton and Torbay. It’s probably worth booking a decent holiday around the time of the event……

Cotswolds, Gloucestershire

If you love steam engines, you’ll love Prescott. If you love the countryside, you’ll love Prescott. If you love Bugattis, you’ll love Prescott. In fact, there are far too many reasons to love Prescott to be listed in a single paragraph. In fact the multitude of events in the Prescott calendar make for a different experience each time you visit. It’s not just a hillclimb event at Prescott, it’s an entire micro-festival draped on the hillside of the most exquisite Gloucestershire countryside. Placed within view of the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway and as the headquarters of the Bugatti Owners Club, Prescott is thoroughly nostalgic and delightfully vintage, although competitors with modern machinery love being part of the atmosphere too.

Pennines, West Yorkshire

Since the completion of Scammonden Dam to carry the M62 Leeds to Manchester motorway, motorsport has almost been involved since the cutting of the red ribbon. At the end of 1972, Richard Thwaites piloted his McLaren M10B-Chevrolet to victory, and ever since the Mid-Cheshire Motor Club amongst many others have organised events using the service road. The weather always tries to throw a spanner in the works and make things more interesting, but hillclimbers are not perturbed by something as mundane as rainfall. The hill doesn’t take long to negotiate either as it is one of the shortest hillclimbs in Great Britain at 550 yards, but the narrow roads, tight bends and slippery surfaces entice racers from all over the Midlands.

Worcester, Worcestershire

Without question, Shelsley Walsh is the oldest motorsport venue in Great Britain – and indeed the world – still active. The first event took place in 1905 and the course has been largely unchanged over the last century. Only the wars have kept the venue from running hillclimbs each year. It’s where Murray Walker began commentating, and the facility organises hillclimbs, sporting trials, classic trials, sprinting, testing, car launches and more. The hillclimb even has its own driving school to give the next generation a chance to develop. And what stands out in this incredible environment is the speed. A whisker over 1000 yards, the fastest cars reach the finish line in a mere 22 seconds. It’s a guaranteed fixture on the hillclimb calendar and almost certainly in British motorsport too as the current lease for the land is set to expire in 2104!! Goodness knows what the fastest cars will look like by then!!

St Austell, Cornwall

Twice a year the Truro and District Motor Club sets up their stalls on one of Britain’s most beautiful landscapes. The ASWMC Hillclimb Championship and the Cornish Speed Championship run at Tregrehan, one of the shortest in the country at only 600 yards. However, what it lacks in length it more than makes up for in technical challenge. It needs a steady pair of hands as the slippery surface demands precision of the highest order. Since 1968 many drivers have quested to conquer it, and the occasionally motorcycles and even sidecars join the automobile brigade. Even the Carlyon family who own the Tregrehan Estate have competed, most notably Gillian Carlyon who combined her work in botany with racing up the hill herself.

Launceston, Cornwall

With an average speed of 77mph, a dash lasting a mere 33 seconds and with 90 degree 10mph bend in the middle, Werrington is a sensational experience for any racer. Designed by William Kent, Werrington Park House puts on a terrific show for motorsport enthusiasts in the height of spring, against a sea of daffodils. When the first event took place in 1980 it was guaranteed to return thanks not only to the excellence of the event but the support of the local rector at Werrington Parish Church, and ever since Nigel Bigwood drove his Formula 3 Ensign to victory that first year the Plymouth Motor Club continues the event without hesitation or threat of dissolution. It’s a jewel in the crown of Launceston’s sporting calendar and it keeps attracting more and more return entrants.

Southleigh, Colyton, Devon

6 miles south of Honiton lies Wiscombe House, home to one of the most famous motorsport venues in the South West of England. Having first hosted their hillclimb event in 1958, the Chichester family – lovers of cars and motorsport – have been welcoming the speed freaks of Devon and further afield for 6 decades. Close to the seaside town of Sidmouth, there’s a real holiday vibe about the place and many competitors over the years have combined a trip to Wiscombe Park for a race meeting with their summer getaway. Its a firm favourite amongst the locals and countless volunteers have aided the Chichesters in keeping this delightful venue open.



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