Scotland

Is this Scotland's steepest street?

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Media captionTaking a stroll on 'Scotland's steepest street'

A street in north Wales has been confirmed as the steepest in the world with a lung-busting gradient of 37.45% - but how do Scotland's streets measure up?

After asking our readers to nominate the toughest climbs they have encountered, we enlisted the help of Ordnance Survey to crown a winner from the 15 most popular suggestions.

Middle Brae, Tobermory

Image copyright Richard Kellett
Image caption Middle Brae is so steep that one local drew up plans for a ski lift that would carry weary pedestrians to the top

Regularly listed among the most beautiful towns in Scotland, Tobermory on the Isle of Mull is probably best known for its brightly painted waterfront houses that featured in the Cbeebies programme Balamory - and also has the enviable accolade of having a Womble named after it.

The seaside town now has another claim to fame after Ordnance Survey confirmed that Middle Brae - also known as Post Office Brae - has topped our list with a gradient of 19.4%.

The street is one of several sharp inclines that run up the hill behind the picturesque harbour area, and inspired one enterprising local to draw up plans for a ski lift to carry pedestrians to the top.

Image copyright Richard Kellett

Gaelic teacher Kirsten McDonald told BBC Scotland that the deceptive hilliness of Tobermory often comes as a shock to tourists, but helps to keep locals fit.

She said: "People are used to seeing pretty houses on the main street but are not aware we've got these really steep hills elsewhere.

"People are quite proud of them, seeing all the tourists struggling up them while they're able to quickly overtake them."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The brightly painted seafront makes Tobermory one of the most beautiful towns in Scotland

Argyll and Bute councillor Mary-Jean Devon, who lives in the town, added: "Maybe 30 or 40 years ago there was a retired gentleman in the village, an architect, who designed a contraption similar to a ski lift for Post Office Brae. Sadly it never came to anything.

"People say you get used to climbing these hills, but you don't. You still kid on you're a tourist half way up, turn around and look at the view."

Ramsay Lane, Edinburgh

Image copyright Oana Nicoleta Checherita

With its twisting cobbled ascents and towering staircases, the street named as the second steepest on our shortlist sits on the Mound, a man-made hill in the centre of Edinburgh.

It was formed between 1781 and 1830 by dumping about a million and a half cartloads of earth and rubble excavated from the foundations of the city's New Town into the drained Nor Loch, and originally acted as a muddy bridge between the Old and New Towns.

The Mound is now home to some of the capital's most famous buildings, including the National Gallery of Scotland and the headquarters of the Bank of Scotland.

The detritus also eventually created Ramsay Lane, which boasts a gradient of 15.73% and has one of the city's oldest visitor attractions - the Camera Obscura - at the very top.

One reader told us: "I have to walk up this every day and it's brutally steep. Leaves me dripping like a knackered fridge."

Ellwyn Crescent, Galashiels

Image copyright ALWYN JOHNSTON
Image caption The daunting view down Ellwyn Crescent

Some 33 miles south of Scotland's capital lies a sweeping road in the outskirts of Galashiels which ranks third in our list of contenders.

The area is famed for its annual Braw Lads Gathering - a traditional event which sees locals parade across the town on horseback.

Image copyright Dougie Johnston
Image caption Even the Braw Lads shy away from Ellwyn Crescent

Mercifully for their horses, the Braw Lads leave Ellwyn Crescent - with its 15.62% gradient - off their route.

But anyone who dares to brave the unforgiving incline will be rewarded with a stunning bird's-eye view of the town and the region's picturesque braes.

Lanton Road, Jedburgh

Jedburgh's position near the border between Scotland and England placed it in the centre of many a battle and cross-border raid until the 17th Century, although the town's fraught history has been replaced by idyllic water walks and markets.

Just behind the ruins of Jedburgh Abbey lies Lanton Road and its 15.46% gradient, which offers views over the entire town before joining Tudhope Loaning.

Strait Path, Banff

Visitors including Robert Burns and Lord Byron have flocked to Banff in Aberdeenshire for centuries, drawn by its seven-arch bridge, architecture and harbour.

Nowadays tourists often come for the golf - but any who venture into the town centre can find themselves facing one of the toughest climbs in Scotland.

Sealed off to traffic, Strait Path's 13.91% gradient will leave many out of puff before they make it to the top, despite the hand rails that have helpfully been installed along the street to aid weary pedestrians.

Image copyright Geograph/Creative Commons
Image caption The thoughtful townsfolk of Banff have installed a handrail along the length of Strait Path

Jeweller Grant Lawrence has worked on the street for about 20 years and says the path has actually been useful for business.

He said: "What we've got here is a pedestrian street so there's always people walking up and down. I'm at the top of the path and you get folk coming in saying 'that brae is a bit steep!'

"People tend to walk up the hill, stop, have a rest and have a look in the shop window so I suppose it helps."

What about the rest?

Image copyright Chris Ward
Image caption Gardner Street in Glasgow was the most popular suggestion in our survey. Please apply your handbrake after parking.

Gardner Street in Glasgow - just off Dumbarton Road in Partick - was the street that was nominated by the largest number of readers as the steepest they had encountered, with the city centre's Douglas Street and North Portland Street at Strathclyde University also among the suggestions.

During snowy winters Gardner Street becomes a sledging playground and has even been known to attract the odd snowboarder, while the Glasgow Warriors rugby team once used it as part of their strength and conditioning training.

Perhaps unexpectedly, the street's gradient was measured at just 8.03% which made it only the 13th steepest of the 15 streets we asked Ordnance Survey to look at.

Whinny Brae in Broughty Ferry was the second most common suggestion. The thigh-burning top section of the street has been sealed off to traffic for the past 50 years, yet the gradient of the slope overall was 10.68%.

Image copyright Google
Image caption The top section of Whinny Brae has been sealed off to traffic for decades

The science bit

This story was inspired by hundreds of nominations from BBC News Online readers. We asked Ordnance Survey to work out the steepest gradients for the top 15 most frequently suggested streets, but did not include routes such as the road to Applecross, which is not a named street.

Ben Humphries of Ordnance Survey said: "We took the extents and alignments of each street from our MasterMap data.

"A few of the streets existed as more than one line segment in the data - reflecting that there are posts or bollards splitting them up on the ground - so these had to be connected up to make a single line for each street."

He added: "These were overlaid onto terrain data to give elevation values.

"The lines of the streets were broken down into five-metre sections, and the elevations recorded for each section. The difference between the minimum and maximum height gives the elevation range for each street: dividing this by the street's length gives a gradient percentage for the full extent of the street."

Thanks to everyone who sent in their suggestions. The full results for the 15 most popular were:

  • Middle Brae, Tobermory 19.40%
  • Ramsay Lane, Edinburgh 15.73%
  • Ellwyn Crescent, Galashiels 15.62%
  • Lanton Road, Jedburgh 15.46%
  • Strait Path, Banff 13.91%
  • School Brae, Bo'ness 12.92%
  • Justice Mill Brae, Aberdeen 11.98%
  • Wardlaw Drive, Rutherglen 11.43%
  • Whinny Brae, Broughty Ferry 10.68%
  • Mount Zion Brae, Arbroath 10.63%
  • Castle View, Castle Douglas 8.90%
  • Bouverie Street, Port Glasgow 8.49%
  • Gardner Street, Glasgow 8.03%
  • Mary Street, Stonehaven 7.85%
  • Victoria Road, Gourock 4.56%

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