Riding High

Reaching the highest points is one of the great rewards of ‘getting out’. Getting to the summit provides a real sense of achievement in itself, of course, through that feeling of hard work rewarded – even if the downward trip to come might be just as challenging as the upward one completed. For most people though, the great prize of reaching the top comes from the potential for distant vistas. The stretching of horizons, the birds eye view of landscapes that are difficult to make sense of except from on high, and the chance to look down upon the world around, are all exciting and affirming experiences at the end of the climb.

But we are not all hill walkers and climbers, and reaching the highest peaks in the UK is well beyond us. The ‘County Tops’, particularly in the lowland counties may be a realisable objective, but even this is not always possible or achievable. So how can we get the reward of height in an easier way? Well, one of the (usually!) easy county extremes that can be achieved by most of us is to travel to the highest road point in the county.

If you live in one of the upland parts of the UK then the highest road will be at a considerable altitude. The highest public road in England is the unclassified road from St John’s Chapel to Langdon Beck at Harthope Moor, in the Pennines of Co Durham, which reaches 629m (Grid Reference NY86273501). In Scotland, driving along the A93 from Braemar to Spittal of Glenshee takes you over the Cairnwell Pass, which at a height of 670m is the highest public road in the UK (Grid Reference NO14157745).The highest road in Wales is the Gospel Pass, an unclassified road in Powys between Hay-on-Wye and Abergavenny, which reaches 549m in height (Grid Reference SO23653525).

But most of us do not live in the upland parts of Britain, so the highest road in our own county will be at a more modest height. The highest road in Warwickshire, for example, is the minor road from Ilmington to Hidcote which reaches ‘only’ 260m at Ebrington Hill, 10km south west of Stratford-on-Avon (Grid Reference SP18724263). In Greater London the highest point you can reach by road is on the A233 Biggin Hill to Westerham road in the North Downs which reaches 245m close to Hawley’s Corner in the Borough of Bromley (Grid Reference TQ43635648).

And which county can lay claim to the lowest highest road? Well that’s Norfolk, where the highest road reaches only 103m –it’s the minor road (Sandy Lane) which runs south from West Runton on the north Norfolk coast and passes close to the highest point on the North Norfolk Ridge (Beacon Hill) about 1km south of the village (Grid Reference TG18594131). But Norfolk has only held that record since 1974 – the highest road in the historic county of Huntingdonshire, which ceased to exist in 1974, is the B645 at Three Shires Stone west of Covington, which reaches only 81m at the county boundary with Northamptonshire (Grid Reference TL04717057).

So where is the highest road in your own county?


Whoops! In the last blog we identified St James Church in Louth (Lincolnshire) whose spire is 89.9m tall (Grid Reference TF32668739) as having the highest steeple of any parish church in the UK. We were wrong (it happens!). While this is the tallest Anglican parish church, the tallest parish church overall in the UK is actually the Roman Catholic St. Walburge Church in Preston, Lancashire, whose spire is 94m tall (Grid Reference SD52962985). This is the third highest spire of any church in the UK, after Salisbury and Norwich Cathedrals.

 And Finally….!

The Must Get Out More Question !

Where is the longest road tunnel in the UK?

 The Answer to the Last Question

Where are the tallest church towers/spires in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland?

In Scotland the tallest church spire is St.Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Palmerston Place, Edinburgh Built in 1874 it is the tallest building in Edinburgh and reaches a height of 90m. (Grid Reference NT24147351). The tallest ‘parish’ church is Barclay Viewforth  Churc h of Scotland church, also in Edinburgh, which reaches a height of 76m (Grid Reference NT24947261).

In Wales the tallest church is Llandaff Cathedral in Cardiff, which is 59.4m high (Grid Reference ST15587813), while the tallest ‘parish’ church is St.Giles Church in Wrexham, in North Wales, which is 41.1m high (Grid Reference SJ33545012)

In Northern Ireland the tallest church is St.Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast which is 72m tall (Grid Reference NW46282875), while the tallest ‘parish church’ is the Roman Catholic Sacred Heart Church in Omagh, Co Tyrone, which reaches 68.6m (Grid Reference NV57903587)


The Record Locations

You can use the Grid References provided to locate record locations on a map at www.streetmap.co.uk

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