In the ancient and beautiful North West Wales town of Harlech, sited on the Wales Coast Path and famed in legend and song, is a street named Ffordd Pen Llech*. Residents and visitors who drive down it or walk up it all comment on how steep it is. And so too does Guinness World Records, which today issued a certificate announcing that Ffordd Pen Llech now holds the record for the steepest street in the world: “The steepest street (road) is Ffordd Pen Llech in Harlech, Wales, UK with a gradient of 1:2.67 (37.45% stretch over fall) as verified on 6 June 2019” The previous record holder, Baldwin Street in Dunedin, New Zealand, has a gradient of 35%.
The exhausted residents of Harlech are jubilant. “What a long strange trip it’s been,’ mused Gwyn Headley whose blog in August last year kicked off the bid application. With the invaluable help and enthusiasm of Sarah Badham, who runs the Grŵp Cymuned Harlech web page and the Ffordd Pen Llech Facebook page, and the crucial advice of surveyor Myrddyn Philips, the residents of Harlech put an unassailable package together to win the bid.
Gwynedd Council appointed surveyor Wayne Evans to measure the gradient of the street. 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!”
“It was a lot tougher than we thought,” said Headley. “Guinness World Records was ultra-specific in the criteria demanded for it to qualify as the steepest street in the world, and although we were confident in meeting or exceeding nine of them, we were worried about the tenth.” Guinness World Records required a blueprint of the street. The Harlech bid justified its absence because the street has been there since time immemorial, at least a thousand years old, and blueprints only date from 1842.
It’s party time in Harlech, already a UNESCO World Heritage site. The old town has gathered its skirts together and is ready to celebrate with visitors and friends for —who knows? —the next thousand years?
*Ffordd Pen Llech is pronounced Ffordd Pen Llech. Easy. 4 letters, 3 letters, 3 letters. FF-O-R-DD P-E-N LL-E-CH. Don’t make the common mistake of confusing the Welsh alphabet with the English one. They are not at all the same. OK, in English it might sound something like FORTH PEN GHLECCHH.