What Google Maps doesn’t tell you

After my visit to Aira Force, I hot-footed it towards Loughrigg Fell to try and fit in as much as possible before the end of the afternoon. Handily, I had printed out some Google Maps before I left Dundee, so I didn’t have to worry too much about how to get there. Or so I thought.

Looking over the route before I set off, the journey seemed simple enough. All I had to do was continue on the road round Ullswater, then keep going until I take a “slight right ontto Kirkstone Pass”, which would take me straight to Ambleside. The instructions could hardly be more benign.

Kirkstone Pass on Google Maps

But what the vast off-white expanses of the default view on Google Maps don’t show is just how hilly this area is. I knew I would be driving between hills, so I should have guessed. This was almost too much for my poor wee Panda to cope with. It hadn’t struggled like this since I drove up to the car park at Cairn Gorm last year.

Even more worrying was the road sign that basically instructs you not to drive on Kirkstone Pass during winter. Moreover, the sign called the road “The Struggle”. I was beginning to doubt whether I should take this route, or follow the alternative, longer, but presumably easier road.

Luckily, I was travelling downhill. I can imagine that taking the road in the other direction truly would be a struggle, as the gradient is apparently 25% at some points of this extraordinary road.

My eyes will have been on stalks as I made the descent. There was no risk of me disobeying the signs advising to use a low gear. It’s difficult to imagine how this narrow, twisty, and exceptionally steep road could have been more challenging — especially as I was not expecting it.

It was a bit scary, but also brilliant fun to drive. I very rarely derive pleasure from road driving. For me, driving is a function necessary to get from A to B and not much more; about as fun as washing the dishes. But the Struggle gave me a taste of how it feels to really have fun on the roads.


  1. hi, did you check out the terrain or satellite image of your route? looks like you were on a very interesting road 🙂