Vale Street

Bristol, England

Vale Street, Bristol: scaling new heights as England's steepest street.

Vale Street: The Steepest Street in England

Bristol is a city in the Southwest of England known for its music scene, artistic flair, historic landmarks, and maritime heritage. But it also boasts a unique claim to fame – Vale Street, once hailed England’s steepest street. It is true that Bristol has a pretty hilly landscape, but we must say Vale Street hiding away in the colourful neighbourhood of Totterdown really takes the biscuit. With its almost vertical initial climb and then continuing at a 22-degree gradient incline for its 427 ft entirety, the street has garnered a reputation enticing photographers and thrill-seekers from all around.

"We get a lot of people coming to look at the road. Especially during lockdown. We get groups of bikers and runners going up and down the street. We don't mind it at all."

Artist Benji Appleby-Tyler, a resident on Vale Street for over 9 years.

As news of Vale Street's steep gradient spread, it began to draw many visitors seeking to test their mettle, their fitness, or simply to enjoy the panoramic views of Bristol.

Vale Street
- Sam Saunders

A Vertical Challenge

Vale Street boasts a gradient that has sparked curiosity and debate amongst locals and visitors alike. Its elevation gain of 17 metres at approximately 22 degrees (rising to 25.6 degrees in points) or a 1 in 2.86 gradient, places it at the same angle as an advanced ski slope in the alps!

“Up and down we've had skiers, we had a unicyclist, lots of runners come and train here.”

Helen Loney, a resident on Vale Street for over 20 years.

Scaling the small mountain of a street is an exhilarating feat and it's no wonder it has come to serve as an unofficial training spot for both cyclists and runners.

Residents of Vale Street

Given its structure, Vale Street was crowned England’s Steepest Residential Street, by the Ordnance Survey in 2019. But if the incline is so dramatic that it has achieved this award and become a test of endurance and strength for seasoned athletes, then what does that say about Vale’s residents? Well, it's likely that they’re some of the fittest people in Bristol!

“Pushing a double buggy up was a bit tricky for me but I've never been so fit in my life.”

Helen Loney.

Living on Vale Street

Aside from the physical aspects, living on Vale Street has also posed other challenges. From having to walk down to the bottom of the hill to collect their deliveries to wearing crampons in the winter, residents have had to learn to adapt to life on England’s steepest street.

One of the biggest aspects of life on Vale that residents have to be mindful of, is their cars – they wouldn’t want to wake up one morning and find their car is at the bottom of the street! To avoid such issues, people park their cars perpendicular to the road and some even tie their cars to the lampposts, especially in icy conditions.

“It's fine most of the time. It's the winter that is the hardest part.”

Benji Appleby-Tyler.

During the winter, to avoid stepping out for work one morning and their car is buried under a blanket of snow – stuck on the hill for up to several days – residents have to check the weather forecast religiously.

But to get their cars on the street in the first place it's not uncommon for residents to drive all the way around other streets to come down Vale Street, as opposed to taking on the almost vertical challenge bonnet first!

"I love it here. There's a nice community that always looks out for each other."

Rouska Lundin, a resident on Vale Street for over 8 years.

But the community itself has turned it around; adapting and now enjoying the benefits the incline has to offer. And so, the general consensus is that whilst Vale Street’s steepness does limit some aspects of their life, they wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

Easter Sunday on Vale Street

“There's quite a large crowd that stands and throws hard-boiled eggs down the hill… It's always competitive and really good fun.”

Helen Loney.

As a testament to how a seemingly insurmountable challenge can be transformed into a unique point of pride and a celebrated feature of the community, Vale Street plays host to an annual Easter Sunday egg-rolling competition. Residents march to the top of the hill – armed with a brightly painted egg – before letting them loose, hoping theirs will be the first to the bottom. The local event brings neighbours together, showcasing the warmth and camaraderie that make this neighbourhood a welcoming and tight-knit community.

Reasons for the Incline

The neighbourhood of Totterdown, where Vale Street is located, has a history dating back to the 19th century. Once a working-class district, it has transformed into a vibrant community known for its colourful terraced houses and scenic views. The street's steepness was likely shaped by the area's original purpose as a quarry for the production of stone, and it has since become an integral part of Totterdown's unique character.

The Houses on Vale Street: A Colourful Backdrop

The terraced houses along Vale Street are not only a testament to the architectural beauty of Bristol but also an artist's canvas. The street's charming row of multicoloured houses adds a whimsical touch to its already picturesque setting, meaning that the photographers who come for the steepness, get an enchanting backdrop thrown in for free.

Speaking of artists, Vale Street shot into the limelight once more in 2021, after the discovery of a brand new Banksy at the bottom of the street. The artwork was titled ‘Aachoo’ and aptly featured an elderly lady sneezing, but it has sadly been removed.

Vale Street 1
- James Thornett

Our Thoughts…

In conclusion, Vale Street in Bristol, often considered the steepest street in England, is more than just a geographical anomaly; it symbolises the neighbourhood’s history and character, setting them apart from the rest of Bristol – and the UK! Serving as an example for the rest of us that even the steepest of challenges can be transformed into something positive or a point of celebration. As visitors ascend Vale’s challenging incline, they not only conquer its physical steepness but also gain a deeper appreciation for the unique stories that characterise the streets and neighbourhoods of Bristol.

Interested in finding more places like this? Try one of our Bristol Treasure Hunts - untangle cryptic clues as a team, as you are taken on a journey to the most unique, unusual and bizarre corners of England.

Vale Street Questions


What you need to know

Vale Street
Vale Street, Totterdown, Bristol, BS4 3, England, United Kingdom
51.441269, -2.571283
Tips before you visit

Vale Street is a residential street so please be respectful of noise levels, and people’s privacy and property. Additionally, we would not recommend driving up it – even the residents don’t do that!