Dunedin's Baldwin Street has been stripped of world's steepest street record

Dunedin's Baldwin Street has lost its status as the world's steepest street.

The sleepy Welsh town of Harlech is officially now the home of the world's steepest street.

Ffordd Pen Llech, which snakes through the town of Harlech, has a gradient of 1:2.67 (meaning those travelling on the street go 1 metre up or down for every 2.67m travelled horizontally).

This record beats Baldwin Street, which has a ratio of 1:2.86.

Baldwin Street has held the record for over a decade.

Otago University marketing expert Dr Andrea Insch said tourists would still be drawn to the street, but advertising strategies might need a shake-up.

"I think maybe introducing visitors to other interesting new developments happening in the city.

"Our art tours and heritage tours could perhaps be given more emphasis.


Baldwin St held the record for a decade.

Enterprise Dunedin director John Christie said Baldwin Street would remain a tourist attraction.

Christie said regardless of records, Baldwin Street "is an iconic street for people to visit".

Guinness World Records guidelines state that to be eligible for the steepest-street record, the road must be open to both pedestrians and motorised traffic.

It is also based on the maximum gradient over a ten-metre span, comparing the vertical rise to the horizontal distance.

A sign warns the Welsh road is unsuitable for motorists and its steepest part only allows traffic to travel uphill.

A sign gives a slope reading of 40 per cent, but it is normal practice for United Kingdom highway authorities to round off gradients to avoid confusion.

It is not the first time Baldwin St has been challenged - a claim in 2016 that St Mary's Hill in Chester was steeper was dismissed by Guinness because it is inaccessible to vehicles.

Welsh village declared winner

Welsh man Gwyn Headley has been leading the campaign to snatch the title of the steepest street from Dunedin.

An incident a year ago prompted him to start the campaign.


Ffordd Pen Llech is now the world's steepest street.

"I have a 4WD car with anti-lock brakes - I got about halfway down [Ffordd Pen Llech] and the car slid forward about six feet with all the wheels locked and I thought: 'This is very steep' ... So I went on to Wikipedia and looked it up and it said it was the steepest street in the UK," he told RNZ.

"So that piqued my curiosity and I looked up the steepest street in the world and found it was yours in Dunedin."

However, when Headley compared the figures for the two streets it showed the Welsh one was steeper so he got in touch with Guinness World Records.


A sign at the top of Pen Ffordd Llech in Harlech, Wales, warns drivers of a slope of 40 per cent - rounded up from the true figure of 36.6 per cent.

How Baldwin St got its title

Tim Miller last week investigated how the street came to be officially recognised as the steepest, and what might happen if loses the top spot.

It was a quiet day in the Dunedin newsroom when broadcaster and journalist Jim Mora asked the city council what was the steepest street in the city.

"I think I asked around and people mostly said View St and I thought 'yeah, that's quite steep but some of the ones up North East Valley must be steeper'."

After Baldwin St was confirmed as the city's steepest with a gradient of 35%, he then set about getting the street officially recognised.

"I wrote to the Guinness Book of Records and started a correspondence because the two steepest streets in the world then were both in San Francisco, but Baldwin was quite clearly steeper."

On April 9, 1985 a story ran on the South Tonight proclaiming Baldwin to be both Dunedin's and the world's steepest residential street.

By 1987 the street was officially recognised in the records books, and the rest is history.

If the Welsh were to wrest the title away, Mr Mora says he will be slightly miffed but still "sporting".

"Because they may have a castle that's got antiquity but this tradition in Dunedin has a bit of antiquity now, and it would be a shame to have it overthrown after all these years."

A few years after the story first aired, longtime residents Sam and Coleen Williamson moved into their new home at the bottom of the street.

"It had not long been done when we moved in here, but nobody really took any notice of it then."

Baldwin St is now one of the "must see" attractions in Dunedin, but the growing number of tourists has not always mixed well with the residential nature of the street.

The Williamsons have had their fair share of campervans parked over their driveway or tourists walking over their flowerbeds, and more than once have had to repair their brick fence after someone has accidentally backed into it while performing a U-turn.

There will not be too many tears shed if the title shifts to the northern hemisphere, Mr Williamson said.

"It will be nice to be a bit quieter out the front there - it might help stop the obstruction of people parking over our driveway and that sort of stuff."

Even in the middle of the tourism off-season, Baldwin St was full of selfie-taking tourists and tour groups taking up the whole width of the street when the Otago Daily Times visited on Thursday.

Only a handful of tourists knew about the impending decision, but most said it would still have been on their list of sights to see in Dunedin.

This article was first published on the NZ Herald and is republished here with permission. Additional reporting by ODT.