Dunedin's Baldwin St loses battle for steepest street to Welsh town

10:51 am on 16 July 2019

Dunedin can no longer lay claim to the steepest street in the world.

Dunedin's Baldwin St (left) has been challenged by Ffordd Pen Llech in Wales.

Dunedin's Baldwin Street, left, was challenged by residents of Harlech, Wales, whose claim that Ffordd Pen Llech is steeper has been accepted. Photo: 123rf.com/ITV News

Guinness World Records has awarded the title to the Welsh seaside resort of Harlech.

The picturesque and winding street, Ffordd Pen Llech, has a 2.5 percent steeper gradient than Baldwin Street in Dunedin.

Its award was confirmed this morning.

A Harlech resident, Gwyn Headley, was the man behind the challenge after writing a blog post last year about his daily drive down from a shop at the top of the 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," he said.

"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."

When he looked into it further, he realised the street's measurements were steeper than its New Zealand counterpart.

He said although Harlech has a lot going for it, including a 13th century castle and a song Men of Harlech, the steepest street title means a lot for its 2000 residents.

He acknowledged the news would be sad for Dunedin, but said New Zealand had broken many Welsh hearts in rugby games over the years.

Guinness World Records editor Craig Glenday said the community's willpower had earned it the title.

"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," he said.

Baldwin Street became a magnet for tourists after it was named the world's steepest street, especially with increased numbers of cruise ships to the city.

But that has been double-edged - residents reported chaos two years ago as visitors blocked access to their properties and trampled through their gardens.

According to locals, it was not unusual to find three to four busloads of tourists there, stopping in the middle of the road to take photos, or trying to force their campervans up the 19-degree angled street.

And a $90,000 public toilet was installed after visitors started using the facilities in homes and businesses.

In a statement, Dunedin's Mayor Dave Cull said he was philosophical about the decision.

"Dunedin has a wonderful range of visitor attractions and we think plenty of people will still visit Baldwin Street as part of their Dunedin experience. The street certainly hasn't got any less steep as a result of the decision."

The Dunedin City Council will seek advice on how to reference the change, but it may be as simple as altering the wording from the world's steepest street to the southern hemisphere's steepest street, he said.

The manager of the Baldwin Street B&B, Ashkon Ashraf, said news could have a big impact on the micro-economy that has developed there in the last 30 years.

"There is a wee hub of activity that's that's buzzing around Baldwin Street itself, so whether or not that's going to diminish as a result of this title change we shall see," he said.

"We will [now] be the steepest street in the southern hemisphere, we will be the steepest strictly residential street in the world because the street in Wales has got restaurants and other commercial activity."

In Harlech, in north west Wales, where the street has has been in existence for 1000 years without its fame being realised, residents may have to watch their back for different reasons.

According to some, a rival road in the English city of Bristol could have a steeper claim to the title.