Cycling in the Peak District and Derbyshire can deliver some spectacular vistas and some interesting spots along the way and the area is a haven for getting out and enjoying the outdoors on two wheels. It’s also abundant with wildlife and heritage with plenty of evidence still dotted around of the industrial era such as the lime kilns and viaducts. We’ve picked out 10 of our favourite cycling trails – all of which are traffic free and suitable for bikes, wheelchairs and buggies. Of course you can also walk along many of these trails or even horse ride…enjoy 🙂
1. Monsal Trail
You can hire a bike and explore this beautiful trail from Blackwell Mill Cycle Hire just outside of Buxton along the A6. The Monsal trail is a disused railway line closed in 1968 and recently converted in 2010-2011 into a new traffic-free cycle track, allowing people to cycle from Blackwell Mill, Nr.Buxton to Bakewell. The eight and half mile trail follows the river Wye, taking you through several newly opened lit tunnels, between steep gorges, surrounding limestone hills and across the spectacular Monsal Dale viaduct making this an exceptional cycling experience. You can of course also walk the trail and do as much or as little as you like. The flora and fauna is lovely along the trail particularly in summer – with plenty of wild flowers, dragonflies, butterflies and more. Don’t miss Hassop Station along the way to Bakewell which serves great food and good cups of tea.
Length of trail: 8.5 miles
Highlights: Derbyshire’s industrial heritage along the way
2. High Peak Trail
Running 17.5 mikes from High Peak Junction, near Cromford for walkers, cyclists and horse riders, this lovely trail takes you through some of the prettiest countryside in Derbyshire. On the former Cromford and High Peak Railway track, the trail can be quieter than others in the area. There’s lots of Derbyshires industrial heritage to see along the way with the only old-style lime kiln still intact in the county and the stationary engine at Middleton Top, once used to take the trains up the steep incline. There’s plenty of picnic tables and seats along the way too. Towards the end of the trail is the village of Cromford where you can turn off to Cromford Wharf – well worth a stop off to rest tired legs; the spot by the canal is ideal for a cuppa and a sandwich. Just before Cromford, look out for Black Rocks – an interesting outcrop of gritstone with spectacular views of the Derwent Valley below, worth the steep climb up.
Length of trail: 17 miles
Highlights: Derbyshire’s industrial heritage along the way
3. Tissington Trail
An easy going trail, you can start from Parsley Hay or Ashbourne where bikes can be hired at either end. Once the London and North Western Railway (LNWR) railway line between Buxton and Ashbourne which closed in the late 60s, the trail is around 13 miles long. There aren’t as many things to see along this trail and it’s a little more open but it means you have regular good vistas across the Peak District along the way. Don’t miss the picturesque village of Tissington with its quaint cottages, and duck pond. The southern end of the trail is in Ashbourne – another lovely Derbyshire town; the cycle hire centre is easily accessed just outside the town centre. The trail also passes near to Dovedale, a dramatic limestone ravine with stunning scenery, famous for its much-loved stepping stones which cross the River Dove – well worth a look.
Length of trail: 13 miles
Highlights: Stop off at pretty Tissington Village for a cuppa
4. Tideswell and Millers Dale
One for the more adventurous, this circular loop takes you through limestone dales, scenic countryside and the historic ‘plague’ village of Eyam. You can also call at some superb pubs along the way (some really great traditional places) and the Village on the Green Café in Eyam in excellent for lunch break with it’s healthy and tasty offerings and plnety of GF and veggie (we’re tried and tested it several times). The route is around 20 miles but takes you through some scenic places and Eyam is a must because it’s not only pretty but there’s a fascinating history to the village. Do call into the church if you have time and stop by the ‘plague cottages’ too.
Length of trail: 20 miles
Highlights: Stop off at Eyam and find out more this historic ‘plague’ village
5. Manifold Trail
Another dismantled railway track, the Manifold Track climbs gently through nine miles of spectacular scenery from Hulme End to Waterhouses, this route packs in a decent amount for a short ride. With gentle gradients, you can begin at Hulme End and amble through picturesque valleys of the Hamps and Manifold rivers, via the hamlet of Ecton. The Tea Junction café is a great spot to grab a cuppa before setting off. You’ll pass beneath the famous Thor’s Cave (250ft above the trail) gaping over the trail up in the limestone spur; take time to chain up your bike at the bottom of the path that leads to the cavernous cave – this is probably the most scenic part of the trail. Head through the dimly lit and narrow Swainsley Tunnel. There are car parking areas at both ends of the trail. The valley is touted as the ‘Little Switzerland of Staffordshire’. It’s hardly alpine, but the columns of rocks that rise out of the steep-sided hills makes it a dramatic location. The trail is fairly level throughout so good for wheelchair users and prams too or buggies.
Length of trail: 9 miles
Highlights: Thor’s Cave – a must see (and climb if you can)
5. Derwent Reservoirs
A lovely scenic 15 mile cycle around the sides of three reservoirs in the Upper Derwent Valley: Ladybower, Derwent and Howden. You can spot buzzards, merlins, peregrine falcons, goshawks and sparrowhawks on the upper reaches – or the more common red grouse if you keep an eye out. The route takes is a mix of road and track – with a few steeper ascents on the eastern side and northern end, where the track traverses the edge of the moorland. Derwent Reservoir is best known for its association with the Dambusters, who practised here before going on to breach dams in the Ruhr Valley of Germany during World War Two. There’s an interesting little museum at Ladybower with a collection of memorabilia and photographs (check opening times). Bikes can be hired from Fairholmes Visitor Centre. Start the trail at Fairholmes car park at Derwent Reservoir – you can hire bikes here; the trail takes you on a loop round and back to the starting point again.
Length of trail: 13 miles
Highlights: Stop off at Tissington Village
7. Sett Valley Trail
Short and sweet at five miles there and back, the Sett Valley Trail begins at Hayfield, with its iconic kinder Massif backdrop. The dismantled railway trail slopes down to New Mills, past woodland, pasture and hill, including the wonderful Lantern Pike – looking like a misshapen conical hat. Stop by the audio post to learn about the history of the area, accompanied by singing school children and the words of a local poet.
Length of trail: 2.5 miles
Highlights: Access the Pennine Bridleway to Kinder, otherwise – this is ideal for those looking for a quick jaunt
8. Carsington Water Cycle Trail
An easy 8 mile loop of the reservoir, enjoy this picturesque trail on top brand mountain bikes – hired at the visitor centre.. You can enjoy the short, family friendly, 3 mile route or the full 8 mile reservoir circuit now all off road. Alternatively you can increase your route a little further and take in Hopton and Carsington Village. The tracks are regularly maintained and improved by Severn Trent Water and link to the Tissington and High Peak trails offering even more opportunities to take in the lovely Derbyshire Dales scenery.
The cycle hire consists of mountains bikes from the Giant and Dawes range all with front suspension and they also offer comfort bikes for those who require a more upright seating position and electric bikes for those requiring a little assistance.
Length of trail: 8 miles
Highlights: Expansive views across the reservoir, there’s plenty to do here and makes a great day out
9. Longendale Trail
The 12 mile there-and-back cycle begins at Hadfield, better known for the various filming locations of The League of Gentleman with its ominous road sign, ‘You’ll never leave’. There’s nowhere to hire a bike in town, but with the railway station is very close by, you can easily transport your own.
From Platt Street, the trail follows the path of the dismantled railway, gently rising up through the valley flanked by moorland and on past a series of five reservoirs. Take a picnic, settle down on one of the trail’s benches and enjoy the vista of moorland and water. The trail ends at Woodhead Tunnel.
It’s a lovely cycle in fine Peak District surroundings surroundings. Choose a sunny day, if you can, when the water glistens blue and the moorland is many shades of greens and yellows.
Length of trail: 6 miles (one way)
Highlights: Enjoy a sit down on one the benches on route and enjoy the views of the reservoirs
10. Thornhill Trail
A flat, linear route along the old railway line south from Bamford Station to beautiful Ladybower Dam. The trail is the old reservoir construction narrow gauge railway which brought raw materials up the valley.
An easy trail being only a couple of miles long, this is ideal for families. The trail starts at Bamford Recreation Ground and takes you through some really stunning countryside. On the right look across to see the spectacular Bamford Edge. The trail finishes at Ladybower – here you can continue your ride if you wish and explore the Derwent Reservoirs – see above.
Length of trail: 2 miles
Highlights: Views across Bamford Edge