Whilst the thought of mountain biking across rocky terrain will scare some as much as it thrills others, many of the most scenic cycle routes of the Peak District are accessible to all.
There are a number of brilliant countryside trails following old, disused railway lines that are popular with cyclists of all ages and abilities. Lovingly restored and free from traffic, these family friendly routes allow you to pedal off into an amazing adventure.
The Monsal Trail
Runs between: Topley Pike junction and the Coombes Viaduct
Following a section of the old Manchester, Buxton, Matlock and Midlands Junction Railway, this 8.5 mile trail connects Bakewell and Chee Dale. Renowned for its spectacular scenery, the trail runs along the River Wye valley, passing through locations such as Blackwell Mill, Millers Dale, Cressbrook, Monsal Dale, Great Longstone and Hassop.
Four railway tunnels feature on the route. Other highlights include the riverside path through Walter-cum-Jolly and the iconic Headstone viaduct. There are plenty of picnic spots along the way, and you will also pass a variety of cafés, tea rooms, pubs and ice cream kiosks too!
The Tissington Trail
Runs between: Ashbourne and Sterndale Moor
Five years after the London and North Western railway closed between Ashbourne and Buxton, the Peak National Park and Derbyshire County Council purchased the route and reopened it as the Tissington Trail. The 13 mile route is well known for its gentle gradients. If you haven’t brought bikes with you but fancy a cycle, the Park Authority also operates cycle hire at both ends of the trail.
Taking its name from the village of Tissington, around which it winds, the trail passes nearby to many eye-catching places, such as Dovedale and Hartington.
The High Peak Trail
Runs between: Dowlow and High Peak Junction
Following the track of the former Cromford and High Peak railway, this scenic route is 17 miles long. For an old train line, the terrain is unusually steep in places, especially at the Hopton Incline, which was one of the steepest climbs on the British rail system.
The route, which meets the Tissington Trail at Parsley Hay, passes a number of interesting sites, such as Harboro Rocks, Black Rocks, and the only surviving old-style lime kiln still to be found in Derbyshire. There are also picnic stops, public toilets and visitor centres at Middleton Top and High Peak Junction.
The Manifold Trail
Runs between: Hulme End and Waterhouses
Running for 8 miles through the Manifold Valley, along the track that was once the Leek and Manifold Valley light railway, this tarmacked route has a slight downhill gradient from north to south. There are a number of stunning sights to take in along the way, including Thor’s Cave, the caves at Beeston Tor and picturesque Dovedale.
Unlike the Tissington Trail and the High Peak Trail, which are both elevated routes, the Manifold Trail follows the valley bottom, which means the chance to view interesting plant and wildlife – not to mention there’s slightly more shelter!
The Five Pits Trail
Runs between: Grassmoor Country Park and Tibshelf Ponds
This 5.5 mile track travels through grassland and woodland, with vantage points at disused collieries and ponds. Beginning at the Grassmoor Country Park, a haven for wildlife, the trail also passes Wolfie Pond, another attractive nature reserve.
The trail offers an array of picturesque picnic spots, with the pretty meadows and tranquil water at Tibshelf Ponds proving particularly popular.
The Longdendale Trail
Runs between: Hadfield and Woodhead Tunnel
With a smooth surface and shallow gradient, this trail is a real family favourite. The 7 mile track follows the old Woodhead railway line, with spectacular moorland views across the Woodhead Valley. Cyclists on the trail are often tempted by a detour to nearby Glossop, where there are a number of great pubs to visit.
Kids will be entertained by the local legends which state that the ghosts of Roman soldiers have been seen walking through the hillside and various reports of flashing lights zipping through the valley!