​Cycling the Peak District: The UK’s most cycle-friendly National Park

​Philip from YHA By ​Philip from YHA

From traffic-free family rides to challenging mountain trails, the Peak District National Park offer some great riding opportunities

The Peak District National Park is full of history and heritage. It has over 70 miles of paths and routes to suit all ages and abilities, from flat, traffic-free trails ideal for families and beginners to challenging mountain bike rides in the hills for the more experienced cyclist.

The world renowned national park is also fast becoming one of the most cycle friendly locations in the UK thanks to a number of generous government funding initiatives. Over the years the park has received grants from the Department for Transport which have supported two projects aimed at improving access and facilities for all kinds of cyclists. From new cycling pathways and bicycle storage pods to the introduction of a brand new bus system which aims to help cyclists carry their bikes and equipment around the site during peak times, the peak district is very much leading the way when it comes to cycle-friendly features.

As well as these funding programmes, the Youth Hostels Association (or YHA) have also invested a lot in their Peak District hostels in order to ensure they can cater for cyclists of all abilities. The track leading to the hostel at Edale will be upgraded and work at other sites will include the installation of cycle stores, bike stands and outdoor cleaning facilities.

So with these new features and upgrades now in place, the peak district now offers some of the most accessible and scenic cycling pathways in the UK. Below is a rundown of the park’s most noteworthy routes.

Cycle Hire and Carsington Water

When you visit the Peak District you can take your own bike or hire from one of the many hire centres in the area. Most of these centres also offer group hire options from one hour to a whole day and are usually located near popular bus stops.

On the southern edge of the park near Ashbourne, Carsington Water is an attractive reservoir surrounded by beautiful woodland and rolling fields, offering a range of routes which cater to all levels and abilities, including a partly traffic-free loop around the reservoir.

The Miner's Arms in Carsington Village offers cycle hire and from the pub you can easily access the traffic-free loop around Carsington Water or, for the more adventurous cyclists, head up the steep hill out of Hopton and onto the High Peak Trail. It is also a good place to stop off for rest and refreshment on your way back.

The Monsal Trail

The Monsal Trail is another fantastic traffic-free route for walkers, cyclists, and horse riders. The trail runs along the former Midland Railway line for 8.5 miles between Blackwell Mill, in Chee Dale and Coombs Road, at Bakewell.

Interestingly visitors can go through the tunnels for the first time since the former Midland Railway Line closed in 1968. Most of the route was opened to the public in 1981 but a number of former railway tunnels closed after concerns about safety. However, in May 2011, the Headstone, Cressbrook, Litton and Chee Tor tunnels were opened for the public to enjoy and offer some truly unique pathways for all kinds of cyclist.

Cyclists are now able to experience the full length of the former railway route and see wonderful views at stops along the way such as Water-cum-Jolly Dale. Each tunnel is about 400 metres long and are lit during normal daylight hours. Outside these hours it is recommended that visitors bring a torch or cycle lights with them.

The Monsal Trail follows the course of a disused railway line for easy, safe rides. © Graham Hogg (via Geograph, Creative Commons)

The Monsal Trail follows the course of a disused railway line for easy, safe rides. © Graham Hogg (via Geograph, Creative Commons)

The Chatsworth Loop and The High Peak Trail

For those adventurous cyclists who are up for a challenge, there is the Chatsworth Loop which begins and ends at Parsley Hay Visitor and Cycle Centre. You can cycle this lengthy 27.5 mile route and take in the beautiful views of Chatsworth House as well as a couple of breathtaking bridges. However, be warned as there are a number of difficult climbs along the way which are likely to catch out those who are less experienced.

For something simpler, the High Peak Trail is suitable for cyclists of all ages and abilities. This secluded 17.5 mile ride offers beautiful scenery and a variety of top notch picnic spots for families or large groups.

A gated crossing at Brundcliffe on The High Peak Trail  © Richard Croft (via Geograph, Creative Commons)

A gated crossing at Brundcliffe on The High Peak Trail © Richard Croft (via Geograph, Creative Commons)

Cycling events

Alongside the wonderful cycle routes scattered all over the Peak District there are also a number of great cycling events which take place all year round. From the Peak District Mountain Bike Challenge to the Cycling Back in Time railway tours, there are plenty of charity rides, races and educational cycling tours which are sure to keep both casual cyclists and cycling fanatics engaged and coming back to the park throughout the year.

The Peak District is bursting with wonderful scenery and a range of different terrains, so whether you fancy taking on the Chatsworth Loop or making a casual trip through the famous Monsal Trail, there is really something for everyone in the UK’s most cycle friendly national park.

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