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Great British Bike Rides – The Peak District

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For the next instalment of our Great British Bike Rides series we’re heading to the Peak District, a region famed for its monstrous climbs and rolling country roads. Time to don the rain capes, attach a few extra sprockets and hold on tight – it’s going to be a wet and bumpy ride.

Here are our picks for three of the best bike rides that you can find nestled within the Peak District, from leisurely family rides on disused railway paths to a gruelling 85-mile brute which tackles some of the hardest climbs in the region.

Ridge view in the Peak District as a venue for great British bike rides

1 – The Monsal Trail, Bakewell

Difficulty: *

Cutting its way through the heart of the Peak District, this 8.5-mile ride following the Monsal Trail encounters some of the most stunning sights that the region has to offer, from rolling fields of green to towering limestone cliffs.

The trail can be picked up from a number of different points, but the official start lies just north of the quaint town of Bakewell, a town famous for, you guessed right, its tarts.


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When in bakewell ! #tart #bakewelltart #cherrybakewells

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From Bakewell the trail passes by three other disused railway stations, all of which offer access to this clandestine cycle route. There are also a number of cycle hire stations along the route, offering all kinds of bikes from tandems to modern e-bikes.

The trail is perfect for family rides, not only because of its traffic-free nature, easy parcours and forgiving surfaces, but also because of its history and natural beauty. Information panels describing the trail’s wildlife, geology and rail heritage can be found throughout the route, giving both you and the kids a chance to learn all about this fascinating place.


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Isaac loved it on the bike! What a winner! 🚲 👍🏻 #monsaltrail #derbyshire #myboy #familyday

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No matter what time of day you start the trail, you’re going to need a small set of lights, even at the height of summer. Along the route there are four railway tunnels, each of which are around 400m long. There are some lights in here, but not enough to clearly see other oncoming cyclists. With lights blazing and spirits high, feel free to shout and hear the echoes rumble through the old stone tunnels.

Before you leave the trail behind, we urge you to take a trip up to Monsal Head following the footpath just after the end of the Headstone Tunnel. From this viewpoint you can see down into the Monsal Dale and deep into the Wye valley, a truly magnificent view that you won’t want to miss.

2 – Stanage Circuit, Ringinglow

Difficulty: ****

If there’s one thing that the Peak District is famous for, in cycling terms, then it’s the abundance of proper mountain biking terrain. It would be tough to visit this region without sampling some of the gnarly trails that it has to offer, every hillside you see littered with dicey paths that make you scream, ‘I want to ride up there!’

This out-and-back route from Ringinglow takes you on a tour of some of the Peak’s most beautiful hilltop viewpoints, while also avoiding too much mud. It’s around 16 miles long and features no less than six distinct climbs, the penultimate one from Stanage Causeway to the Pole the toughest of the lot. Climbing 100m in elevation over just 1km sounds incredibly difficult, and it certainly is, but throw in some loose rocks and muddy ditches and this climb becomes even more tortuous – one you may just have to summit on foot.

With every tough climb, however, comes the reward of an amazing view and the one at the summit of this climb is truly breath-taking. A tricky descent follows, then another small climb, but once you’re over this hump it’s all downhill back to Ringinglow.

This tiny village on the outskirts of the Peak District is a hidden gem and certainly one you’ll want to make a stop in. The Norfolk Arms lies at the village’s epicentre, offering up some of the most amazing home-cooked food this side of the Peaks. There are also cosy log fires to sit beside should Mother Nature curse your ride with a downpour.


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An autumnal view of The Norfolk Arms #Ringinglow #Leaves #Autumn #PeakDistrict #Seasons #Autumnal #Sheffield

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3 – Tour des Peaks

Difficulty: *****

Inspired by the route that the Tour de France took when it visited back in 2014, this ride through the hilly heartlands of the Peak District tackles no less than 2,900m of climbing along its 85-mile route.


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The ride starts in Sheffield before heading out towards Low Bradfield where you’ll stare down the first climb of the day, a road locally known as ‘The Strines’. The up and down profile of this hill is enough to induce vertigo, so it’s a good job you’ve got some flat roads to recover on between the summit and the small town of Penistone.

From Penistone, rolling roads take you towards Holmfirth where you’ll be able to spot the upcoming climb on the horizon. Holme Moss is the pièce de résistance of this Peak District loop, a 4.7km climb with multiple switchbacks and an average gradient of 7.3%. It may not be quite as tough as a French Alp, but it was still awarded a testy Cat 2 status by the Tour de France organisers in 2014 – definitely something worth boasting about.

The next climb of the day is Snake Pass, the longest and arguably most scenic of the lot, swapping the sombre moorlands of Holme Moss for luscious pine forests to rival the Swiss Alps. From the summit, a fast descent takes you towards Bamford, one of the quaint villages lying right at the heart of the Peak District and the beautiful Hope Valley.

Take the time to drink in the views as you head towards the foot of Winnats Pass, because once you’re on these ramps there’s no chance of a cheeky look behind you. With ramps of 20% this is a monster of a climb, a real leg-breaker; just summitting it on two wheels is enough to merit admiration.

From the summit of Winnats, the route snakes back on itself, re-entering the Hope Valley as it makes its way back to Sheffield. There is one more climb before the finish however, a tough drag up to the top of Burbage Moor. The top of this climb lies on the border between Derbyshire and Yorkshire, the views on both sides equally as magnificent. From here it’s all downhill to the finish in Sheffield – finally!

Keep an eye out for the next instalment in our Great British Bike Rides series. If you’ve got a suggestion on where we should head next, feel free to send us a message on Twitter or Facebook. Until then, why not check out our cycle insurance packages and begin planning your cycling trip to the Peak District.

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