Quiet lanes near Parsley HayQuiet lanes near Parsley Hay
Quiet lanes near Parsley Hay

Experience the natural and cultural heritage of Derbyshire exploring the Peak District by bicycle

Cycling remains a popular pastime but it can be difficult to find suitable areas for a bike ride. The southern and central Peak District however, combines quiet lanes, byways and traffic-free routes, offering the cyclist wonderful opportunities to experience the natural and cultural heritage of the area on two wheels.

You don’t have to be super fit or an adrenaline junkie to enjoy exploring the area by bicycle. Although the Peak District does not get its name from the many hills in the area, there is no denying that the region is full of geographical ups and downs. This can create a challenge when looking for a gentle bicycle ride.

However, by using the traffic-free trails which follow former railway lines, you can find a route with minimal ascent. Starting from the cycle-hire at Ashbourne (with refreshment kiosk and toilets), the Tissington Trail can be followed to the beautiful village of Tissington and beyond.

There is a slight incline but this makes for a leisurely return to Ashbourne. After exploring the village, there is an option to return to the start on quiet, country lanes, alternatively return by reversing the route along the trail. A circular route from Ashbourne to Tissington is the perfect introduction to cycling in the Peak District.

For those wanting something a little more challenging, the two former railway lines, the High Peak and Tissington Trails can be linked with a straightforward section of off-road riding. There are multiple routes linking the two trails, depending on how far you want to cycle on the day. The best place to start is at Parsley Hay cycle-hire, where there is also a café (outside seating) and toilets.

There are numerous picturesque hamlets in the Hartington area, many with traditional inns. Parsley Hay is again a good place to start to explore these. Rides can be undertaken on quiet lanes; alternatively, it is easy to incorporate gentle off-road tracks into a route. The limestone hills and dales of the area make the riding more challenging and it might be worth hiring an electric bike.

From Parsley Hay the rural hamlets of Sheen, Wetton and Heathcote can be visited, taking in sections of the Manifold Way, another former railway. The ancient market town of Hartington, with its village green and pond is a must-see, before returning to Parsley Hay through the deep clefts of the limestone dales or by following the Tissington Trail.

The Chatsworth estate and surrounding area is full of cultural heritage. It has a mix of quiet lanes, gentle tracks and bold, off-road routes. Hassop Station, with its bike-hire centre and café, is a good place to start. A circular route involving quiet lanes and gentle off-road tracks can be ridden, taking in Chatsworth House and the village of Edensor.

For the more experienced cyclists, a ride high into the Staffordshire Moorlands presents breath-taking views, tough climbs and never-ending descents. This area is well-suited to road cycling, with a myriad of lanes and far-reaching vistas. Views of the Roaches and Hen Cloud, gritstone outcrops in the South West Peak, dominate the area.

The moorlands are also a great location for spotting some of the wonderful birds that nest in the Peak District, in summer. Tittesworth Reservoir is a good starting location for cycling in this area.

For tougher, off-road adventures, Macclesfield Forest has well signed routes for cyclists, beginning from its ranger station with toilets and car park. In the surrounding area there are bridleways and byways, which combined with some road riding, can be used to reach Three Shire Heads, a beautiful waterfall at the boundary of Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Cheshire.

Cycling is beneficial for both physical and mental health. Noticing and enjoying the wonderful landscapes; connecting with nature, whether it is hearing the birdsong, seeing the blossom in spring or the leaves changing colour in autumn, all do wonders to boost our mood.

Electric bikes have made cycling more accessible for those with health issues, the electric assist easing pressure on the body. So, what are you waiting for? Perhaps for it to stop raining. When it does, improve your mood by not only getting out in the sunshine but connecting with nature, releasing the feel-good hormones endorphins, through exercise, all by getting on your bike.

To find out more about some of the routes mentioned above and to get further inspiration on exploring the southern and central Peak District by bike, take a look at the book ‘Scenic Cycling in the Peak District’ which has 19 circular rides on quiet lanes, gentle off-road tracks and trails.

Each route has colour photos, a gradient profile, a map, a link to GPX files and information on the places visited. See https://spiral-books.com/author-page/carina-humberstone/ for more details

The book is also available online from major bookstores and at some cafes, campsites and stores in the area.

Buxton-based Carina has been encouraging others to explore the great outdoors for over 30 years and loves nothing more than riding her bike through the British countryside. She is a qualified mountain bike leader and a member of her local mountain rescue team.