My friend Lily and I set off on an exciting bike ride in the beautiful county of Derbyshire. Read on to learn about our journey and the wonderful places we visited along the way.
The route to Ashbourne…
We began our journey at the The Glenorchy Centre in Wirksworth and explored the local area before cycling part of the White Peak Loop (an great off-road route in its own right) to the Gateway Centre in Ashbourne.
This is the route through Derbyshire we took. It is part of the White Peak Loop, it follows old railways and is off road and relatively flat for Derbyshire: The High Peak Trail passes close to Wirksworth meaning joining the trail from the Glenorchy Hostel is straight forward. So long as you don’t mind the steep incline from the hostel to join the trail. Once on the trail we cycled North West passing through Middleton Top and Minninglow. Then at Parsley Hay, we left the High Peak Trail and cycled South along the Tissington Trail towards Ashbourne and our second hostel: Ashbourne Gateway Centre.
Even the most novice cyclist could achieve this journey within a day. With plenty of time to take breaks, explore, eat snacks and admire the rolling hills of Derbyshire. This cycle route definitely accommodates enough time for a detour to a nearby pub or cafe. These are the hostels and local attractions we visited along the way.
The Glenorchy Centre
This sweet, understated group hostel is located on the cobbled streets of Wirksworth; a market village bursting with character. Maureen, a fount of knowledge on the local area and very active in the church community, has been running the hostel for the last 40 years. She made us feel very at home. A bonus of her hostel is that each group that stays at The Glenorchy Centre, has sole occupancy of the hostel. This is excellent for groups of families. We loved the large communal room, fully equipped kitchen and comfy beds.
Wirksworth Heritage Centre
Wirksworth Heritage Centre is located in the centre of Wirksworth. It’s an hidden gem of the Derbyshire Dales. Located in a converted bakery, Wirksworth Heritage Centre has it all! A bustling café, friendly and knowledgeable reception staff, a gift shop selling locally made products and a museum. Not to mention the plethora of activities and workshops that occur throughout the week. From ghost walks to a book club and from board game nights to seasonal crafts. There is something for everyone! The friendly atmosphere means you are bound to make friends and learn about the village.
My personal favourite thing at the Heritage Centre was the touring exhibition called “Secrets of a Dream Cave”. It is comprised of fossilised woolly rhinoceros bones that were discovered in 1822 in Wirksworth. For the last 200 years the bones have been displayed at Oxford University Museum of Natural History. This is the first time they have been displayed in the village they were found in. It is breath-taking to think such a huge and ancient discovery was found down a pit in such a small and unassuming village.
We passed through Parsley Hay; a small hamlet on the High Peak trail. Parsley Hay Bike Hire, Repair and Service Centre is an unmissable building on the trail which offers plenty of seating, a small café and toilets. (There are other bike hire locations along the route in case you couldn’t bring your bike along with you or fancy doing part walking part cycling. Ashbourne bike hire, repair and service centre and Middleton Top cycle hire – The High Peak Trail) We stopped here to admire the rolling hills and the sheep that were mysteriously unmoving – maybe they too were in awe of the gorgeous views..? We made use of the outdoor seating by consuming our homemade cheesy broccoli soup and warming our cold hands on the cups.
For me, the most unforgettable part of our bike trip was visiting Arbor Low. Just a short uphill detour from the High Peak Trail, Arbor Low is the most important prehistoric site in the East Midlands; a Neolithic Henge monument located on very high moorland. We arrived just as the day turned to dusk and experienced panoramic views of the sunset. The monument is timeless and spellbindingly beautiful, and aside from the nearby farmer charging £1 to walk through their land, Arbor Low seamlessly transports you from the modern day to prehistoric England.
The Bulls Head
The Bulls Head in Monyash; this long established pub has been serving travellers since medieval times. It boasts generously sized portions of home cooked food as well as a large selection of ales. The village playpark is guaranteed to keep both adults and children amused- we had a go on the zipwire! As we enjoyed a couple of beers alongside a delicious plate of cheesy leek pancakes next to a cosy log fire, I imagined centuries of local folk sharing stories and drinking ales in the exact same spot we were sat in.
Beaumont’s Bar and Cafe
We went for breakfast at Beaumont’s Bar and Cafe in Ashbourne. It was an excellent cafe; it was full of character and proud of its Derbyshire roots. The staff were really helpful – with FOUR members of staff asking if we needed help finding a table upon arrival! Our meals; Lily’s cheese and bean oatcakes and my brie and cranberry panini (YUM!) were reasonably priced and very hearty! We loved the quirky décor and the wide selection of cakes.
Ashbourne Gateway Centre
Finally, with weary legs we ended our journey at Ashbourne Gateway Centre located underneath the Methodist church. Handily, the Tissington Trail stretches straight past the hostel so we had no trouble finding it. Anne, who took over the hostel earlier this year and has been busy decorating it and modernising the space ever since, welcomed us with open arms. She is a walking encyclopaedia on all things Ashbourne Gateway Centre, the Methodist Church and Ashbourne as a whole. This group only hostel is a decent sized space with three large common rooms and 27 beds. Despite it’s size, the hostel was warm and cosy with a lot of entertainment facilities for groups. We had many a rally on the table tennis table and practically melted into the huge comfy sofa in the lounge.
The route back..
If you fancy making this journey a round trip like we did, the route back was simple and much more direct; we shadowed the B5o35 part of the way, keeping to smaller roads and cycle paths. If we had more time we definitely would have stopped off Carsington Water for a spot of retail therapy or bird watching – but alas time was not in our favour! We looked wistfully over our shoulder at Carsington Water as we navigated more small roads and cycle paths back to Wirksworth.
A perfect adventure for a group….
Overall, we had an amazing trip, thank you so much to Glenorchy Centre and Ashbourne Gateway for hosting us. I think this cycling adventure or similar would be perfect for a Derbyshire weekend getaway for any group or group of families. It has something for everyone!