The Peak District Cycle Ways group have achieved an immense engineering feat in opening the Monsal Trail from near Buxton into Bakewell, to the applause of Derbyshires residents and visitors, who have voted with their feet and wheels. Completing the connection though to Matlock and connecting the Monsal and Tissington Trail to Buxton will soon create a cycle loop “The White Peak Loop” sure to bring many more visitors and their bikes to the Peaks.
The uplands and valleys of the Peak District are blessed with railways beds, built for the industries which once thrived in this now rural landscape. The railway beds cross the high moors using the “cut and cover” technique pioneered by the railways to provide flat or consistently gentle inclines , making ideal Peak District cycle trails with easy rides and stunning views.
High Peak Trail
The High Peak Trail climbs up from the Derwent Valley at Cromford along two serious inclines. Here the steam trains were attached by cable to Engine Houses at the top of the hill and the trains were pulled up by stationary steam engines. The Engine Houses and winding mechanisms are still present and at Middleton Top Engine House there is also a cafe and Peak District Cycle car park.
These first two inclines are steep and a good challenge for mountain bikers. For the more relaxed cyclist they are a walk up (and down if you don’t like your bum higher then your head!). The third incline, just after Middleton Top, is an easy climb for anyone with gears which makes Middleton Top a great place to start a ride along the High Peak Trail. The GLENORCHY CENTRE in Wirksworth is just over a mile by road from The High Peak Trail at Black Rocks and two miles from Middleton Top. The centre provides great value accommodation for groups of up to 26 people and is an ideal first night stay for anyone exploring the Peak District Cycle Trails.
The top of the easy incline finds you high on the Derbyshire Moors and from there you can cycle along a flat railway bed with stunning views of the moors. The High Peak Trail continues for 11 miles over the moors, under bridges and through woods, to join the Tissington Trail at Parsley Hay where there is a cafe, bike repair and Peak District cycle car park. A map of these routes can be seen a little further down this blog or on this Cycle Trail leaflet.
From Parsley Hay the Tissington Trail can be followed south through Tissington to Ashbourne, or taken north for 2 miles to Hurdlow, where there is a welcome pub with a useful bunkhouse. Just off the trail the ROYAL OAK BUNKBARN provides accommodation for individuals and groups of up to 34 people, with bunkrooms sleeping 8,6,4 and a popular camp site. The pub specialises in great food with open fires and friendly staff. It is definitely advisable to book in advance if you are planning a meal as part of your cycle ride, or would like an evening meal while staying at the bunkhouse.
For those looking for a weekend of easy scenic cycle touring on the Peak District cycle trails the ROYAL OAK BUNKBARN would provide a great night’s stay for a group cycling from the GLENORCHY CENTRE along the High Peak Cycle Trail. A great second day’s cycling from the Royal Oak is south on the Tissington Trail to Ashbourne with the option of visiting the beautiful village of Tissington en route. To reunite cyclists at the end of the weekend with cars left near the Glenorchy Centre on the first night, Yourbus 110 can be used to get from Ashbourne to Wirksworth. It runs roughly every hour on weekedays, four times a day at weekends. This website shows a hostels in the Peak District ideal for cycle tours.
The Tissington Trails continues north of Hurdow for another mile and a half and then comes to an abrupt end close to the Grinlow Quarries. Here the original train track continued into Buxton before it was quarried away.
It is the aim of the Peak District Cycle Ways project to complete the Tissington Trail as far as Buxton. This is part of a larger project which includes extending the Monsal Trail to create a 65 miles round trip using the High Peak Trail, the Tissington Trail, the Cromford Canal and The Monsal Trail. The new loop would be called the White Peak Loop. This work has now recently been taken on by Derbyshire Country Council under the project Phrase II.
The Monsal Trail
The Monsal Trail was opened in 2014 and has tremendous popular appeal. The Monsal Trail uses an old railway bed from just outside Buxton to Bakwell, passing through long tunnels connecting Cheedale, Upperdale and Millers Dale. It passes over the stunning Monsal Viaduct and has glorious views of the valleys. Despite passing through valleys and hillsides the Monsal Trail has an easy consistent gradient so slight that you do not realise you have been cycling uphill towards Buxton until you turn round to sail back down again.
The extension of the Monsal Trail through the grounds of Hadden Hall to Matlock is the next stage on the agenda of the Peak District Cycle Ways group. From Matlock an on-road cycle way is planned through Matlock Bath to Cromford, where the Cromford Canal tow path connects cyclists to the base of the High Peak Trail, ready for those steep inclines up to Middleton top. Here the White Peak Loop would be complete, if only the Tissington Trail and Monsal Trail connected into Buxton.