The Peak District is a fantastic place to explore with children. However, especially with younger kids, the prospect of riding up some of the local hills and the volume of traffic can be quite daunting.
Below’s a list of our favourite places to take children cycling. As well as the route maps we’ve listed a few things to see and do on the way.
Situated in the heart of the Dark Peak the three reservoirs at the head of the Derwent Valley, known by many as Ladybower are a popular spot. There’s a cafe at the Fairholmes visitor centre where you can also hire bikes. On a weekend, the road round the western side of the reservoirs is closed to traffic except for the three properties that are situated there. Things to see include the site of ‘Tin Town’ at Birchinlee where the navvies lived whilst they were building the dams and the Kings Tree which was planted by George VI in 1945. The area can be a victim of its own success, however if you go mid-week it’s a lot quieter.
Often overlooked in favour of the Upper Derwent reservoirs the Thornhill trail follows the former light railway that was built to transport the stone for the dam construction from Bamford up the valley. The route starts at Bamford recreation ground and goes past the former water boards HQ which is now used by the Quaker community. The trail finishes by the Ladybower reservoir. From here you can continue along a trail by the banks of the reservoir or go to the dam wall and look into the giant ‘plughole’ overflows. The nearest pub is the Yorkshire Bridge just down from the dam wall which does a fine pint.
Originally owned by the Duke of Rutland, the 747 acre Longshaw Estate is now run by the National Trust. From the rather imposing shooting lodge an ancient track runs through the estate. Things to look out for include millstones, an ancient guide stoop dating back to 1709 and if you are really lucky, red deer. There’s a nice tea room next to the lodge where you can admire the view over the moors across a meadow that is host to one of the world’s oldest sheepdog trials every September.
The Monsal Trail is popular with both tourists alike. Originally part of the Derby – Manchester railway, the section we’ve highlighted runs from Hassop station westwards. There’s a lot of parking at Hassop along with a cafe and bike hire. Highlights of the trail include numerous tunnels, the Monsal viaduct and views across a spectacular gorge overlooking Water-cum-Jolly. There’s also a cafe at Millers Dale and the Buxton end of the trail at Blackwell.
High Peak and Tissington trails.
The High Peak and Tissington trails were one of the original former railways to be converted into multi user trails. With gentle gradients and miles of traffic free cycling to be had they are great with kids. There’s several bike hire facilities on the trail – at Ashbourne, Parsley Hay and Middleton top. All of those make a great starting point. Highlights include going in the signal box at Hartington on the Tissington Trail and the Hopton tunnel on the High Peak Trails.
The Manifold Valley is another disused railway. The trail heads down a high sided valley following the River Manifold. Unlike other routes featured here the trail does use quiet roads for a short while. Highlights include looking up at Thor’s Cave and the tearooms at Whetton. There’s a bike hire and cafe at Holme End.
Carsington Water sits just outside the Peak District but is a notable mention. There’s an undulating 8 mile loop around the reservoir which is great for slightly older kids. Plenty of car parking is available. Highlights include the cafe, looking for wildlife through numerous hides and watching the boats on the reservoir.
White Peak Loop (Darley Dale)
This lesser known rail trail goes from just outside Matlock to the village of Rowsley. Our favourite section is from Darley Dale to the end at Rowsley. This starts in the park behind the rather grand Whitworth Institute. There’s a nice cafe just beyond the northern end of the trail at Caudwells Mill which has a working water wheel. The other thing to watch out for is steam trains that run alongside the trail on the Peak Rail heritage railway.
Away from the traditional honeypot locations, the southern part of the Peak District is often overlooked as a location. This route explores some of the pretty villages in the area.
The ride starts at the popular Carsington water. The route steadily climbs giving good views of the reservoir and the end of the Pennine chain. From here it passes through the evocatively named hamlet of Lady Hole and then over the end of RAF Ashbourne’s disused runway. Then it’s through the estate of Osmaston Park and onto an old Roman Road at Long Lane.
The route then heads north through a selection of pretty villages before returning to Carsington.
The route is over 80% paved, however a lot of the roads that it follows are of the ‘grass up the middle’ nature, so it’s worth doing on a gravel bike or you’ll be doing a lot of cursing and carrying.
The gravel bike used was fitter with Panaracer Gravelking SK’s. Bags on the bike were a Road Runner Jammer bar bag with waterproof, first aid kit, wallet and food and a Road Runner Jammer frame bag with pump, spares, tubes and tools in.
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If you’ve been riding a while you’ve probably got your fave bit of tarmac or dirt that doesn’t feature in the guidebooks. It’s local Alpe d’Huez or Arenberg trench that always pushes you. It doesn’t have to be long, but it’s that local segment that gives you a buzz every time you’ve ridden it. A lot of the routes on the Velotastic site feature some of the Peak’s classic climbs, but time has come to celebrate the local loop.
Local loops don’t have to be particularly long, one of the advantages of them is they are great if you are time crunched. Riding from your doorstep avoids the necessity of putting your bike on the back of the car or catching a train. Something that ought to be encouraged in theses uncertain times due to climate change and the cost of fuel (it also means you’ve more cash to spend on coffee and cake).
Nothing beats going out early morning before the world has awakened. Even where I live near the Peak District national park which is normally rammed on a sunny Sunday, if you get out and back before 10 you can have the place to yourself with just the wildlife for company.
One of the great advantages of riding a gravel bike is that you can mix your riding surfaces up a bit. Explore that byway, cut out long sections for draggy tarmac and expand your options. Good old fashioned OS Maps are great for planning, but nothing beats riding a route for real even if it does involve a bit of portage now and again.
One of my local loops is below. It’s not an all day ride – just a few hours. It’s got a healthy mix of road, gravel and dirt and a few punchy little climbs to get your heartrate going. Enjoy.
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Hartington’s a lovely village nestled in the south western corner of the White Peak. It’s got picture postcard Georgian properties, a duck pond and most importantly for the likes of you and me a good selection of gnarmac on hand.
This route explores to the south and east of the village. First heading off towards the Manifold Valley and along an old railway. There’s then the brutal ascent of Larkstone Lane and over towards the Tissington Trail.
From there we take the route less travelled towards Carsington Water. From there it’s along the national cycle network and High Peak Trail for a while before heading off on a roller coaster of a ride towards Elton. This diversion handily leads us to a few classic Peak District white road sections before heading back to the start.
Chrome and Park Hills or the Dragon’s Back as they are sometimes known are a rocky limestone outcrop to the south of Buxton. This route explores this area and some of the surrounding villages.
The route starts in Taddington, a village that was an important stop off point in the days of stage coaches, but now is visited a lot less often due to the bypass that skirts it. From here we head off to Monyash and onto another old road called Derby Lane.
The route then joins the High Peak Trail via Green Lane and follows the former railway track to it’s end. From there it’s onto the hamlet of Glutton and to Chrome Hill. Here there’s a lung busting climb up a quiet than that weaves between the hills .
The route then joins the White Peak Link and heads northwards towards Harpur Hill. Then it’s onto Kings Sterndale and a rocky descent on another old road down to the A6.
After a short distance the route heads off to the northern end of the Monsal Trail. After enjoying a few tunnels and views across Chee Dale the route leaves the trail at the former Millers Dale station. Then it’s under a pair of very impressive viaducts and up Long Lane to Priescliffe. From there it’s back to the start. The route’s around 40% off road and the rest apart from a short section on the A6 on quiet lanes.
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To me the Cordwell Valley is almost like a shangri-la for cyclists. Situated to the west of Chesterfield, almost like a crease in the map acting like a bit of a ha-ha between the town and Sheffield, the valley is a collection of cracking climbs, event better descents and pretty hamlets and villages.
Being a valley, the are offers a good selection of climbs if that floats your boat. We’ve listed the major road climbs below, but there’s also quite a few shorter ones which are just long enough to get you out of your saddle. There’s also a few off-road climbs if you really want to hurt yourself.
The climb up to Owler Bar is an absolute belter. One of those climbs that gets a little bit harder the further you go up it. The first bit is relatively pleasant heading up through a woodland and a few little kicks upward to test you. Then there’s a bit of a false flat and a slight downhill and the road begins to bite back. Past a bridleway to the left and you can just about see the top in the distance and the roof of the Peacock pub. By this time you’ve probably ran out of gears and your legs are singing a bit of a song. A few more metres and you reach the roundabout.
Fox Lane is another doozy of a climb. Unlike the Owler Bar climb it’s hard at the start and gets easier towards the top. It ramps up at the beginning up to a set of farm buildings. From there, there is a false flat again before it kicks up to another farmhouse on your left. After that it flattens off a little before heading off over a lovely bit of exposed moorland.
Think of the Unthank climb as Fox Lane’s wayward cousin. It roughly ends up at the same place, it’s a little less harsh but is rough around the edges. This climb has been a fave at the start or finish of some of the events I’ve organised.
The start is quite gradual on a fairly respectable piece of tarmac. Look over to the left and there’s a wood where a USAF phantom crashed in the early ’70’s. To give you an idea of the speed of those things the pilot and navigator ejected over Curbar edge. Then there’s a right and a left and the road ramps up. From here the surface gets more gnarmac than tarmac and narrows a bit. Up through some woods with a steep drop off to the right and you pop like a champagne cork out onto a high moorland plateau. Keep your eye’s peeled for the airstrip on the left.
Cartledge Lane is another brutal road climb. At around 1.6 km long with an average gradient of 9.7%, it’s a brave rider that tackles it on the big ring. The only way to really describe it is harsh from the start to finish.
Horsleygate Lane’s about the easiest way to get up to Holmesfield from Cordwell Valley. The gentle climb slowly traverses the valley side. The surface is a bit sketchy in places so take care if you decide to descend it.
There’s also a couple of good gravel bike / MTB descents of the lane. One at the top Grimsel Lane is a cracker. The lower descent Sid Lane is a bit looser and makes for a better climb.
Far Lane’s a always strikes me as quite an unremarkable climb. It’s longish, fairly straight and the views are nothing extraordinary. Always leaves me feeling like I’ve been robbed when I get to the top.
Dobbin Lane however is the Ying to Far Lane’s Yang and is an all time fave of ours as it has a little bit of everything.
Starting in Barlow it heads up to Highlightly. Then there’s a lovely switchback, you go round the corner and boom a wall of tarmac is in front of you. Keep shifting down like your life depends on it and winch your way up to a postbox on the right and the road flattens. Ignore the right hand turn which is another gem of a road and past a few very nice houses. Then the road narrows and climbs up to Cowley Lane in Holmesfield.
Commonside Lane’s quite an unoffensive climb. At around an average gradient of 6.5% it’s steep enough to get you working but not that brutal to leave you begging for a bit of a break.
At the time of writing the road is closed to motor vehicles, but is passable by bike. I hope it stays that way as there’s plenty of other ways for cars to get to the top. This is not the first time the road has closed as it has a habit of trying to slide down to the valley floor.
Wilkin Hill is another one of our faves. It starts next to the Peacock or Hackney House cafe – both of which are worth a visit. The Peacock’s a bit pricey but does a nice lunch and the cafe has a cracking cake selection and does an awesome home made pie.
Best not overdo it on the food though as this climb starts with a bang. The road rides sharply up to a right hand bend. From here the climb follows a rather pleasant valley undulating until it meets the top of the Commonside Lane climb. From here you can head back to Barlow, over to Far Lane or up to the top of Grange Hill.
On the latter option the road keeps undulating traversing a ridge until a final kick up to the top of Grange Hill.
Below are a couple of routes that take in a selection of the above climbs (and a few shorter pulls). Enjoy.
It’s not often I put a route on here that I’ve failed to ride. However this one is rather special.
Word was out that the local council had re-surfaced Bamford Clough. I remember riding it around 30 years ago on my MTB and new it had been shut on health and safety grounds for several years due to rumours of exposed cables.
Also on this year (2021) the National Hill Climb Championships are heading up Winnats pass. If you’ve ever done it you’ll know that it’s a brute of a climb and heaven knows how I used to tackle it on a bike with 42 x 23 as the lowest gear !
The plan was to tackle Winnats and Bamford Clough and to make a morning of it three lesser known local ascents that are up there on general gnarliness – Sir William Hill, the Beast of Bradwell and the Dale.
Riding out from home (I try to avoid using the car for various reasons) Sir William was first on the list. A tough starts which kind of gets a little easier. Then a cruise along the tops with stunning views from the Barrel at Bretton and a long descent into Bradwell.
The Beast of Bradwell is a thug of a climb. I remeber on one club run nearly getting overtaken on the top section by a woman exercising her dog using her mobility scooter as I was pedalling squares into an immovable headwind.
From the rather barren summit it was down into Castleton avoiding the tourists that wander without looking and onto Winnats.
This is a corker of a climb as the wind usually funnels it’s way down the pass. The climb really gets going once you’ve reached the a grit bin on the left hand side once you’ve turned the corner. From here the road ramps up and it’s an epic battle between you, your bike and the road until the cattle grid at the top.
There’s a little bit of relief then a short effort to the top of Mam Nick where you are rewarded with a cracking descent into the Vale of Edale with Kinder Scout as your backdrop.
The road winds it’s way down the valley towards Hope. From here it’s on to Aston and Thornhill avoiding the main road which can be busy at times.
Next up Bamford Clough. This is where my plans all unravelled. At 35% plus this is a wall of a climb. It didn’t help that there were leaves on the road (sounds a bit like a British Rail excuse) and it was damp. However I’ll hold my hands up and say it beat me. It is however worth a crack for pure type 2 entertainement value.
Then it was onto Hathersage to tackle the Dale. This is a real epic of a climb which seems to go on and on, but you are rewarded with another corker of a descent at the top.
I’ve written the route below so it starts and finishes in Hathersage. That was you can get the train there if you’ve don’t fancy a ride out and also enjoy a celebratory beer in one of the many pubs at the end.
Like many cyclists I’m a big fan of Strava and enjoy their challenges. One of my faves is the Fondo – 100km in a single ride.
Easer to achive than the imperial century and do-able most months of the year without having to worry about digging your bike lights out of the cupboard. Sometimes I do the challenge on my road bike, occasionally if I’m feeling brave my MTB, but more often than not on my gravel bike.
If nothing else this enables me to vary the surface I’m riding on and explore a bit more.
Below’s a 100 km loop starting and finishing at Chesterfield Station that’s around 65% gravel. Instead of heading off into the nearby Peak District it explores a part of North Nottinghamshire that I’ve been visiting for around 50 years.
It’s a nice mix of gravel tracks, old railway lines and quiet roads and a bit flatter than the Peak. If you are feeling really bold you could extend the route to include more of the Chesterfield Canal at Worksop that’s in the Clumber Rumble route.
Derbyshire is as far as you can get from the coast in England – the furthest spot from the sea is in the south of the county at Coton in the Elms.
One tradition that many local cycle clubs is a trip to the seaside for some chips. Not only do the flatter roads make a change from grinding up the hills of the Peak District, but the novelty of being at the seaside is one of the highlights of the cycling calender.
For a while I’ve had the idea of extending the route from Chesterfield to Lincoln to head out to the coast. The route I had in mind past the cathedral city is mainly country lanes and explores the northern part of the Wolds to add a few hills into the latter part of the ride.
Once in Lincolnshire you do feel like you are in ‘bomber country’ with the number of disused air force bases you pass. There are a few byways after Lincoln that could get a bit interesting in Winter, but another option is to follow NCN route 1 northwards.
I do find that riding a linear route with a destination is quite cathartic – especially when there’s fish and chips at the end. Circular routes starting and finishing at the same place seem to have lesser of a sense of achievement compared to them. I also find riding singlespeed is a great way to clear the mind once you have settled into your ideal cadence. The gearing I used for this journey was 39 x 18 which was chosen more from luck than judgement. The bag on the front of the bike is a Road Runner Jammer bag and was great for carrying my waterproof, food, phone and pump. Papa’s Fish and Chips at the end of Cleethorpes pier get my vote too !
I also love putting on my events. Half the fun happens months before entrants turn up when I study online and paper maps and devise the route. I then have to check out that it’s safe and has a ‘flow’ to it. This ‘flow’ is a bit similar to the terroir in wine making. For whatever reason some roads and tracks are best ridden in one direction. It doesn’t matter if it’s a climb or descent, on or off road, there’s something that can only be discovered by riding a route and knowing if it works.
2019 was a bit of an experimental year for Velotastic. We’d successfully run the Hardcore100 and Brutal Tootle in 2018 and thought we’d push ourselves the following year by running a road based event (Peaky Grinder) and an event that was not in the Peak (the Ronde van Vegas).
Both didn’t get the results we wanted. We made a loss on the Peaky Grinder. Or frustration was compounded by one of our local cycling clubs deciding to use it as their Sunday run with only one of their members paying and then sharing the route.
The Ronde van Vegas didn’t get enough entries to warrant me running it again this year. I think because it was not in the national park it did not have the kerb appeal of our other events.
This was a real shame as there’s some really nice trails on the Derbyshire / Nottinghamshire border. A mix of former railway tracks, ancient packhorse routes and quiet bridleways.
There’s always limits on what I can offer in my events, constraints include making the route not too long (or short) but doable in a day for a reasonably fit, competent cyclist. Some trails are only open on a concessionary basis. This means it’s usually fine to go down as an individual, but if you organise an event on it, that’s another ball game.
A good example of this is the Chesterfield Canal. This is owned by Derbyshire County Council. (As an aside they only bought it so they could build the Brimington bypass which has still not been constructed). There’s no legal right of way down most of it – it’s only by permission of the council. Therefore I had to ask and pay a fee to run my event down it.
If I was riding the route on my own I’d probably do to something similar to the route above. Like the event it’s a big day out, but too long for one of my organised rides. I’ve also added a few additions including a side trip to Hardwick Hall, because it’s there and a trip up Bole Hill at Wingerworth. There’s also bits I’ve removed including the climb up to Spinkhill, which I’ve replaced with more of the Clowne Branch Line. There’s also more off road than the original – around 52% according to Strava.
I wouldn’t rule out another running of the Ronde van Vegas, but in the meantime enjoy the route and go with the flow.
Bikepacking is a great way to get out and explore. Whether it’s travelling light ‘gravel packing’ – staying overnight in hostels, hotels and B & B’s or carrying all your kit we’ve a range of suitable luggage.
Barbags come in various shapes and sizes. Harnesses ideal for carrying dry bags and items such as tents, sleeping bags and mats. Barrel bags are great for smaller items such as stoves, snacks and waterproofs. Higher volume bags are a fantastic way to carry bulkier items without the need for a dry bag and their additional pockets are great for smaller items that you use on a regular basis.
Saddle bags are great for bulky items such as sleeping bags, clothes and down jackets. Try and put the more weighty items towards the seatpost end. Both the bags we sell are very stable and sway very little.
Stem bags are good for snacks to keep you fuelled whislt you ride. Bar bags such as the Chuckbucket and Auto Pilot are great for water bottles as they reduce the risk of you getting crud on them from the road.