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It is of course the hills which make the Peak District. That means cycling here can be arduous if that's what you are looking for, though with the right choice of route, it need not be. As well as the designated cycle trails mentioned below, there are many less steep, but quiet roads with stunning scenery to enjoy. For example, the Hope Valley is certainly busy, but there are parallel roads available for much of its length (through Thornhill to the north, then from Hope to Castleton via Pindale), and a cycle lane runs along the majority of the road between Hathersage and Castleton; the plateau between Bakewell and Castleton is gently undulating, with options of short climbs up to spectacular viewpoints on Longstone and Bretton Edges. Further west, once you have got up onto Axe Edge the road along Morridge slopes gently down from beside the Royal Cottage public house, offering views across Staffordshire and on a clear day to the hills of Wales. And of course the many villages dotted throughout the Peaks offer the prospect of welcomes breaks for tea and snacks, or even something stronger. Particular favourites with cyclists include Yonderman's at Wardlow Mires, Coopers at Edale Station, Edge Close Farm at Flagg, the Smithy at Monyash, the Courtyard at Hope, while further south are the Post Office at Hartington and Crich tearooms, though there are many others.
For the more competitive or committed cyclist, there are sportives each year, for example the "Polkadot Grand Fondo" and the "Action - Peak District 100", both in June, and the CTC "Phil & Friends Challenge Ride" and the "Wiggle Tour of the Peak", both in August . Peak Audax and others organise non-competitive long distance rides throughout the year, starting from a variety of locations. And in the autumn there are several hill climbs when you can either test yourself against gravity, or join the many spectators who watch others attempting to do so. Perhaps the most famous of these is at Monsal Head, now in its 81st year.
If you are looking for company, there are local cycling clubs from Sheffield (for example Sheffrec CC - - who as you can see provide regular reports of rides for us), Manchester, Derbyshire and West Yorkshire organise rides in the Peaks on most week-ends throughout the year, but the area is blessed with a range of roads to suit cyclists of all abilities and inclinations.
The Fairholmes Centre is a gathering point for cyclists in the Upper Derwent Valley, which is a popular place for mountain bikers and road cyclists alike and follows a simple route around the reservoirs. But be warned, some of it is only suitable for rugged mountain bikes! Mountain biking has become increasingly popular in recent years, especially in the White Peak where rallies are held along set circular courses which run through steep narrow dales, like Long Dale and Gratton Dale, and in and around the Manifold Valley on the Staffordshire border. Apart from mountain biking and road cycling, there are a number of special walking and cycling trails which follow the routes of old railway lines through the spectacular scenery of the Peak and are free to use and ideal for all the family. One of the most popular cycle routes lies in the south of the area, where riders can enjoy the recently constructed circular route around Carsington Water, which follows the gentle contours of the shoreline through a sylvan landscape of pleasantly wooded slopes for ten miles. The visitor centre complex has cycles for hire, and boasts a cafe, shop and full ameneties. For the real leisure cyclist there are six excellent cycling trails along former, mainly level railway routes through the Peak - The Longendale Trail, Sett Valley Trail, Monsal Trail, Manifold & Hamps Valley Trail, the Tissington Trail, and the High Peak Trail.
The Longendale and Sett Valley Trails lie in the north of the region, with the former running along the level floor of the Longendale Valley on the track of the old Light Railway with some fantastic views, whilst the latter runs through the spectacular countryside from Hayfield to New Mills making for pleasant level cycling. The Monsal Trail - runs for eight and a half miles along the old track-bed of the Midland Railway from Coombs Viaduct, a mile south of Bakewell Station, to Blackwell Mill Junction at the head of Chee Dale, about three miles south of Buxton. The trail is interrupted by four closed tunnels, and parts are unsuitable for cyclists, but the section from Bakewell to Longstone Head and the spectacular viaduct at Monsal Dale offers a pleasant and leisurely cycle-ride.
The Tissington Trail is very popular with cyclists and runs from Ashbourne thirteen miles northward to Parsley Hay, along the level trackbed of the old London & North Western Railway Company's Ashbourne to Buxton line. There are cycle-hire centres at either end of the trail, and both Mapleton Lane and Parsley Hay Hire Shops are attended from Easter to October. Excellent toilet, washroom and refreshment facilities are available at Hartington and Tissington, and excursion cycle-routes around the Hartington and Biggin villages. The Manifold & Hamps Trail lies to the south & west of the region, and runs from Hulme End to Waterhouses, along the course of the old Manifold Light Railway, with cycle-hire available at the old station in Waterhouses.
The trail runs alongside the river in the beautiful Manifold Valley, and is popular for excursions to Thors Cave, set high in the limestone hills above. The High Peak Trail runs from High Peak Junction beyond Cromford Wharf, to Dowlow just south of Buxton, a distance of seventeen and a half miles along the course of the old Cromford & High Peak Railway. A full range of facilities are available at the Middleton Top visitor centre, including cycle-hire, which is also available at Parsley Hay, close to the junction with the Tissington Trail which terminates here. The Tissington and High Peak Trails are perhaps the most popular for hired cycles; both have cycle-hire centres - and customers can ride leisurely through the very heart of the wonderful white-peak countryside experiencing the unique atmosphere of the peak landscape, along two spectacular cycling trails - without changing bikes! Cycle-Hire is also available in the market towns of Buxton, Bakewell, Matlock and Ashbourne, and in a number of village centres throughout the Peak District, and cycling holidays are becoming an increasingly popular tourist attraction. With such facilities, and with the freedom of the Peak District National Park beckoning cyclist of all ages and abilities to indulge their passion for two-wheeled pedal-powered pleasure, little wonder that the Peak District of Derbyshire is regarded as the Mecca of cycling enthusiasts!