The Best Cycling Routes In The Peak District National Park

Two epic cycling routes across the Peak District National Park

In this article, I share two stunning cycling routes in the Peak District. Both bike touring itineraries cross the Peak District National Park end to end. The first is north to south and the second is south to north.

Plus, I recommend some easy flat cycling for families and a bit of off-road gravel cycling too.

End-to-End Across The Peak District National Park

The post begins with Adrian and I collecting our new Dawes Galaxy touring bikes in Harrogate. This two-day cycling route across the Peak District, from Harrogate to Leek was the perfect opportunity to test-drive our new touring bikes.

Friday we took a train to Harrogate. It was possibly the most exciting day of cycling since Tom Simpson competed in the Tour de France.

We were at Spa Cycles to pick up our brand spanking new Dawes Ultra Galaxy 2011 touring bikes.

A new bike is the cheapest bike you’ll ever buy

John, Spa Cycles

Dawes Galaxy Touring Bikes at Spa Cycles

North-to-south cycling route in the Peak District

It transpired that my bike had been assembled by a clown. Andrew was a part-time bicycle mechanic and full-time joker.

His top tip for touring was to forgo a proper camping bed* and instead collect cardboard from supermarkets to make a new cushioned mat each night.

I made sure to double-check all the nuts and bolts before leaving the shop. Andrew’s ideas seemed a little flaky.

After much faffing about, adjusting my shiny black Brooks saddle, positioning of panniers, and bell ringing, we set off from the shop around lunchtime, headed for Holmfirth.

Around 70 kilometres of cycling was ahead of us and it had already started to rain, a dubious omen for sure.

Not that I mind the rain, but still, we’d only just picked up the bikes, they were still shiny and lovely and… ha!

That’s cycle touring, rain or shine, you’ve gotta eat the k’s or drink tea.

Cycling in stormy weather in Kirklees

Crossing the Pennines by bike

We settled into a decent rhythm for the early part of the day. The rain had held off to a light shower for the most part until late afternoon.

By which point we were lost near the M62 and it was just bucketing down. Full tilt.

Wet and slightly miserable we continued on out of the deep valley that we were caught up in and followed a path across the motorway bridge.

Let it be said now that no amount of rain will ever break the spirit of a true cycle tourist. A decent waterproof* is all you really need.

Grit and determination and an unrelenting sense of optimism even in the bleakest of situations are prerequisites for any cycle tourist worth their salt.

No such thing as bad weather

A slight temper tantrum or grumble about the weather are part and parcel of the job but never will the weather defeat a proper tourer.

There’s no such thing as bad weather – Alfred Wainwright

Headwinds. Well, now headwinds are a different kettle of fish. If you’re travelling without moving you have full permission to get off the bike and take shelter in the nearest permanent structure.

Bloody headwinds.

We made it to Holmfirth wet and tired and with a hot roast chicken. Camp was set up in super quick time, we showered and made it to the pub for last orders.

Adrian climbs high on a cycle route in the Peak District

Cycling north to south across the Peak District National Park

The next morning we were up and rolling early doors. The sunshine shone brightly through thin wispy clouds.

The storm had broken. We were grateful for a reprieve from the rain. It had dampened our spirits the previous day.

We’d arranged to meet friends at the pub to watch the football. This meant we had a 3 pm deadline.

The route from Holmfirth took in the whole of the Peak District National Park. Top to bottom.

Surprisingly, this stunning cycling route through the Peak District, the most popular national park in the UK, was a mere 40 odd miles.

It’s a gloriously rural cycling route that delivers big on nature.

cycle routes in the peak district; Harrogate to Leek

Our Peak District Cycle Route

Our Peak District cycling route went via Woodhead, Glossop, Chapel-en-le-Frith, Buxton, Flash, finishing in Leek.

We stopped for a breakfast bap in Glossop – there is a fine selection of cafe and cake shops – hard to believe that Vivian Westwood could leave such a place.

We arrived in plenty of time for the big game. Our mate Dave offered us to use his place for a hot shower before stepping out for a well-earned pub lunch and a few pints of real ale.

Harrogate to Leek is a cracking Peak District bike ride that ticks all the boxes. There are so many great cycling routes around the Peak District.

It’s possible to plan day rides and long weekend loops from and to a local train station for visits from other areas. Highly recommended.

Stafford to Clitheroe – road cycling south to north through the Peaks

In 2015 I set off from my parents’ front door to cycle around the world. As things were I was lucky enough to have the time to travel via the Cycle Touring Festival in Clitheroe.

The Cycle Touring Festival is an annual celebration of long-distance bike travel.

There are inspiring talks, useful workshops, and a few hundred like-minded cycle touring enthusiasts keen to share stories and bike routes over a pint.

The two-day route through the Peak District that I took to commence my world bicycle tour began at my parent’s house near Stafford. I first made my way to Leek to visit friends for dinner on a Wednesday evening. Obvs.

a classic cycle route in the peak district; crossing snake pass by bike

Cycling Snake Pass in the Peak District

From Leek, I climbed up into the Peak District to Edale, over Snake Pass towards Glossop. I wild camped in a field close to Snake Pass.

Then onwards to the NCN6 through Manchester up past Bury, through Accrington, and finally, to Waddow Hall in Clitheroe.

This Peak District cycling route enjoys a varied terrain including B roads in the National Park, a canal towpath through Manchester, and a proper cycle path up beyond the city.

Easy flat road cycling in the Peak District

There are plenty of easy cycling routes in the Peaks. Manifold Track is a popular off-road family cycling route. The track follows the disused Leek and Manifold Light Railway.

Beginning at Waterhouses and finishing at Hulme End, this is a flat family cycling route for all ages and abilities. There is cycle hire at Waterhouses and car parks at both ends and intermittently. Don’t forget the picnic! There are spots with benches throughout this scenic cycle route.

Similarly, the Tissington Trail enjoys a mostly flat cycling route through the Peak District National Park. Starting in Ashbourne and running to Parsley Hay, this easy cycling path follows the disused Buxton and Ashbourne railway line.

Enjoy stunning views across the Derbyshire Dales as your cycle along the flat through picturesque villages and dramatic ravines. Mappleton is a particularly steep section for cyclists on this otherwise easy flat route.

bike touring cycle routes in the peak district

Enjoy off-road gravel cycling in the Peak District

You don’t have to be embarking on an around-the-world bike ride to enjoy this route through the national park. You could just as easily cycle with your family or take your mountain bike to find some off-road gravel cycling in the Peak District.

The High Peak Trail offers leisure cyclists a more challenging terrain with its steep inclines and craggy cuttings. The dramatic scenery continues with a climb to a long stone causeway into White Peak Country.

Get out and ride

Get out and ride is my advice. The Peak District offers excellent road cycling, epic mountain biking and some fantastic off-road gravel trails. Just have a gander at an OS map* and you’ll be grand.

Looking for more advice on route planning for your next bike ride in the Peak District National Park? Try this guest post on practical route planning and mapping software from MadeGood.bikes.