In this post, I’m going to attempt to give advice to those wishing to visit the Peak District for a road cycling mini-break (or indeed maxi-break).
This was prompted by a question from a ‘keen follower of the blog’ (his words), Andy (@andybuttons sur le Twitter):
A small group of riders and I are looking to head up to the Peak District for a 3-5 day cycling trip in May/June 2014. To keep the logistics simple we’d ideally like to find a B&B in a decent location where we can start our long rides from (circa 100 miles a day) – any advice you have about a suitable town/village/route would be hugely appreciated.
I had a crack at responding to Andy via email and decided to post the gist of it up here so that other Peak District cyclists can pitch in with advice or recommendations. If you are that knowledgeable Peak District cyclist, please do share your tips in the comments section below the post.
[Arse-covering comment] I will have no doubt made mistakes in my description of where the Dark Peak is versus the White Peak; I’m still relatively new to the area.
If I’ve offended you by suggesting that one area is better than another for cycling, you can:
- Bite me;
- Make your case in the comments section below.
Right, to my response…
General Peak District Cycling Location Advice
For 3-5 days of 100 mile rides, you probably want to be quite centrally-located within the Peak District. If you stayed at one side or the other, you’d end up doing the same start to each ride.
The area is essentially split in two:
- Dark Peak to the north;
- White Peak to the south;
As you probably know, we live in Ashbourne at the southern tip of the Peak District. Maybe I’m biased, but I’d recommend basing yourself slightly further south than slap bang in the middle.
Disclaimer: I’m more familiar with the southern part of the Peak, so the following comments might be shot down when they hit the blog. [Let’s see – will they? WILL THEY? Ahem]
My sense is that the Dark Peak – the area north of the Hope Valley (with Glossop to the west; Sheffield to the east; Holmfirth to the north) – offers you less flexibility and route options for multiple days riding.
Essentially you have a big chunk of land that is high moorland, with more reservoirs than roads. There are fewer quiet country roads around which to base a ride.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t do a loop up there. I assume that if you’re planning multiple 100 mile days in the Peak you’re a pretty committed bunch. You’ll want to bag the major climb in the area.
Said big (famous?) climb up that way (which I haven’t done) is the Woodhead Pass. This is one of the two east-west routes between Manchester and south Yorkshire so gets busy with motorised traffic. Guide books, such as Simon Warren’s ‘100 Greatest Cycling Climbs’, recommend that you do it on a Sunday morning when it’s a bit quieter.
The White Peak offers a mix of moorlands and rolling hills and dales. It’s less bleak (though still quite exposed in places).
Whilst perhaps not on quite the same scale as the Dark Peak (although it’s all relative), some of the countryside is just breathtakingly beautiful.
Enough of that.
Basically, if you can stay somewhere in the White Peak that is not too far south, you’ll have loads of flexibility on route planning; there are plenty of challenging climbs nearby; you can get up to the Dark Peak for a loop up there; and you can factor in a slightly easier day or two.
Town or Country?
The key question to ask is regarding apres-ski (obviously). Do you want to be close to one of the larger towns, for access to more than one pub on an evening, or are you happy to be a bit more remote and provide your own entertainment?
The two centrally-located towns are Buxton and Bakewell. Both have plenty of eating and drinking options.
On a grey day, Buxton can seem a little bleak in places (it is higher and the surrounding countryside is more moor-ish (not Moorish)), but I prefer it, certainly for eating. Because it has a good theatre, there are quite a few nice restaurants clustered around that part of town.
For me, Bakewell suffers from being a bit too touristy. It has a great fish and chip shop/restaurant but other eating places seem overpriced (although the cafe (more like a restaurant) in the disused station at Hassop (on the Monsal trail) is excellent).
The Recommendation (Wherein The Grimpeur Becomes Unofficial Head Of The Longnor Tourist Board)
In terms of more remote locations, I’m a bit limited on specific recommendations (we haven’t stayed in many places in the area).
Although it’s towards the northern end of where I’d recommend basing yourself (and maybe even in the Dark Peak), the Hope Valley (Castleton / Hope / Hathersage) is a bit of a climbing mecca and therefore used to receiving visitors. I’d imagine those places are quite well set up to house, feed and water people of that persuasion (er, climbers).
However, if I had to put a pin in the map and say, ‘go there’, my recommendation would be the area around Longnor (if not Longnor itself):
- It’s a small village SSE of Buxton;
- 15 mins by car to Buxton; 20 mins to Bakewell
- It has a pub (they offer B&B as well)
- The countryside around there is glorious
- There are some great climbs very nearby
- It fits the bill in terms of being flexible for route planning – you are certainly within reach of the Dark Peak (I just sketched out a route up to Glossop / Woodhead Pass and then looping back down, which came in at 120km ride distance / 2400m climbing)
This B&B, Spring Cottage, appears to have good reviews on Trip Advisor.
As does this one (in Earl Sterndale, a couple of miles from Longnor), Fernydale Farm.
Alternatively, if you could consider self catering accommodation, we stayed at a place called Wheeldon Trees Farm when we were casing the joint (er, deciding whether to move to the Peak District..):
Wheeldon Trees Farm is also in Earl Sterndale (in/near – same thing). It’s very bike friendly. There is definitely bike storage (there are a couple of Giant electrically-assisted bikes to hire) and I think there are cleaning facilities as well (for the bikes – they definitely have showers for humans).
Back in Longnor, this (self-catering) place looks very cool indeed: Crewe & Harpur. It’s a former-pub-turned-‘exclusive’-self-catering venue. I just need to find 30 friends to fill it with. Maybe the venue for an ‘exclusive’ Grimpeur Heureux high rollers weekend? (‘High rollers’! – sometimes I amaze even myself).
Having written all this I now want to go for a weekend in Longnor!
Peak District Cycle Routes
This topic is worth a post (or twenty) all by itself, but in the meantime, why not have a look at the long routes from the four Peak District sportives organised by Dark & White.
Between them, they probably hit most of the high notes that the Peak District has to offer and can certainly act as a starting point for your own planning:
‘Tommo’ Memorial Ride (goes through Longnor) – my review to follow
Igloo Sportive (not super close to Longnor, but is a great way to see the eastern part of the Peak District – just miss out the loop in and out of Chesterfield – i.e. the start/finish) – link to my review
Hidden Peak Sportive (pattern alert: goes through Longnor…) – takes place in October
I started out thinking ‘I’ll probably recommend staying around Longnor’. When I found all those B&B reviews, I thought, ‘Yes, Longnor looks good’. Having just cross-referenced those four sportive routes, I realise that Longnor is located essentially at the centre of the cycling universe.
So Longnor it is. (Other villages are available).
Now, people of the Peak District, “What say you?” [Grimpeur blows into huge conch shell; hits gong with his bike pump]. Have I got my advice all right or all wrong? I must have missed some hidden gem. Let me (and Andy) know in the comments section below.