The Cheshire Cycleway is a waymarked (Sustrans Regional Route 70) circular 176 mile route through some of Cheshire's finest scenery from Chester to Chester via Neston, Acton Bridge, Bollington, Macclesfield Forest, Shavington and Malpas and can be ridden in both directions. Mainly along tarmac roads, it takes in the Cheshire Plain (great for clocking up those miles!) and some hilly terrain on the western edge of the Peak District, as well as a number of attractive villages and towns on the way.
Cycle the Monsal Trail
The Monsal Trail is the latest addition to the Peak District’s superb traffic-free trails along former railway lines. Opened in 2011 following the opening of four tunnels on the old Midland Railway line between Bakewell and Buxton, it offers spectacular views of the surrounding White Peak landscape and glimpses of the River Wye below. The current route is just over 8 miles from Bakewell to Blackwell Mill (just off the A6) but there are plans to extend it into Buxton and eventually link up with the High Peak and Tissington Trails to the south. Cycle hire is available at both ends of the trail – at Hassop Station and Blackwell Mill.
Cycle by the Derwent and Howden Reservoirs
Approached from the Snake Pass road (A57) the reservoirs of the Upper Derwent offer cycling in a truly spectacular landscape – serene water, wooded hills and remote farmsteads. A popular route starts from Fairholmes by the lower dam wall (where there is a cycle hire centre) around the two reservoirs of Derwent and Howden, but there are bridleway tracks over the surrounding moors for the more adventurous mountain biker. The cycle hire centre is run by the Peak District National Park and has bicycles to suit all, including families.
Derwent Valley Heritage Way
This 51-mile linear walk follows the lovely River Derwent from the banks of Ladybower reservoir near Bamford down through Grindleford, Calver, Matlock and on to Shardlow outside Derby. The scenery changes dramatically along the route – from the high moors of the Dark Peak to the lowlands south of Derby where the Derwent joins the Trent. On the way it passes through the Peak District National Park, the parkland of Chatsworth estate and the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site. It is a relatively flat walk and sections of it (look out for small purple circular signs on gateposts) can be walked using public transport to get back (this is easiest from Rowsley southwards using the Transpeak bus). There is a guidebook published by Jarrold available in Tourist Information Centres.
The 45-mile long Gritstone Trail is a lovely walk which includes some superb sections along ridges with fine views over the Cheshire Plain. It stretches near Lyme Park at Disley in the north to Kidsgrove in the south, split into three sections which can each be walked in a day by fairly fit walkers. The route is an upland one, mostly over 1000 feet, with wide open spaces, lonely farmhouses and sheltered woodlands. There is much to see along the way, from industrial heritage to fascinating follies and abundant wildlife.
High Peak Trail
Perfect for gentle cycling or walking, the High Peak Trail offers far-reaching views of the White Peak countryside. Opened as the Cromford and High Peak Railway in 1831 it was considered at the time to be an engineering masterpiece, crossing the Peak District to link the canals at Cromford (277 feet above sea level) in the south east with Whaley Bridge (517 feet) in the north west. The line was 33 miles in length; today the section from Dowlow (just south of Buxton) to Cromford is a popular traffic free trail and haven for wildlife. At Parsley Hay the trail connects with the Tissington Trail, which leads off in a south-easterly direction towards Ashbourne. Cycle hire is available at Middleton Top (near Wirksworth) and Parsley Hay (off the A515 Buxton to Ashbourne road).
The 55-mile Limestone Way starts in Castleton and crosses the central limestone plateau of the Peak District to near Matlock, then continues to Rocester on the edge of Staffordshire. It is a very pleasant walk taking in some pretty villages and limestone dales with refreshments available at many places on route. Sections of the linear waymarked route can be easily walked - then retracing your steps, looping back round along footpaths and lanes or using public transport to return to your starting point. A guidebook is available for the whole route from Tourist Information Centres.
The Manifold Trail stretches for 8.5 miles from its northern tip at Hulme End to Waterhouses in the south, along the route of the old Leek and Manifold Light Railway. It is a lovely route, suitable for walkers or cyclists (the surface is tarmac and only a very short section has traffic on it) following the wooded valleys of the Manifold and Hamps rivers, with a glimpse of Thor’s Cave in the rocks above. A good resting point en-route is the tearoom at Wetton Mill (owned by the National Trust) or the cafe at the Hulme End terminus. Short deviations from the track up the steep valley sides to Wetton or Grindon can be rewarded with refreshments at traditional pubs in these two attractive villages. Cycle Hire is available at two centres at Waterhouses (at Brown End Farm and in the old station building); at the northern end the nearest hire centre is at Parsley Hay.
National Forest Cycle Hire Centre
Millions of trees have been planted in the National Forest, situated right at the heart of England. They have transformed this once industrialised landscape into one which is green and welcoming, with a network of cycle paths and walking routes. Recently opened, Hicks Lodge near Ashby de la Zouch is an eye-catching eco-friendly visitor centre offering cycle hire, cafe and bike shop with access to eight miles of graded off-road trails particularly suitable for families and novice cyclists.
The Pennine Way is one of Britain’s most challenging long distance trails - 268 miles along the rugged backbone of England, from the Peak District through the Yorkshire Dales and over Hadrian’s Wall to the Cheviots. Along the way it offers some of the finest upland walking in the country. Peak District sections of the walk (waymarked with the National Trail acorn symbol) can be accessed from its southern tip at Edale or from the Longdendale valley further north. The walking is demanding, crossing very harsh terrain of peat bog and moorland, and should not be attempted without good clothing and planning.
The Wizard Trail
Starting from the National Trust’s roadside car park near the Wizard pub just outside Alderley Edge, this 13-mile circular cycle ride explores Cheshire’s ‘wizard country’. The route is a mixture of roads and rights of way, with a few steep stretches, and takes you through woodlands, past old copper and lead mines and to the Wizard’s Well with its famous legend ‘Drink of this and take thy fill, for the water falls by the Wizard’s will’. It skirts Henbury Hall and past Hare Hill and offers some fine views.
The 13-mile Tissington Trail goes from near Parsley Hay (just off the A515 Ashbourne to Buxton road) south to Ashbourne where it passes through a tunnel under the main road to emerge in the middle of the town. The views as you cycle along this peaceful track are wonderful – the rolling green hills of the White Peak, scattered farms and abundant flora and wildlife. Built as a railway line from Buxton to Ashbourne, it’s almost unbelievable that in its heyday it carried express trains from Manchester to London. Cycling the Tissington Trail is easy, there is an imperceptible gradient, making it popular with families and novice cyclists who are attracted at weekends throughout the year and every day during peak holiday periods. Cycle hire is available at both ends of the trail – Parsley Hay and Ashbourne.