Peak District Railway Trails
Back in the day my parents would take us out into the Peak District and try to exhaust us. One of the favourite visits was to the High Peak Trail at Cromford, closely followed by the Monsal Trail, which skirted the valley towards Millers Dale and on to Chee Dale, then followed by the absolutely brilliant rides along the Tissington Trail, with pop and cake at Parsley Hay.
When Lord Beeching did his dastardly deed and tore up the rural railway lines, some forward thinking people in Derbyshire stepped in and over time turned the old railway lines into cycleways and footpaths, that have delighted generations since. These picturesque lines have not only supported tourism, but have also helped to generate tourism and drive the local economy, bringing in families from near and far. The Youth Hostels along the Tissington Trail are among the best in the UK, with Ilam Hall and Hartington Hall allowing families to stay in istoric buildings where royalty have laid their heads. What more do you need then; it sounds like time to explore!
Starting in the market town of Ashbourne, and also close to Alton Towers, this trail is a must for all families wanting to keep the kids happy. Ample parking is available at the trail head in Ashbourne, where you can also hire all manner of cycles. The trail follows the old 'London & North Western Railway' line for 13 miles to Parley Hay, where it links in with the High Peak Trail from Cromford, allowing you to take on a ride down the High Peak Trail or simply continue to the trail end at Street Houses Farm at Dowlow.
With a steady gradient on the way to Parsely Hay, the kids are able to enjoy a downhill ride all the way back to Ashbourne, after a stop for cake and sandwiches at the cafe, where all facilities are catered for. Cycle hire is also available at Parsely Hay, but remember, it'll be uphill returning, so be warned!
The track itself is well laid firm hardcore and gravel, so it's rideable in all weathers. Along the way youll come across old signal boxes at places such as Hartington, where a quiet lane can take you into one of the most pictursque villages in the White Peak. Best of all though, is the 600 metre long tunnel on leaving and returning to Ashbourne - a young childs delight.
High Peak Trail
This trail is a bit more of a challenge and maybe not suitable for the the real youngsters from its starting point at Cromford. The trail from High Peak Junction to Middleton Top Engine House and Black Rocks is steep and will be problematic descending. Instead, parking is available at Black Rocks above Cromford, where the trail can then easily be negotiated by all at a more suitable gradient. Cycle hire is also available at Middleton Top / Black rocks.
Eventually joining the Tissington Trail at Parsely Hay, where refreshments can be taken, the trail continues to Dowlow, just short of Buxton, where an about turn brings on the descent back to Cromford.
The small limestone outcrops at Harborough Rocks are great for kids to scramble on, and an ideal picnic spot, especially if you just fancy a short spin with the younger cyclists. As stated, Cromford is a great place for the older and keener kids, and is also a great spot to learn about the industrial revolution, with the nearby Arkright's Mill, and some of the first ever factory cottages for workers.
Running from delightful Bakewell for 8.5 miles to Chee Dale, this has to be a gem of a route for all. Superb views abound over Mosal Head, and, due to work by the National park in recent years, some of the most spectacular tunnels anywhere in the UK can be enjoyed by cyclists, as you ride through the well lit winding tunnels of the former Midland Railway Line.
Cycling over the viaduct at Monsal Dale, more excitement is come for the kids, as you head towards the high bridge at Millers Dale, on route to ice cream and cake in Chee Dale. There's also an old station building or two to be explored along the way - what more could parents ask for. And, when the kds are finally exhausted, Bakewell has some excellent places to eat and stay.
There's something for every pricepoint in the area, from great holiday cottages, top hotels, to some of the best Youth Hostels in England. The Peak District National Park website is a great place to start your planning. All that remains is to get online and plan your family cycling holiday