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Ultra-Soft Cycling and Walking on The High Peak Trail


High Peak Trail Bridge“High Peak Trail” is a terrible misnomer, sounding like the most gruelling of treks over the Pennine’s bog and moorland.  In reality, if you are looking for a cushy saunter or pedal through some beautiful Peak District countryside, perhaps with a small child and/or a dog in tow, this route is for you.

Two linked former railway lines offer over 30 miles of seriously-well-surfaced pathways, starting just south of Buxton and stretching as far as Ashbourne, (on the Tissington Trail) and Cromford, (on the High Peak Trail / Midshires Way / Pennine Bridleway).  Don’t let the plethora of route names put you off, nor the mention of 30 miles.  You can, if you are feeling laid-back enough, simply park up at Hurdlow, just off the A515, stroll along as far as the first bridge and then return to pop over the road to The Royal Oak, (open all day for truly wonderful food and fine ales) and feel thoroughly satisfied with yourself, having had half an hour’s worth of fresh air and easy exercise.  Or, you might attempt something more ambitious, the choice is yours; the atmosphere of the trail is supremely unpressured, whatever.

Months on ScabiousUnlike most former railway lines, this one is full of beautiful curves as it attempts to find a level route around the white limestone hills, plunging through the occasional stone cutting and even offering a bit of a gradient here and there, but not so you’d really notice.  So, while this is ultra-easy going, the walk or cycle is still full of interest, with the view constantly refreshing itself.

Harebells by High Peak Trail BridgeThe cuttings and embankments are alive with wildlife, too and if you don’t already have a passion for wildflowers, then it is the kind of place that will ignite one, as their colours really are quite difficult to ignore; the yellow of bird’s foot trefoil; gorgeous mauve scabious and delicate pale-blue of hare bells appeal to the eyes from every angle, during the summer months.  In Spring, the fields on either side are home to typical Peak District birds, such as skylarks, wheatears and curlews; you can enjoy their songs without having to trudge through a single cow pat, or clamber over single stile.

If you have brought wheels, the joy of cycling on traffic-free routes is exhilarating; normally this means looking out for pot-holes as “traffic-free” so often equates to a mountain bike experience, but the surfaces of the High Peak and Tissington trails are so well laid and maintained, the only thing to look out for is the occasional cyclist coming from the opposite direction.  These fine surfaces make the trail especially suitable for very young cyclists and are also easily accessible to wheelchair users.

The Trail HerbsIf you want to hire bicycles, you can do so at Parsely Hay, near the junction of the High Peak and Tissington Trails, where there are also toilet facilities, or, much further South, at Middleton Top.  There are bicycles of all descriptions, some especially adapted for riders with disabilities.

The staff at either of these places can advise you on further routes that use the trail, while maps and guides are also on offer if you want to use the network to explore surrounding countryside.

Parsley Hay (Tel 01298 84493)

Middleton Top (Tel 01629 823204)

Simon Corble.