10 October 2009

Cycle and be dammed: Derbyshire reservoirs are the Peak

One of my favouritest day-trips in all the world is a reservoir circuit in the Peak District. Three hours takes you round a chain of reservoirs (Ladybower, Derwent, Howden) just north of the Hope Valley. It's day-trippable from London (to Bamford, change at Sheffield: 3hr each way; I did my return the other day, with bike, for £25). There's a map below.

The scenery is awesome, the dam engineering impressive, and the route is essentially flat. It's a mixture of tarmac (roads which are traffic-free at weekends, and quiet at other times) and gravel paths, best on a mountain bike, but doable on a hybrid or sturdy tourer. There's a cafe a third of the way up where you can refuel on pasties, and a crossing-point between sides.

Stop off at the Yorkshire Bridge pub on the way back to the station and enjoy a pint of Pale Rider; even if you've had Peaks drizzle all day, you won't be a pale rider for long.

Here's the Google map. You can go either way round; the right-hand side is mostly track, the left-hand side all tarmac, and it's gently downhill from top to bottom.

If you're on a road bike, do it anticlockwise to finish off with some nice smooth downhill; on a mountain bike, do it clockwise to enjoy a more crunchy final descent. There are a few slopes but not really any hills.

For a treat after your ride, take a dip in the remarkable outdoor heated pool at Hathersage (open summer only) and take the train back from there. You can swim surrounded by lovely Hope Valley peaks in this charming village, which has an encouraging 2:1 ratio of outdoor shops to estate agents.

There's a curiosity nearby: the collapsed road of the old A625 round the side of Mam Tor, which looks like an earthquake zone in some remote Lonely Planet guide. (It's the other route on the map.) This was one of the chapters in my book.

View larger map


  1. Sounds like a great route & very well researched, but for the more physically challenged amongst us ;0), how flat is flat if you can finish on a nice downhill either way?!

  2. I went to the Peak District last weekend and we tried the Tissington Trail. Very relaxed and easy. I have also put together an article on peak district cycling that talks about the route you mentioned.

  3. @Andreas - yes, the Tissington is a lovely trail! There's a chapter about it in my book. The village of Tissington itself is delightful, the archetype of a Peak village, and well worth a visit.

  4. I've been meaning to do this ride since I first read about it and 3 of us had it planned for this Saturday. But then I discovered a spanner in the works. East Midlands trains, who say, "Whether you’re cutting down on your carbon footprint or simply prefer getting places with a bit of pedal power, we’ll do all we can to make it easy for you and your bike to travel with us", won't allow more than 2 bikes on any train. They can only suggest we travel on different trains, which kind of defeats the object of a family day out.
    Will they really turn us away if we try to board with 3 bikes I wonder?Dare we risk it?

  5. We had planned to do the ride this Saturday. But if Kafka were alive today he could have done worse than write a book about trying to get 2 bikes onto an East Midlands train.
    It seems you have to book your seats before you know whether the generous 2 bikes per train quota has already been met. Then you email a bike booking form to an email address that doesn't work. Then you panic because you need to get those 2 bike spaces (if still available) before someone else does. So you ring the customer 'helpline' and go round in circles which always end up with you speaking to an old man in India who tells you you have been transferred away from East Midlands trains so he can't help you so have to start again.
    We're going for a walk in Kent instead.
    Jane, SE London

  6. Hi Rob
    Great article and pics. I work at Bike Events in Bristol and we're organising a Peaks ride for Orchid Cancer Care for next May:

    Would it be possible to use a hi-res version of one of your Peak District pics in our free brochure to help promote the ride?

  7. @Alan... I've tried to email you (several times in mid-Nov 2011) but they get returned with an 'inbox full' message!

  8. I will be doing this route this summer... thanks for info!

  9. Please advise, I will be cycling London To Paris {not an organized event} but I am having difficulty trying to find a safe route out of London down to Rochester, Can anyone recommend a route. Thank You Liz from Cheshire.