Cycling Mecca: White Peak Leisure

by Richard Jones

The Peak District is not all gnarly trails for serious mountain bikers. When the National Park Authority acquired ownership of a series of former railway lines in the 1970s and 80s, they set about creating the off-road High Peak, Tissington and Monsal Trails.

White Peak Leisure Cycling

Together with other bridleways, byways and quiet lanes, these three connect the attractive towns of Ashbourne, Buxton, Bakewell and Matlock to form our White Peak Leisure cycling holiday.

Cycling the Tissington Trail

The White Peak Leisure cycling route sets out from Ashbourne onto the Tissington Trail, heading northwards through some glorious countryside. The route steadily rises, passing through Tissington village, which is well worth a stop to explore. It roves near Hartington, too: another worthwhile diversion.

At the north end of the trail, the route follows quiet roads up through a spectacular landscape between Chrome Hill and Parkhouse Hill, to follow another smooth off-road section into Harpur Hill and on to Buxton.

The White Peak’s Monsal Trail

Continuing out of Buxton on back roads, byways and a short steep drop on a grassy, switch-backed bridleway brings you to a brief section along the A6 to join the beginning of the Monsal Trail.

Cycling the Monsal Trail

Here, the route passes through the stunning backdrop of Chee Dale, then into the short Rusher Cutting and Chee Tor No. 2 Tunnels, before crossing the River Wye, which flows through the impressive gorge below, and entering the first of four longer tunnels, Chee Tor tunnel.

Cycling through Chee Tor Tunnel in the White Peak

The tunnels range 367–487 metres in length and were repaired, resurfaced and had lighting installed to open for use in 2011, providing a unique cycling experience.

Bakewell to High Peak Junction

Eventually the route reaches Bakewell, another recommended stopping point, to follow a well-surfaced off-road route over to Rowsley, where the Matlock-to-Rowsley Cycle Path runs for five miles alongside the Peak Rail Line through open countryside to Matlock.

Here, the route follows the A6 through Matlock Bath, beneath the imposing cliffs of High Tor, and onwards to Cromford. Opposite the impressive Cromford Mill, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the Cromford Canal, which the White Peak Leisure Route follows for about a mile to High Peak Junction.

The High Peak Trail to Tissington

High Peak Junction marks the start of the High Peak Trail and a tough climb at 10% for a little under a mile. You can tantalisingly see the gate at the top as you haul yourself up! After a short respite, the trail climbs once more to Middleton Top. It’s a shorter and less-steep climb, but still a challenge unless you’re on an e-bike!

Soon after Middleton Top, the trail follows Cycle Route 547 down to Carsington Water, with an excellent, purpose-built trail around the perimeter of the reservoir, returning northwards along the impressive dam.

Cycling Carsington Water

Route 547 is re-joined, taking you through Bradbourne and back to Tissington. Here, the Tissington Trail is picked up once more, to return you, downhill, back to the end of the route in Tissington.

Extending your White Peak Leisure Cycling Holiday

The White Peak Leisure route is designed to be ridden over two to three days, but can also be extended from Buxton to take in the High Peak, up over Rushup Edge and Edale, circumnavigating Ladybower and Derwent reservoirs on quiet lanes and good off-road surfaces, before taking another former railway trail, the Thornhill Trail, to Bamford and on to Hathersage.

The route also visits the Longshaw Estate, runs alongside the Edges and through the picturesque locations of Baslow, Eyam and Tideswell, before returning to the leisure route at Millers Dale.

Cycling off-road in the White Peak

Cycling the Peak District with Contours

Hopefully these three blogs have given you a taste of the riding available in the area. The Dark Peak and White Peak MTB routes, along with the White Peak Leisure Route, make up three options that are all different but provide fantastic experiences in the glorious surroundings of the Peak District.

If you are interested in any one of these, then please do drop us a line at or call us on 01629 821900 and we’ll be happy to help!

Contours Holidays pride ourselves on our expert knowledge of the UK’s trails. We regularly set out to check our routes and directions and to make improvements on the holidays we offer. You can find several write-ups of staff expeditions in our Trail Diaries.

Originally published 06/07/20

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Routes on this trail

White Peak Leisure Mountain biking
3 to 4 nights
69 miles
Easy to Moderate
From £380 per person
An approachable cycling route on traffic-free trails, byways and quiet lanes through Derbyshire and the White Peak, beginning and ending in Ashbourne. Find Out More