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The Dark Peak — true northern grit in the Peak District

Daniel Hug

The Dark Peak — true northern grit in the Peak District

Mountain Biking Collection by Barney

7

Tours

20:06 h

138 mi

16,975 ft

The Peak District National Park is an extraordinary place. No, it doesn't possess incredibly high mountains - the highest point, Kinder Scout, is a shade over 630 metres above sea level. But it's extremely varied - not least because it's split roughly into two halves.

The Dark Peak is comprised (geologically speaking) of millstone grit - an extremely coarse sandstone - and the White Peak is, perhaps unsurprisingly given the name, made of limestone. From a mountain biking perspective, this gives the Peak District two distinct personalities; the White Peak is much more rolling, and is a lot muddier and more slithery in the winter; the Dark Peak in contrast drains much better, and offers much more grip; but it can eat brake blocks (and drivetrains) for breakfast.

The Tours in this Collection are in the Dark Peak; they all offer open moors; rocky descents; incredible views. But for all that they are surprisingly varied, too. Fancy a non-technical spin with some excellent views? Take a tour around the Goyt Valley, with some gorgeous vistas, fairly easy, non technical terrain and a trip to the outskirts of the Roman Spa town of Buxton, via some ancient Roman roads - some of which have remained untouched since the 17th century.

The Shattered Road, starting in Castleton, takes in the extraordinary old main road through the area, long since abandoned thanks to Mam Tor's frankly unstable geology and propensity to landslip. It's a bizarre, post-apocalyptic start to the ride, which ends with the excellent descent down Cave Dale that spits you back into the middle of Castleton.

If you're of a mind for some of the more technical riding the area has to offer, take a look at Ladybower and Derwent - a Peak District gem. This Tour encompasses some extremely stiff and techy climbs mixed with some very challenging descents, including the famous Beast, which has been challenging riders for decades. It's not the only descent on the ride though; there's plenty more where that came from, and the joyous thing about many of them is that they often have many different lines, so it's a fresh experience each time you ride them.

Or perhaps you're more inclined to a huge day out? Glossop, the Cut and the Doctor takes in two of the Peak's famous Gates, and they're both classics. Cut Gate, ridden as here from north to south, is a long climb followed but a glorious descent, by turns fast and steep, until it arrives at Derwent Reservoir. And by the time you've ridden down the Hagg Farm descent and up and over Doctor's Gate at least six hours will likely have passed and you'll be ready for a lie down!

Hollins Cross and Jacob's Ladder is another classic Peak Tour. This one, unusually, can be ridden either way round. If you like your descents short and brutal, then clockwise is the direction for you. Conversely, if you'd rather attack very challenging climbs and enjoy slightly more languid descents, then ride the Tour anticlockwise. Either way, it's a fabulous route, and Jacob's Ladder is famously technical, whichever way you tackle it!

The Lady and the Edge takes in some of the lesser known (or at least, not quite as spectacularly busy) trails around the outskirts of Sheffield, and offers some more unusual riding in the area - woodsy singletrack, and a couple of descents famous amongst Sheffielders (check out the Devil's Elbow trail) as well as the exquisitely bermed Lady Cannings trails.

And last but by no means least, explore a quieter corner of the Peak in Macclesfield Forest; less technical than some, perhaps, but an area of quiet beauty, and no small amount of fun besides. Extremely stiff climbs, open and rocky descents and an extremely pretty spot in the Three Shires Head, and some of the excellent singletrack in Macclesfield forest. What's not to love?

As well as the varied terrain, and the wide selection of excellent trails on offer here,perhaps the most extraordinary feature of the Peak District is its proximity to great swathes of the UK's population. It's within an hour's drive of an estimated 20 million people. So there's really no excuse not to get out there and get stuck in!

On The Map

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Tours & Highlights

  • Difficult
    02:29
    14.5 mi
    5.8 mph
    2,450 ft
    2,450 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    Jacob's Ladder is one of those climbs which has entered into legend amongst the UK's mountain biking fraternity (at least, those of a certain age). It's brutally unforgiving, with difficult terrain, hop-ups, bizarrely maintained sections and false summits. It's actually just as much fun run the other

    by Barney

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  • Intermediate
    02:24
    15.7 mi
    6.5 mph
    1,950 ft
    1,925 ft
    Intermediate mountain bike ride. Good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary.

    So, so many rides in the Dark Peak can be considered classics - but in the minds of many, this is the one that immediately springs forth. It encapsulates so much that's fantastic about riding in the area - great views; long, grinding climbs; short sharp shocks; technical descents - and all on the millstone

    by Barney

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  • Difficult
    05:02
    37.0 mi
    7.4 mph
    3,825 ft
    3,825 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Very good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary.

    This ride is something of a doozy. The estimated time to complete says something over 5 hours - but add a couple on if you stop for a snack. It's a long old route, but it's extremely rewarding, taking in as it does two of the classic Peak District Gates, Cut Gate and Doctor's Gate. Because of the state

    by Barney

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  • Intermediate
    01:30
    10.0 mi
    6.6 mph
    1,425 ft
    1,425 ft
    Intermediate mountain bike ride. Good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary.

    One of the more unusual Tours in the area, largely because of its first feature - the collapsed road at Castleton, which skirts the Blue John Mines. The rest of the Tour shouldn't be underestimated, although there's little that's truly daunting.

    

    From Castleton, the route heads up towards Mam Tor, and

    by Barney

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  • Difficult
    02:19
    15.6 mi
    6.7 mph
    1,950 ft
    1,950 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    This is a fairly long Tour, but there is little that's technical on the route. It's a great one for people who are new to the sport, or who aren't terribly technically confident. It's also a great ride on its own merits, of course. And (apart from one section at Mill Clough) it's pretty serviceable all

    by Barney

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  • Intermediate
    02:05
    14.0 mi
    6.7 mph
    1,950 ft
    1,950 ft
    Intermediate mountain bike ride. Good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary.

    Macclesfield Forest, on the far west of the Peak District, is a great place to enjoy some marvellous scenery (and riding) away from the seething tourist traps of other parts of the Peak District. It's a ride suitable for all; some of the descents (Cumberland Clough in particular) can get a little spicy

    by Barney

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  • Difficult
    04:16
    30.9 mi
    7.2 mph
    3,475 ft
    3,475 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Very good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    Some surprisingly varied terrain, open moorland, dappled woodland and a trip round a dedicated bike route with berms and jumps - what more could a biker want?

    

    The route starts at Dennis Knoll, and climbs up Long Causeway to Stanage Edge and the ancient boundary marker Stanedge Pole. A pole has stood in

    by Barney

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    7
  • Distance
    138 mi
  • Duration
    20:06 h
  • Elevation
    16,975 ft

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The Dark Peak — true northern grit in the Peak District

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