Wild and desolate moorlands, warm and welcoming real ale pubs, dense emerald forests and the magnificent Pennine peaks – cycling the Pennines Cycleway is a beautiful adventure.
The founder of Sustrans John Grimshaw once called the Pennine Cycleway “the best National Cycle Network route of the lot, and you will quickly understand why. With stunning mountains, misty moors, tranquil lakes, geological wonders and heaps of historical monuments, you will find stunning spots around every corner.
However, the Pennine Cycleway is not for the fainthearted. Often considered to be the hardest long distance cycle route in the UK, you will climb a total of 7490 meters (24,573 feet) through the Pennines, at one point tackling four peaks within 20 miles (32 km)
Starting in the Peak District in Derby, the Pennine Cycleway covers 327 miles (526 km) along the “backbone of England” through spectacular scenery and four national parks – the Peak District, Yorkshire Dales, Northumberland, and the outskirts of the Lake District.
Following mostly quiet country lanes, you will often find yourself alone in nature with just your bike and your thoughts. As around 20% of the route follows unpaved cycle paths, cyclocross, touring or mountain bikes are best, although you can often find an alternative route on a main road to avoid muddy sections.
Although many of the stretches are very remote, you will still find plenty of riverside cafes, village bakeries, pubs and shops along the way to relax and refuel for your next miles.
This Collection will guide you through the Pennine Cycleway in twelve unique stages. If you are looking for a bigger challenge, you can lengthen the routes by combining the stages. Each section ends in a place with various accommodation options and often also a train station.
You can take the train directly from London, Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle and other cities to Derby, the most central city in the UK and the starting point of the route. Don’t forget to reserve a place for your bike in advance, especially in summer when bike spaces are quickly snapped up.
As with all adventures, come well-prepared for your journey, and enjoy this incredible ride.
For train tickets and timetables, visit: thetrainline.com/destinations/trains-to-derby
For more information on Derby including accommodation options, visit: visitderby.co.uk
Starting from the heart of the Peak District National Park from the historical city of Derby, your first stage of cycling the Pennine Cycleway will lead you through varied landscape – from industrial constructions, along quiet traffic-free trails and through rolling countryside.
Leaving Derby city centre can be tricky, so you may want to turn on komoot’s navigation here. A former railway track will lead you out of the city and onto calm country lanes that rise and fall through the green landscape.
At Ashbourne, you will cycle through a tunnel which brings you onto the Tissington Trail. This 13 mile (21 km) stretch will guide you through stunning Peak District scenery. The route gradually leads uphill before flattening out on the outskirts of Biggin village.
Here, you could consider a detour to Hartington, a village known for its cheese-making tradition, and stock up on locally made cheeses and chutneys.
Your final destination of the day is Parsley Hay village where you can find comfortable accommodation, a cafe, and a bicycle hire shop.
Today, you will ride 30 miles (50 km) further through the history and nature of the Peak District National Park from Parsley Hay to Hadfield.
From Parsley Hay, the route continues along traffic-free cycle paths that gently rise and fall through the landscape before ascending into Harpur Hill. Take care here, as the windy roads can become busy, especially during rush hour.
Next, you will reach Buxton, a pleasant spa town often described as “the gateway to the Peak District National Park.” Make sure to stock up on plenty of water and snacks here as a gruelling climb on uneven road surfaces awaits you as you leave the town.
The route then joins hilly Peak lane. This glorious stretch will take you through magical countryside with barely any cars in sight.
At Whaley Bridge, you will follow the Peak Forest Canal, once an important industrial waterway, as it merges into the River Goyt. Then, the route turns away from the river and heads into green farmland before arriving in Hadfield, the final stop.
A former industrial hub for weaving and spinning, Hadfield has many restaurants, cafes, pubs and places to stay.
Get recommendations on the best single tracks, peaks, & plenty of other exciting outdoor places.
Vast reservoirs, hills blanketed by farmland and forests, and towns with an interesting cultural heritage – stage three of the Pennine Cycleway takes you 23.6 miles (38 km) deep into the South Pennine hills.
From Hadfield, you will take a former railway line towards the Woodhead reservoirs. Be prepared to push at times here, as the path is often muddy. From the reservoirs, you will climb through the magnificent Pennine Hills. You may want to follow the main road here, as the marked path is only suitable for mountain bikes.
After cycling through the beautiful Pennine nature, a blissful downhill into Holmfirth awaits. The home of Last of the Summer Wine, Holmfirth is a lovely town with a scattering of antique shops and tea rooms to whittle away a few hours.
A tough climb out of Holmfirth brings you to stunning landscapes – country lanes lined with dry-stone walls wind through hillside villages and mill towns as you cycle from valley to valley over undulating hills.
You will follow the Bradley Brook as it winds through the hills and into Slaithwaite, the end of stage three. A pretty village with a canal at its heart, Slaithwaite offers various accommodation options to suit any budget.
With 850 meters (2789 feet) of climbing, stage four is the toughest section of the Pennine Cycleway. However, the panoramic views over layers and layers of Pennine mountains makes it all worthwhile.
The day begins unspectacularly from Slaithwaite as you cross over the M62 via Scammonden Water dam. But, before long, you will find yourself cycling through the peaceful moors interrupted by the occasional quaint village towards Sowerby Bridge.
Here, you can choose whether to continue over the hills or to follow the Rochdale Canal towpath. The two routes rejoin each other in Hebden Bridge, a pleasant market town with lots of rest spots to refuel before a big climb out of the town.
Your hard work is rewarded by a spectacular 7.4 mile (12 km) descent – fresh mountain air and panoramic views await.
When you reach Burnley, a medieval town with a historic market dating back 700 years, you are nearing the end of stage four. You will follow a bike path along Pendle Water before turning into Brierfield. With a station, various accommodation options, pubs and restaurants, Brierfield has all the necessary amenities for a pleasant stay.
Stage five will lead you along meandering rivers and peaceful canals, through sleepy villages and fertile farms into the wonderful Yorkshire Dales.
You will leave Brierfield via the Leeds and Liverpool Canal towpath and then head north away from the suburban jungle and into emerald fields. You will skirt around Nelson, the birthplace of Carradice, known for its saddlebags and panniers, along the way.
After some 17 miles (28 km) of isolated countryside, you will arrive Gargrave. With pies and pasties galore, this pretty village is worth a visit. Here, you will also find the famous cycling cafe 'The Dalesman'.
Gargrave stands upon the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, a national park known for its vibrant communities, inspiring landscapes and pretty stone-built villages. You will enter the Yorkshire Dales via the beautiful Aire Valley before tackling the grueling climb from Winterburn village towards Settle.
After a cobbled descent into the town, you will arrive in your final stop for stage five, Settle. A town which lies on both the Way of the Roses cycle path and the Pennine cycleway, Settle is a popular stop off for cyclists. As such, accommodation can be slightly pricey, especially in summer.
Rocky crags, cavernous underground labyrinths, ancient woodland, former metal mines, cascading waterfalls, trickling streams and sweeping moors – the Yorkshire Dales is known for its wild and windswept landscapes. Stage six of the Pennine Cycleway will guide you through some of the areas' most spectacular landscapes.
Within a few miles of setting off, you will enter the Ribber Valley, a lovely section of the route through the dales. If you are on a mountain bike, you may want to consider the original cobbled track between Austwick and Clapham rather than following the cycle path along the main road.
From Clapham, you will cycle country lanes through green countryside and dry-stone lined fields towards Ingleton, lovingly known as the Land of Caves and Waterfalls.
A climb will take you into Dentdale, a stunning Yorkshire dale with an underground network of caves and the babbling Kingsdale Beck.
The route continues to climb up to the highest point in Lancashire before descending down a long and winding road into Deepdale, where you continue to be spoiled by spectacular scenery.
Along the way, you will pass the sleepy villages of Dent and Gawthrop whilst following the River Dee as it carves through the landscape, before arriving at Sedbergh. Brimming with interesting bookshops, this pretty town has dubbed itself “the book town of England.” After browsing through the varied literature, you will easily find comfortable accommodation to spend the night.
Heading deeper into the Yorkshire Dales, stage seven of the Pennines cycleway is wild, adventurous and untamed nature. Today, you will ride 28 miles (45 km) from Sedburgh to Appleby-in-Westmorland.
Although the start of the route follows the M6 motorway, the small country lanes bordering the Lake District feel like miles away from the busy traffic, at times only a few hundred meters away. You will follow the peaceful River Lune as it carves through the moors via the Lune Valley.
Just before Orton village, you will leave the river behind. Once described by Wainwright as one of Westmoreland's loveliest villages, Orton is a pretty place to enjoy a hot drink and a slice of cake at one of its cafes.
From here, you will head into the vast moor landscape, passing more sheep than people as you ride. This section of the route is truly stunning: with few villages on the way, you will find yourself alone in the spectacular wilderness.
When the road starts to descend, you are nearing the edge of the Yorkshire Dales. From here, you will reach your final destination, Appleby-in-Westmorland, within 3 miles (5 km).
Nestled in the Eden valley, Appleby is an attractive market town with a historic castle, market hall, and yearly horse fair. With a train station, plenty of places to eat out, and various accommodation options, Appleby is a pleasant town to spend the evening.
Long climbs leading to panoramic views, calm lakes, exhilarating descents, and quaint villages serving an abundance of cakes – stage eight of the Pennine Cycleway is tough but absolutely rewarding.
Today, you will climb 730 meters (2395) in total, reaching the highest point of the cycleway, Hartside Top. Along the way, you will pass many villages serving local delicacies and freshly-baked goods to re-energise yourself as you ride.
After leaving Appleby, you will ride over gently undulating hills, visiting the pretty villages of Hilton, Murton and Dufton. The route leads through the picturesque Eden Valley for 20 miles (32 km) of joyous riding with high crags towering in the east.
Shortly after Gamblesby, the route turns east and sends you up the toughest climb of the Pennine Cycleway, the Hartside Top. Surrounded by impressive fells and moody hills, the spectacular view should distract you from your burning legs.
The descent will bring you to Alston town, a convenient place to spend the night. With B&Bs, hotels, self-catering and camping in the area, you should easily find a place to rest.
On stage nine of your adventure cycling the Pennine Cycleway through fine landscape and fascinating history, you will visit antique railway stations, luscious meadows, mighty viaducts, and more.
Today, you have a leisurely ride with 160 meters (524 feet) spread out over 15 miles (25 km). As you leave Alston and continue through the Pennines, look out for red squirrels which are still found in the area.
The first section of your journey follows the River South Tyne, flanked by hills, before reaching Slaggyford. The village was once bigger than Alston, but many locals moved after mining increased in the neighbouring town.
Here, you will follow a lovely railway path towards Lambley. Unfortunately, you will have to leave the route close to the viaduct as a homeowner doesn’t allow cyclists on their land. But you will find a traditional pub and a pretty church in the village.
From Lambley, you will continue on the railway line for a pleasant 5 mile (8km) downhill stretch towards Haltwhistle. Popular with cyclists, Haltwhistle is the final stop for stage nine. Located on the banks of the River South Tyne, you will find everything you need for a comfortable stay, as well as a station. As you will not find many places to stock up on supplies for the next 25 miles (40 km), we recommend stopping at the supermarket here.
Stage ten of your journey leads you deep into rural Britain and through the stunning, remote nature of the Northumberland National Park. You will cycle through ancient Roman ruins, archeological wonders, and forest-lined tracks with barely another soul in sight.
Having stocked up on supplies, you are ready to head into the wildest section of the Pennine Cycle Way. Although the route is rocky at times, you will soon find tarmac (but few cars). Enjoy the spectacular nature as you ride through green fields lined with evergreen trees and up and over gentle hills.
After 25 miles (40 km) of incredible cycling, you will cross the River North Tyne and descend into Bellingham. Here, you will find a thriving village with a cafe, three pubs and a swimming pool.
The route continues to rise and fall over pretty hills, through farmland and small villages, passing ancient Roman fortresses and defences along the way.
Your final destination is Elsdon village. Set in the heart of Northumberland National Park, Elsdon is the picture-perfect village with a beautiful church, tower house and a ruined castle. You will find many accommodation options in the area.
Your eleventh stage of cycling the Pennine Cycleway leads you through the outskirts of the Northumberland National Park through spectacular nature and interesting sights from Elsdon to Wooler.
As soon as you start pedalling, you will find yourself surrounded by gorgeous countryside: trickling streams meander through hills and birds of prey circle over farmland with very little traffic on the road. After an initial ascent, you can enjoy a nice downhill stretch. Stage eleven doesn’t have any big climbs.
After 11 miles (18 km), you will reach Alwinton village. Here, you will meet the muddiest section of the Pennine Cycleway. You may want to consider taking minor roads to the east of the official route, especially if you are riding in wet weather.
Over the next stretch, you will cycle through many fords. Although just about cyclable, you will find small footbridges just in case.
After a total of 34 miles (56 km) of pedalling, you will arrive at the final destination of stage eleven, Wooler. Nestled amongst the Cheviot Hills, Wooler is a pretty town with a tourist information centre, various eateries and a range of accommodation.
Ancient castles that witnessed border battles over one thousand years ago, gushing rivers that flow into the waters of the North Sea, and impressive bridges spanning between England and Scotland – the final stage of your journey along the Pennine Cycleway does not disappoint.
With the rambling hills and bigger climbs behind you, today is an easy 30 mile (50 km) stretch leading you from Wooler to Berwick-Upon-Tweed. You will mostly cycle along quiet country lanes with a short off-road section along the river near Etal. With a castle, pottery and cafe, Etal is a quaint place to take a break.
From Norham, the route heads East towards the sea and the end of the Pennine Cycleway. You will follow the River Tweed as it flows along the border between England and Scotland. At the Union Suspension Bridge, you will cross into Scotland and join a B-road that leads you into Berwick-Upon-Tweed.
When you spot the Sustrans signpost pointing to Derby at Berwick-Upon-Tweed’s railway station – you’ve made it! Congratulations - you’ve conquered the hardest route on the National Cycle Network.
Berwick-Upon-Tweed has direct train connections to London, Birmingham, Glasgow, Newcastle, and Edinburgh to help you get home. Don’t forget to book a space for your bike in advance.
For train tickets and timetables, visit: thetrainline.com/stations/berwick-upon-tweed