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Climbing the 'backbone of England' — The Pennine Bridleway

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Climbing the 'backbone of England' — The Pennine Bridleway

Mountain Biking Collection by Katherine Moore



4-6 h

/ day

184 mi

19,350 ft

19,325 ft

The Pennine Bridleway is one of the most iconic long distance trails in the United Kingdom, spanning the length of the Pennine Hills from South to North, often referred to as the ‘backbone of England’. These ‘hills’ are not to be underestimated, and pass through the Derbyshire Dales, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, the Yorkshire Dales and Cumbria. From ancient Roman roads to grassy singletrack, woodland trails to spectacular connecting lanes, the Pennine Bridleway bikepacking route offers you some of the very best off road riding and views that the North has to offer.

Here we propose the entire length of the Pennine Bridleway in five riding days. There are also two additional loops that you can try, and if you’re looking for a longer adventure, the Pennine Bridleway is also the starting point of the Great North Trail that spans all the way up to Cape Wrath and John O’Groats at the Northern tip of Scotland! The Pennine Bridleway can certainly be completed in less than five days over this 186 mile (300km) route, but here we find five days to be a good balance of challenge on the bike, and time to explore off the bike. After all, the route is littered with historic ruins and quaint towns, all waiting to be explored.

It’s worth saying here that this is by no means an easy or beginner’s route. The climbs can be very tough in places and terrain anything but smooth, but don’t let that put you off trying a day ride or two in the area before committing to the whole route. You’ll need a good level of fitness to ride the Pennine Bridleway, and be well clued up on emergency procedure too as there are many remote areas that you’ll venture into, where emergency help could take some time to reach you.

The best bike choice for the trail is probably a rigid or hardtail mountain bike, as there are some technical and rocky sections along the route. You can certainly ride it on a gravel or adventure bike if you’re technically capable and don’t mind walking a few sections!

Accommodation along the route is plentiful, from hotels and inns, guest houses and hostels to many campsites. Remember that wild camping is not permitted in this part of the UK so you’ll need to overnight in a campsite if you’d like to sleep outdoors. Make sure you book ahead in any case, as the trail passes through many popular areas.

The Pennine Bridleway is best accessed via train, and here we’ve routed the start and of the route to local train stations in Wirksworth (South) and Kirkby Stephen (North). You can take your bike on English trains, but just check before you travel as you might have to book your bike onto your chosen service in advance.

The best time to tackle the Pennine Bridleway is in the summer months, although be aware that it is likely to be busy during July and August with the UK school holidays. Early and late summer offer good windows of opportunity, from May to June and September to October when it is hopefully a bit less busy but still with better weather. Or at least we hope - make sure you take your waterproofs just in case!

On The Map


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Pennine Bridleway

169 mi

17,325 ft

17,650 ft

Last updated: November 10, 2021

Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.

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  1. Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

    Day 1: Wirksworth to Hayfield - Pennine Bridleway

    37.7 mi
    8.3 mph
    2,950 ft
    2,775 ft
    Intermediate mountain bike ride. Good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary.

    Like many good things in life, the start of the Pennine Bridleway in the South eases you in gently, with half a day of flat and almost traffic free easy gravel trails. This first stage covers 40 miles (61km) from the train station at Wirksworth to the Village of Hayfield, across the Derbyshire Dales


  2. 06:50
    45.7 mi
    6.7 mph
    5,625 ft
    5,750 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Very good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary.

    After your first overnighter in Hayfield, the second day spans a shorter 36 miles (58km) up to Hebden Bridge in the Upper Calder Valley, Yorkshire. Again on the Pennine Bridleway route, you’ll experience some of the very best riding that this area has to offer, today with a lot of climbing and descending


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  4. 04:19
    28.5 mi
    6.6 mph
    3,475 ft
    3,575 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Very good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary.

    Today’s 27 mile (49km) route crosses from Yorkshire into the county of Lancashire and will certainly feel more easy going than previous stages, with some of the most spectacular sections of the trail thrown in for good measure too.


    Just like most other days, staying in towns on rivers means you’ll have


  5. 04:31
    33.7 mi
    7.5 mph
    3,100 ft
    3,100 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Very good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary.

    A slightly longer day at 33.5 miles (54km), the penultimate day takes you to the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, leaving Lancashire’s scenic moorland behind in favour of Three Peaks CX territory - a world renowned cyclo-cross race that takes part annually in this area.


    Head West out of Earby


  6. 05:34
    38.0 mi
    6.8 mph
    4,200 ft
    4,150 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Very good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary.

    Head North out of Clapham to start the final day of five along the Pennine Bridleway, today venturing into the heart of the Yorkshire Dales National Park to finish in Kirby Stephen after 38 miles (61km). Climb gently to start with Thwaite on your right along the doubletrack trail and past Trow Gill



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Collection Stats

  • Tours
  • Distance
    184 mi
  • Duration
    25:48 h
  • Elevation
    19,350 ft19,325 ft

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