Daniel Hug

Grit and Rock of the White and Dark Peak — the Peak 200

Mountain Biking Collection by Katherine Moore

The Peak 200 is a 140 mile (225 km) mountain bike ITT( individual time trial) in the rugged Peak District National Park of central England. This means that you can ride the loop — starting at any point and time of the year you like — and time yourself to see how you compare to other riders who’ve gone before you. It’s an alternative to mass-start bikepacking events that’s been somewhat undercover in the UK for decades.

Although designed to be raced against the clock, the Peak 200 ITT also provides a spectacular route for anyone wanting to tour off-road in this rocky, wild and windswept part of the country. With plenty of villages to pass through it makes for great bikepacking fodder and there are many places to resupply, lots of great pubs and campsites, hostels, hotels and guesthouses for your overnight stays.

You’ll be spoilt on the Peak 200 with some of the most iconic sights and trails in the area, from the views atop Froggatt Edge to the expansive Ladybower Reservoir, plus the fun and technical trails including The Street, Cranberry Clough, Cut Gate, Roych Clough and many more.

Don’t let the short daily distances proposed in these five stages fool you; this is a challenging Collection. Not only will you cover a whopping 16,400 feet (5,000 m) ascent, but the terrain is also tricky in places. You’ll definitely need a mountain bike for this Collection, preferably a hardtail or full-suspension to tackle the rocky and uneven trails, and low gearing for the steep valley sides.

You’ll find that the best time of year to take on the Peak 200 route is in the summer when the trails have dried up, although be aware that these areas do get very busy during the school holidays in July and August. Always be considerate of other trail users including hikers who may also have dogs. If you try the spring and autumn months, you may find it's quieter, but you’re likely to come across a bit more mud if it’s been wet.

Remember that regardless of the season, you’ll need to take a waterproof, an emergency first aid kit and a survival bag as some of the moorland and valleys that you visit are pretty remote and conditions can change rapidly even in the best months!

Technically you can start this loop from any point, but here we propose a start and finish near Ringinglow. Edale is another popular start point as it has a train station which you can use to get to the start and return from the finish. We’ve chosen Ringinglow here as it’s the closest point to Sheffield, which has a major train station. It’s just a 6.2 mile (10 km) climb up from the station to this point on the road.

Check out more about the route as an Individual Time Trial including the rules here; selfsupporteduk.net/routes/Peak200.html

On The Map

Tours & Highlights

    29.3 mi
    7.7 mph
    2,675 ft
    3,500 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    Starting from the corner of Lady Cannings’ plantation near Ringinglow, this first stage of the Peak 200 covers 29.6 miles (47.6 km) to the gorgeous and lively little village of Bamford, home to a wonderful community pub, the Angler’s Inn.The twisting and convoluting trail of this inner part of the route serves to show that the Peak 200 isn’t about getting from A to B across the country, but rather making the most of the incredible trails in this National Park. The stage is rather lumpy in general, with three main peaks spaced out along the way. You’ll start at height, taking the road past Higger Tor before turning onto the The Dale via a short off road tracks descent.Climb on this dead straight road before turning left onto North Lees road, a quiet tarmac stretch with Stanage Edge looming over you to the east. The ascent of Stanage is a fun and technical one on singletrack, up to the Long Causeway gravel road before summiting at Stanage Pole. Hopefully you’ll have a beautiful day, as the views here, when clear, are absolutely terrific. After that tricky climb, make the most of the long descent past the Redmires Reservoirs and all the way down to the Manchester Road. Climb steeply over the other side of this main road to head west on the back lane, over to Hordron Edge. Take the rocky bridleway to Whinstone Lee viewpoint (you’ll see why I’ve recommended a mountain bike here rather than a gravel bike) and on to descend the paved singletrack way down to Ladybower Reservoir. Now this is classic Peak District mountain biking at its finest! Back on much easier ground, take the flat gravel road along the reservoir edge south to cross Derwent Dam, then follow the water’s edge past Ladybower Wood to where the River Ashop joins the water. Here you’ll take on ‘The Beast’ climb. Steep, technical and rocky; you’ll probably need to push sections of this. Just look out for mountain bikers descending towards you!Near the summit now, pass Hope Cross and descend on a mix of singletrack and quiet paved lanes down to Thornhill, where you join the main road through Bamford village. There are a few facilities here including a train station, a few pubs and places to stay. If you’re looking for more, nearby Hathersage, a short ride away on the cycle path along the main road, has a lot more going on.

    27.6 mi
    6.6 mph
    3,450 ft
    2,950 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.

    Stage 2 remains in the Dark Peak, a name used to describe the geology of this area. Here, the limestone bedrock is covered with a cap of millstone grit and softer shale, so in winter that’s why it’s almost always waterlogged, and riding here when it’s mucky eats bike parts. You’ll see why it’s all worthwhile when you ride in the Dark Peak, covering 27.7 miles (44.5 km) of it on this stage. You’ll explore a lot more of the Hope Valley today, generally heading north after some serious climbing. Start by leaving Bamford behind, crossing the River Derwent before the first sharp, but small, climb of the day. After this ramp, you’ll continue to climb more gently as you contour around the eastern reach of Shatton Moor, taking the road through Abney and then summiting on gravel roads past Bleak Knoll.Descend sharply down the valley side into the working village of Bradwell, where you won’t find much in the way of amenities bar a Co-Op shop and three pubs! It’s a pretty steep climb up out of the other side of the village too, up to the quarry and continue on climbing more gradually now on gravel roads. Finish your climb on the iconic Mam Tor, the steep final push before the fast and flowing mountain bike descent down to the village of Edale. You might want to stop for a rest here, but know that’s the biggest climb of the stage complete! Next up, follow the road north-west before peeling off left on the bridleway climb up to Jaggers Clough, a rough and rocky banked chute and stream splash. It’s not much further to the very top, down the aptly named ‘Potato Alley’ (expect large, rounded boulders) and over the River Ashop. The final climb of the stage takes you past Rowlee Farm onto singletrack, following the well-known Kinder Loop mountain bike route through the forest and down to the Derwent Reservoir. The last stretch is mellow, along the side of the water on the beautiful gravel road to the bridge at Slippery Stones. Here marks the end of the stage, but you won’t be able to stay here as there’s no campsite or accommodation. Your best bet is to begin stage 3 here and head towards Thurlmoor Farm campsite which is a little off the official route.

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  • Intermediate
    28.7 mi
    7.7 mph
    2,500 ft
    2,900 ft
    Intermediate mountain bike ride. Good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary.

    Stage 3 covers the northern loop of the Peak 200, moving 28.7 miles (46.2 km) from west to east. You’ll ride through a section of the Peak District often enjoyed by nearby Manchester city’s inhabitants. Your first leg of this stage will take you north from Slippery Stones bridge up and over the steep climb of Cranberry Clough up to Margery Hill. It’s a long descent from here, still following the same way as the Kinder Scout loop, descending the slabs of Cut Gate trail. This is pure mountain biker’s heaven. After a short stint on the road, take the singletrack to ride along the banks of the River Don. You’ll start a gentle climb as you join the road at Windle Edge before passing onto the old gravel track of the Pennine Cycleway route. This farm track avoids the main road and delivers you to Woodhead Tunnel at the edge of Woodhead Reservoir. Here you take the traffic-free Longdendale Trail, gradually descending for quite some time past the multiple reservoirs to Hadfield. After some urban riding, rejoin the Kinder Scout route to climb over Lantern Pike for your final summit of the stage, then roll down to Hayfield to finish. Here you’ll find a good selection of guesthouses, hotels, cottages and a nearby campsite to choose from if you’re ending the day here.

    25.3 mi
    7.3 mph
    2,825 ft
    2,300 ft
    Intermediate mountain bike ride. Good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary.

    The penultimate stage heads south to take in the southern loop of the Peak 200, this time notching off a smaller 25.3 miles (40.7 km), from the Dark into the White Peak. Here the limestone geology gives the area its name, also known as the Low Peak. On the whole the climbs today are less severe with some much flatter sections too. Having said this, you’ll start with the biggest climb of all from Hayfield up Foxholes Clough. There’s a fun singletrack descent as a reward to the road, which you cross to climb up the other side on the Pennine Bridleway past Mount Famine. Top off this climb at South Head before the awesome descent of ‘The Street’. You can now really see why this area is so popular with mountain bikers. Slabs, loose rock and step ups are set to challenge you next as you climb the tricky Roych Clough, although a little less steep than the previous climbs. Descend the first part of the paved Rushup Lane as you continue along the southern stretch of the Pennine Bridleway, tending gently downhill to Peak Forest. Take lanes and gravel roads through Wheston to Wormhill, then cross the steep sided Moseley Farm valley track. You’ll soon join the High Peak Trail, a smooth gravel, traffic free cycle and hiking route through the White Peak. Finish the stage at Parsley Hay at the cafe and cycle hire centre. Nearby you can find several bed and breakfasts, plus a campsite at Pilsbury Lodge.

    27.0 mi
    7.4 mph
    2,525 ft
    2,300 ft
    Intermediate mountain bike ride. Good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary.

    Welcome to the fifth and final stage of the challenging but immensely rewarding Peak 200 route. This last stage will take you from the southern loop back up to the start/finish point near Ringinglow again, totalling 27.2 miles (43.8 km) and includes the spectacular Froggatt Edge as well as the final leg on Houndkirk Road.For nearly the first half of the stage the route tends gently downhill, firstly heading south on the High Peak Trail before taking the singletrack from Friden Bends. This bridleway descent becomes more rocky and rough before passing through green, grassy meadows to Gratton Dale. It’s at this point that you will start to head north, through Gratton Dale toward Elton village. Following the paved road to Alport. If you’ve never visited Bakewell, you can take a detour from the route at this point to the iconic Peak District town. Be sure to try the proper Bakewell Pudding! After all the descending, it’ll now be time to point back uphill. Climb from Alport to the Chatsworth Estate, up past Haddon Park Farm and through Lees Moor Wood. Keep an eye out for deer as you pass through Chatsworth Park on the main road to Baslow.From here you’ll start your last climb of the day; although admittedly you’ll be climbing until the end. The climb is more gradual and steeper in parts. Thankfully the toughest bit comes first with the bridleway climb out of the village to Baslow Edge.You’ll take the singletrack path along Froggatt Edge, with incredible views across the green valley on a bright day along the gritstone escarpment. Continue north through the National Trust’s Longshaw Estate and then finally Houndkirk Road. This brilliant moorland road is both wide and quite flat, a good and easy way to finish the five stages of the Peak 200 ITT before returning to where you started at the edge of Lady Cannings’ Wood.

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
  • Distance
    138 mi
  • Duration
    18:53 h
  • Elevation
    13,975 ft

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