On our annual pilgrimage to the Peak District last week taking the bikes with us to make use of the numerous and growing provision of traffic free cycle ways. These are in the main old railway lines and therefore reasonably flat whilst taking in some of the loveliest scenery and all this under an hour and a half from Lincoln.
Our cottage this year was Pumpkin Cottage (www.pumpkincottage.com) in the delightful village of Youlgrave. Obviously our first piece of good luck was the weather which was exceptional for late March, so different to the way it is as I write, the Ashbourne to Buxton road is blocked with snow, last week it was shorts and tee shirts.
Youlgrave is a typical upland village, the houses really hem in the road in the centre so there is no parking outside. The owners of the cottage had an arrangement with the pub down the road, the Farmyard Inn, to park in their car park. This was our second piece of good news as, there being no parking fee it was only right to spend a little cash in the pub and this was no hardship as the beer was well kept and the food delicious, freshly prepared and using local produce some from the local butcher, which was also a find. The only downside was the current tenants of the pub are about to depart to pastures new but I give the website address in the hope standards don’t fall too far in the future but it’s a hard act to follow. It’s www.farmyardinn.co.uk.
The cottage was a delight too and we soon settled in, everything for a relaxing stay was provided, there was even a garden to sit in to enjoy the sun and we made ourselves at home, parking the bikes in the stone built shed which adjoined the house.
We’re no strangers to the area so set off for a favourite route, the Monsal Trail. Once part of the Derby to Manchester line this trail takes you through the wonderful scenery of Monsal Dale over a magnificent viaduct and through some newly re opened old railway tunnels which had been blocked off until recently. As is the case with a lot of these trails there are some businesses opening up along the route and some toilet provision too so it’s very civilised. At the halfway point (although you can carry on to a certain extent but not on the flat) we enjoyed an ice cream at Blackwell Mill Cottages. You can hire bikes here and also towards the other end of the trail, Hassop Station where there is a café and book store together with a car park. Plenty of diversions if you’re not a mad keen cyclist.
Next day was the longest ride of the holiday, the Tissington Trail. We started at Ashbourne so as to be riding slightly uphill for the first part of the journey. It does have quite a pronounced slope given that it was a railway. We stopped for a picnic at Hartington before turning back down the gradient this time stopping off at Tissington a lovely village with a magnificent Hall featuring a tea room. This was the attraction and we enjoyed a restorative cuppa. You could allow enough time to visit the hall too but it was too early in the year for us, opening at Easter. There is bike hire at Ashbourne on this trail.
Next day, gluttons for punishment we visited the High Peak Trail a wonderfully remote and atmospheric ride. Once one of the oldest railway lines in the country it was built by canal engineers and so features slopes where the trains used to be hauled up by stationary engines. Being canny riders we avoided them and started at Minninglow which really is in the middle of nowhere. We made our way to Parsley Hay which is a very busy meeting point as the trail meets up with the Tissington trail near this point. There are toilets, shop, bike hire and a snack bar here together with a car park. It’s a mystery why a station was built here but it’s a very busy and sociable place. Just along the trail is a very pleasant pub serving excellent beer and food. It’s a convenient place to turn round and head back.
Thursday was a break from cycling, just like the Tour De France. We caught the train from Buxton to Manchester. A shoppers paradise so I’m informed. I headed for the Manchester Art Gallery.
Friday turned a bit cooler so we cycled from Bakewell on the Monsal Trail again, not with a great deal of conviction. A nice cup of tea at Hassop Station and we rode back to the end of the trail at Coomes Road viaduct back to Bakewell having negotiated one or two of those tunnels again. It looks like work is being done to extend the trail towards Haddon Hall. A wander around one of our favourite Derbyshire towns, the sun had warmed up by now. We bought a print of todays trail then headed home for a bath and fish and chips at the Farmyard.
This was a marvellous and reasonably priced holiday. The locals are friendly and welcoming. Our accommodation was of good quality and reasonably priced. I’d happily recommend any of the establishments noted.