Recently listed by various national newspapers as one of the best cycle routes in the country, the Tissington Trail is a 13-mile (21km) linear track that follows the line of the former Ashbourne-Buxton railway through the open and unspoilt White Peak countryside.
But what is the Tissington Trail really like? Well, it’s safe and traffic-free, undemanding, mostly straight, picturesque, relaxing, firm surface, popular at weekends. And what isn’t it? Steep, rough, desperately muddy, circular, adrenalin-pumping, hard work.
So, if you are still reading, it’s quite likely that you’re contemplating a leisurely route for a family group, or perhaps you’re an occasional cyclist or haven’t been in the saddle for a while and are planning a day out on two wheels whilst holidaying in the Peak District? If this is the case, the Tissington Trail is for you. There’s cycle hire at both ends (Parsley Hay and Ashbourne), some decent cafes and pubs a little off the route (the Old Coach House tea rooms at Tissington and the Royal Oak at Hurdlow are perhaps the pick), and the distance is just right for an easy-going day out, presuming you do a there-and-back.
The Tissington Trail’s southern terminus is at Ashbourne, where the National Park cycle hire centre and café is connected to the town centre by a short tunnel. From there it’s a very gradual pull up through the tree-lined fields towards Tissington, before hitting more open country as you take to high embankments with stunning views across the rolling green hills. There are also narrow cuttings lined with wild flowers, as well as a succession of former stations and halts, many with the remnants of the former railway still evident (old platforms, signals, even a restored signal box at Hartington), despite the line closing in 1967. Although gradients are gentle throughout, the trail’s trajectory from Ashbourne is very gradually upwards to it’s conclusion at Parsley Hay. It’s not such a slope that is likely to render you breathless (depending how eagerly you pedal, I suppose), but if you want an easier return leg then start/finish at Ashbourne.
All along the route there are options to turn off and explore local attractions, including Thorpe (for Dove Dale), Tissington Hall, Hartington village and, of course, Ashbourne town centre itself. And if you want to extend the ride then at Parsley Hay, at the northern end of the route, turn right straight on to the High Peak Trail; or from Tissington head east on route 54A that follows quiet minor roads via Bradbourne to reach Carsington Water and its own dedicated cycling route.
There’s more information about the route at the Tissington Trail page on our website. We’ve also reproduced a fascinating article written by retired National Park Ranger Richard Gregory celebrating 40 years of the Tissington Trail as a popular recreation route – follow this link.
The Tissington Trail is a lovely route to cycle, partly because in practical terms it’s safe, manageable and straightforward; but also because it feels part of the landscape. The way it gradually weaves between the fields and rides the gently undulating limestone slopes makes you feel like you’re travelling very lightly and naturally – which, of course, on a bicycle you are.
To quote Ernest Hemingway (most definitely a first for this blog): “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.”