Peaks perfect

Jonathan Manning escapes the crowds – but not the hills – on this quiet route through the Derbyshire Dales

It’s easy to understand that planners need to draw the boundaries of national parks somewhere, even if their decisions can sometimes be a little perplexing. Take this vistually stunning but physically testing ride in Derbyshire, for example, which is every inch a Peak District route without officially being inside the perimeter of the national park.

Within 20 miles it ticks off the drystone walls of the White Peak, pretty villages, the River Derwent, grazing pastures and gorse-covered hilltops. If anything, the ride is arguably a step up on those in the official national park, thanks to its quieter roads and dairy farms whose barns are still working dairies rather than having been converted into holiday lets. 

As for the topography of these Derbyshire Dales – empty your pockets and warm up your climbing legs (or recharge the batteries of your e-bike), because there are a couple of formidable ascents to contend with along the way. 

The ride starts from The Firs Club Campsite at Ambergate, a couple of miles south of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site that can lay a compelling claim to have been the epicentre of the Industrial Revolution, although there’s nothing dark or satanic about this countryside. There is, however, a devilishly long climb early on, rising from a fine stone bridge over the Derwent. 

The rewards for your endeavours are soon apparent with magnificent views over meadows divided by stone walls, and later a spellbinding panorama across to Wirksworth. 

Towards the end of the route, the Bulls Head offers refreshment before tackling the impending climb back up to Ambergate, but however tempting the pub’s food, you wouldn’t want a full stomach before doing battle with the final ascent!

You can also download the route for this ride from our dedicated Strava page here


1.  Turn left out of The Firs Club Campsite and at the crossroads in 500m turn left along Newbridge Road. It’s a steep descent, so check your brakes and watch your speed. Continue under a railway bridge to a 2crossroads with the A6. 

2.  1.6km – Go straight over the crossroads, along Holly Lane, cross the River Derwent, and start a 3long, steep climb. Continue to an offset crossroads. 

3.  4.7km – Turn right at the crossroads, signposted to Alderwasley and Whatstandwell, Continue for 3km, looking out for a road on the left just before a farm 4(if you reach the B5035 you have gone too far). 

4.  7.7km – Turn left to Breamfield. The views across to Wirksworth get better and better. Continue for 1km 5to a T-junction.. 

5.  8.8km – Turn left at the junction, signposted to Alport and Ashleyhay. Continue for 3.5km, looking out for a turn on the left along Bowman’s Lane. 

6.  12.4km – Turn left down Bowman’s Lane, signposted to Belper, and stay on this road for 2km to reach a T-junction.. 

7.  14.4km – Turn right at the T-junction towards the 12% gradient sign, and enjoy the downhill. As you reach the edge of the village, about 50m before the Bulls Head pub, turn sharply left to Ambergate along Whitewells Lane. Keep going for 2.6km to reach a T-junction. 

8.  17.1km – Turn right at the T-junction, rejoining the road you climbed from point 2 (although this time you have gravity in your favour with a steep descent to the Derwent). Cross the river and continue to the crossroads. Go straight over to retrace your way up Newbridge Road and at the top of the hill turn right, signposted to Belper, to return to the Club site on your right in 500m. 

About the route

  • Start/finish: The Firs Club Campsite, Crich Lane, Belper, Derbyshire DE56 2JH.
  • Distance: 12 miles/19.2km
  • Time: 2 hours.
  • Level: Suitable for fitter cyclists and e-bikers. The roads are quiet but there are two major hills to climb.
  • Terrain: Asphalt all the way. A road, hybrid, or e-bike would be ideal – low gears and good brakes are essential.
  • Landscape: Beautiful Derbyshire Dales; grazing pasture, wilder gorse meadows and woodland.
  • Refreshments: Bulls Head, Belper. 

About the author

Family of three outside their caravan on a sunny day

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