Cycling from York (or Hull) to the Peak District National Park

What is it like to cycle from York (or Hull) to the Peak District National Park in two days (York) or three days (Hull)? In this blog we look at this beautiful route of 164 kilometers (start in York, 100 miles) or 252 kilometers (start in Hull, 155 miles) and give you a good idea of what you can encounter along the way. 

Previously we wrote about our route from Berwick on Tweed, Newcastle and Whitby. You can also join this route by taking the night ferry from Rotterdam to Hull, first cycling from Hull to York. In that case you will start cycling from the Hull ferry terminal, passing the historic Museum Quarter in Hull Old Town with its multiple historic museums. You will also cycle past ‘The Deep’, a large sea aquarium.

Between Hull and York, cycling is best via the Yorkshire Wolds with its gentle hills and picturesque villages. To get there you will first navigate through suburban Hull to nearby Beverley. This independent town features a huge cathedral, the Beverley Minster. This is popular with the crowds, as are the historic high street, various scenic market squares and the impressive North Gate dating from the 15th century.

The Yorkshire Wolds can feel empty at times, away from the small towns of Market Weighton, Pocklington and Stamford Bridge. Market Weighton is the quietest of the three, Pocklington has a lively main street, popular with tourists in this region. Stamford Bridge is best known for a historic battle. In 1066, the English defeated the Vikings here before getting defeated themselves by William the Conqueror. There is not much to see other than a field. You may prefer the river views from the former railway bridge. Just before York you can visit the Farming Museum. You will also pass this museum if you cycled from further north to York.

The city of York is the most visited tourist city in England after London, so expect a lot of crowds here. Most striking are the historic city walls, which are almost completely intact, as are the old city gates. It is definitely worth a walk on the old wall, taking in great views over the city. Whether you cycled from Hull or from the North, York is definitely worth an overnight stay!

York is just bursting with famous attractions, such as the Viking Museum Jorvik and the National Railway Museum. The York Minster is a stunning building and also famous for its climb to the Great Tower, the highest point of this beautiful cathedral. Harry Potter fans will not be disappointed with ‘The Shambles’, a narrow medieval shopping street that was the inspiration for ‘Diagon Alley’. Other attractions worth a visit are the Yorkshire Museum and Clifford’s Tower.

Southwards from York you cycle over a former railway to the town of Selby. An art project along this route will give you a striking insight into how the planets of our Milky Way are placed in relation to each other. Statues of all these planets have been placed along the trail, respecting the distances as found in space. In Selby you will find its huge cathedral, the Selby Minster, towering over the flat surrounding landscape.

Between Selby and Doncaster you will cycle across a vast low plain. Without artificial drainage, large sections would be permanently flooded. Thanks to the route builders of the Trans Pennine Trail, an acceptable route has been created for cyclists, utilising bridges over the River Aire and its several draining canals. There are not a great many settlements here, so your arrival in Doncaster could feel like an arrival in a metropolis. Given the true remoteness ahead, this is your preferred lodging town before starting your gradual climb into the Pennines.

From Doncaster, the Trans Pennine trail keeps leading the way, although we exchanged its more rough sections for some quiet country lanes. You will cycle via the Sprotbrough Falls beauty spot and the impressive Conisbrough Castle. In Wombwell, a good shop on food and drink is recommended, as here you will find the last real shopping street before the Peak District. After this, you cycle into this National Park’s empty remote void, with increasingly steeper climbs. The remote picnic spot at Oxspring illustrates the character of this route.

The Trans Pennine Trail lands you on the Upper Don Trail, a scenic cycle path on a former railway line, known for its Thurgoland Tunnel. It takes you onto a patchwork of gravel paths in the Wharncliffe Woods. This valley naturally takes you into the city of Sheffield, away from our destination. To prevent this happening we take an unexpected turn westbound. To get to the village of Oughtibridge you will briefly encounter a rough stony path, but this the only available link to the empty country lanes of the higher land in the Peak District.

From Oughtibridge, you climb a 10% gradient over 2 kilometers (about 1,5 miles) to an elevation of about 300 meters above sea level. The panoramic views are the reward for all your climbing efforts. This area is known as ‘Dark Peak’ and it features multiple drinking water reservoirs such as Rivelin and Redmires. Once more, some rough, stony paths need to be navigated, don’t be in a hurry! When walking your bike, you can truly take in the stunning surrounding countryside.

You are now on your way to the absolute highlight of our full England North-South Cycle Route; the Stanage Edge crossing. At an elevation of 445 meters above sea level you will encounter a historic pack-mule route between Sheffield and Manchester, a difficult path with scree and stone. It is a stunning mini-adventure of about five kilometers long (3 miles), taking you to the heart of remote Stanage Edge, This is a rock face where a harder type of rock from the north pushes away a softer type of rock in the south, a battle of earthy forces continuing up to this day. After some inconvenience, walking your bike on some sections, you will notice the descent into the valley brings gradually more smooth gravel.

Most people will need about one hour to make the Stanage Edge crossing; take your time and always check the weather forecast in advance. Do not attempt the crossing during strong winds, heavy rain or thunder. The route is very exposed, with no places to shelter! Also, after your return to tarmac, the remoteness continues. It is at least another half an hour of cycling before you arrive at Ladybower Dam with its impressive lake. At the Yorkshire Bridge pub you will be able to enjoy a sheltered drink at last.

This route ends with a journey via the scenic Hope Valley to Castleton village, at the heart of Peak District National Park. Here you will find multiple B&Bs, a youth hostel and a campsite. Castleton is famous for its caves, which can all be found within walking distance of the village centre. Further scenic are the ruins of Peveril Castle and notorious Mam Tor, a hill once carrying the Sheffield-Manchester main road; its remains are continuously crumbled by nature’s forces. Another time you can read more about our continued route south into the White Peak area of Peak District National Park towards Leicester and Warwick.

Practical notes:

The route from York is a continuation of our route from Berwick on Tweed, Newcastle and Whitby. If you want to start this route from the continent, you could take the night ferry between Rotterdam and Hull to start the route there. P&O Ferries does run this service daily during summer and the crossing time is about 12 hours. You can also switch from the train to our route in both Hull and York.

The described route section ends in Castleton. Nearby, at station Hope you can take your bike on the train further afield. The Peak District is hilly and can be very challenging. Most of the climbing can be avoided by taking the train between Doncaster and Hope, with a change in Sheffield. In England, bicycles can be taken on the train for free, but not during peak times and depending on the capacity of the train. On some routes you need to make a reservation for bicycles.

We do not recommend the use of any bicycle trailers, cargo bikes, bike trailers, etc. This is due to various barriers on cycle paths with tight corners and narrow gaps. You may also encounter difficulties on narrow towpaths, steep slopes and when taking your equipment on the train. The route around Rivelin Lake and the Stanage Edge Crossing is particularly challenging given its rough terrain, even for regular bikes. Note e-bikes can only be charged at booked accommodation on the way; public charging points are rare.

The route in this blog is largely signposted as part of the Trans Pennine Trail and the National Cycle Network, but multiple highlights such as the link via Oughtibridge and the Stanage Edge crossing are not on signposted routes. Also, with our route we avoid multiple poor sections of the Trans Pennine Trail. To cycle the route comfortably, we recommend using our ‘England North-South Cycle Route’ guidebook. This guidebook contains route directions, maps, cycling-focused tourist information and facility listings with campsites, youth hostels, B&Bs, hotels and bicycle repair shops along the way. Order your copy now and you will receive the guide in your mailbox within a week! GPS tracks of the route will be sent to you by email.

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