Cycling from the Peak District National Park to Warwick

What is it like to cycle from the Peak District National Park to Warwick via Leicester in two days? In this blog we look at this beautiful route of 239 kilometers (147 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, Whitby and and York to the Peak District National Park. The village of Castleton is located in the heart of this park, on the dividing line between ‘Dark Peak’ in the North and ‘White Peak’ in the south. It is a long steep climb to get to the highest point of White Peak, at 445 meters above sea level (the same height as the highest point at the route through Dark Peak on our previous ride). The hamlet of Peak Forest brings wide empty vistas with no other cyclists in sight.

A long steep descent takes you into the beautiful wooded valley of the Wye River. This is where you will find the Monsal Trail, a cycle path on a former railway line. Suddenly you will encounter one cyclist after the next, as this railway path is known as one of the most beautiful railway paths in England. It features three former railway tunnels and the stunning Headstone Bridge. At the station cafe of Hasop you will see plenty of other cyclists.

The historic town of Bakewell is the end point of the Monsal trail and a magnet for tourists in the southern Pennines. The historic streets, the market and the benches at the waterfall are all good hang-outs. Out of town, a steep country lane takes you up to the hamlet of Parsley Hay. Along the way, you will pass Arbor Low, a prehistoric stone circle of around 4000 years old. If you take the short walk here, you are likely to have this unknown “Stonehenge of the Peaks” all for yourself.

Parsley Hay is primarily a former railway station on the Tissington Trail, one of the oldest cycle paths in England. Naturally, you will find a cyclists’ cafe here, from where you can prepare for a gradual descent southbound out of the Peak District National Park. The Tissington Trail is less spectacular than the Monsal Trail, but there are plenty of beautiful views and there is a lot of liveliness in the form of pretty cafes and several campsites. The town of Ashbourne marks the end of the railway path and also the end of your ride across the Pennines.

You continue south via the lower hills of the Derbyshire Dales, making your way to Burton-on-Trent. Burton is one of the few places where you can cross the Trent River bicycle-friendly. You do so in style via a cycling bridge built in 1889, the Ferry Bridge and the Staplehill Viaduct. In the town centre you can visit the National Brewery Center, a museum dedicated to the many beer breweries from Burton. If you haven’t done so yet in Ashbourne, you should stock up on food and drink in Burton, as there is not much out there on your way to Leicester.

The route continues via the National Forest, This is a reforesting project where 8 million trees have been planted since 1995, with the intention of recovering 20% of the land area in this region with woods. You will encounter various plantations, with the area around Thornton Reservoir making a nice picnic area. Also, the Ivanhoe Trail is a long distance cycle path in the making here, but we only utilise the well developed stretches with tarmac or good gravel. Otherwise, you will be cycling the quiet country lanes.

Leicester is an attractive city to visit for cyclists, as it has a traffic-free route coming into the city from the west and a beautiful cycle route out of the city heading south. There are several hotels for a good night of sleep and we also created a compact circular city centre route for you here. It takes you via Roman foundations in the Jewry Wall Museum, the monastery ruins in Abbey Park, the National Space Center, the Cathedral, the Guildhall Museum and the King Richard III Museum. This is the most famous museum of Leicester, telling the remarkable story of an English king whose remains were unexpectedly found in 2012 under a local car park.

Via the leafy ‘Great Central Waý’ you cycle out of the city into a slightly rolling landscape with villages such as Ashby Magna, Gilmorton and Walcote. Then we change course towards Rugby. The most obvious route to get there is via an ‘unclassified country road’, with some rough gravel and muddy puddles. It is not entirely clear whether you are legally allowed to cycle here or not, but after 1,5 miles of discomfort, the ‘road’ feeds onto a brand new cycle path of the new Houlton estate. This suggests a long-term plan to upgrade this whole route for cycling and walking.

Rugby is naturally known for the rugby sport. ‘The Close’ is England’s very first rugby pitch. If you want to visit it, please note it is a few kilometers from our through route and that this is private property, belonging to a boarding school. Free access for all is in order at Draycote Water just south of Rugby. At this largest drinking water reservoir of England you will find several picnic areas. The main dam provides nice views over the lake.

The route continues via a rural area where signposted route 41 takes you to the Lias Line, a cycle path over a former railway line under construction. The Stockton Locks of the Grand Union Canal are the focus point for local tourism in this area. You will cycle briefly on the narrow towpath here, with the opportunity for a break at a canal-side pub. It is a joy to observe the manoeuvring of the canal boats in and out of the locks.

Eventually, you will make your way into Royal Leamington Spa, a historic spa town known for the beautiful Jephson Gardens. The ‘Royal Pump Rooms and Baths’ next to this park is now a museum. Around the corner, the cycle route through Leamington will suddenly feel pretty urban. Together with Warwick, this area has become an urban zone of a considerable size, with several large new housing developments.

Cycling into historic Warwick is nevertheless a joy. With several old scenic buildings, a historic city gate and an impressive castle, it is a worthy finish of a great ride. The first foundations of Warwick Castle were laid in 1068 and several extensions through the centuries made the castle into the beautiful impressive building it is today. Another time you can read more about our continued route further south via Oxford to the prehistoric stone circle of Avebury.

Practical notes:

The route from York is a continuation of our route from Berwick on Tweed, Newcastle, Whitby and York. You can also switch from the train to our route in Castleton via nearby Hope station. The Peak District is hilly and can be very challenging. Most of the climbing can be avoided by taking the train between Hope and Burton on Trent, with a change in Sheffield.

The described route section starts in Castleton and ends in Warwick. From here you can choose to cycle further south towards Oxford or to take the train. 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. 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 ‘Route 680’, ‘Route 68’, ‘Route 54’, ‘Route 50’ and ‘Route 41’. The route from Castleton to the Monsal Trail, the Bakewell-Parsley Hay connection and the Walcote-Rugby connection are not signposted. 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.

The route of this blog is also available in a Route App for your mobile. The routes in this Dutch language Route App contain similar information as our guidebooks with GPS-tracks and can be combined as you please. The facility listings of the guidebooks are also available in the App, with full contact details. The App also features full contact details of all visitor attractions. Sights along the way as mentioned in the books, are incorporated in the Route App with markers. The Route App can be used independently, but for more context and information we always recommend using the guidebooks as well.

Do you fancy reading about other routes? See below for other available blog posts: