UK Ride – Peak District
URBAN ROADS SOON GIVE WAY TO RUGGED HEATHLAND SWATHED IN HEATHER
A tough loop featuring one of Britain’s most notorious cycling climbs, Winnats Pass.
DISTANCE: 90.1KM ELEVATION: 1,641M DIFFICULTY: 7/10
Where is it?
Our starting point this month is Sheffield, once the centre of the British steel industry, now a rejuvenated modern city. But we’re not here to sample its urban delights, this is simply the launch pad for a loop that takes us into some of Britain’s finest countryside in the heart of the Peak District National Park, including a fair amount of climbing along the way. In fact, although it’s only around 7km from our start point near the city centre to the boundary of the National Park, the climbing starts straight away, with the suburban Highcliffe Road likely to catch out the unwary with its gradients nudging 10% (remember that Sheffield is famously built on seven hills and the suburbs are packed with punchy climbs, popular with the locals). Once you’ve tackled that little warm-up, you’ll be ready for the rolling country roads that lie ahead, and it’s not long before you’re leaving the city behind, urban roads giving way to farmland, which in turn gives way to heathland, where carpets of heather swathe rugged slopes and sheep wander the verges.
What are the highlights?
Perhaps the most famous spot on our route – and deservedly so – is Winnats Pass. With the imposing peak of Mam Tor rising to the north, this cleft through the craggy rocks is a stunningly scenic climb, and hugely popular with cyclists – over 15,000 attempts have been logged on Strava, and it’s twice been used for the National Hill Climb Championships. The 1.7km climb starts off gently enough, with a long, gradual drag from the village of Castleton, but once you’ve crossed the cattle grid to hit the climb proper, the gradient pitches upwards, hitting 20% at its steepest and stays there for the next few hundred metres. The limestone cliffs looming up on either side of the road will keep you focused on the narrow, twisting road ahead until the junction at the top finally looms into view. Luckily, the next 15km to Glossop will give you a chance to recover, as the rolling road mainly follows the contours of the valley. The next big challenge comes on the road out of Glossop, the 6.5km climb of Snake Pass. Compared to Winnats, this is more of a ‘sit down, find a rhythm and keep pedalling’ kind of climb, as the wide road snakes skyward.
Sounds tough. What’s the reward for all that climbing?
As well as the majestic views from the summit of Snake Pass, you can enjoy the fact that of the final 30km of the route, all but 7km are downhill. As the road weaves through the exposed heathland, sandwiched between dry stone walls, you’ll be able to get your head down and enjoy one of the longest stretches of continuous descent in Britain, following the course of the River Ashop and for 4km along the shores of the Ladybower Reservoir.
Where are the café stops?
We chose the Seven Hills bakery on Sharrow Vale Road, on the outskirts of the city centre, as our starting point – a great place to get a fix of caffeine and a pastry before setting off. Along the route, the towns of Chapel en le Frith and Glossop ( just over halfway) have a selection of eateries and services.
How do I get there?
As a major city, Sheffield is well served by the road network, being just off the M1, and easy to reach by rail. See welcometosheffield.co.uk for more information on places to stay and the many attractions the city has to offer.