Robin Hood and Jane Eyre, a picturesque ‘plague village’, and steam trains – what’s not to like on this early autumnal cycle ride through the White Peaks and Hope Valley? Kevan Manwaring completes his second rural cycle ride

Great British Life: Robin Hood's Cave - well worth the climbRobin Hood's Cave - well worth the climb (Image: kevan manwaring)

The route from Matlock, in the Southern Peak District, to Edale at the trail-head of the 'Dark Peaks' is one embarrassingly rich in literary heritage and stunning scenery.

As one moves from the limestone of the White Peak area to the millstone grit of the darker north there is a distinct change in the look and 'feel' of the land - something one can only really experience by cycling, horse-riding or walking it.

Once you leave the A6 (whose smooth flatness you'll look back to with fondness) there are many charming treasures to discover: the magnificent Chatsworth House, home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, with its handsome house and gardens; the surprisingly pretty 'plague village' of Eyam; fascinating Hathersage, with its connection to Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë visited her friend Ellen Nussey there, and was inspired by the landscape and architecture) and Robin Hood; then, onwards to the lovely Hope Valley, with its daisy-chain of pretty villages leading to the delights of Edale, with its pubs, cafés, campsites, and glorious walking, cradled by historic Kinder Scout and its sibling hills.

Great British Life: Across the Hope ValleyAcross the Hope Valley (Image: kevan manwaring)

1. Matlock & beyond

Leaving Matlock, head North up the A6 - don't worry it's flat, easy cycling (as long as you don't get hit by a deluge, as I did!).

Carry on through Hackney and Darley Dale, but when you get to Rowsley, turn off the A6 onto the B6012, the Chatsworth Road, via Beeley. Now, we're really cycling!

Great British Life: A striking view of Chatsworth across the parklandA striking view of Chatsworth across the parkland (Image: kevan manwaring)

2. Chatsworth treasures

Following the pleasant B road, (which runs parallel with the River Derwent) keep following signs to the magnificent Chatsworth House. The steepish climb is worth it, pause and take in the view, before dropping down to the gatehouse. Either stop for a visit (give yourself at least a couple of hours) or push on…

You may not be able to resist the temptations of the Edensor Tea Cottage, or St Peter's Church, or, further along the road - the Peak Ale Visitor Centre! Glass of Chatsworth Gold, anyone?

Great British Life: Along the high road to EyamAlong the high road to Eyam (Image: kevan manwaring)

3. Eyam (high route option)

The B6012 will take you on to Hathersage (at Bubnell it becomes the A623), but there is an optional 'high route' up to Eyam, a picturesque Peak District village with a dark history, as the museum relates: In 1665 a tailor from Eyam ordered a box of materials relating to his trade from London, that he was to make into clothes for the villagers. He unwittingly triggering a chain of events that led to 260 Eyam villagers dying from bubonic plague - more than double the mortality rate suffered by the citizens of London in the Great Plague. Between the first death and the last, the villagers set an extraordinary and enduring example of self-sacrifice by sealing off the village from the surrounding areas to prevent the disease spreading.

Do visit the small museum if you fancy finding out more. After the walk up to Riley Graves, the burial place of the Talbot and Hancock families, and back you may need refreshment - there's a great micro-brewery, and a fabulous ice-cream shop, among other temptations! Take the turning at Calver to head upwards if you fancy this detour or carry on the A623 to Grindleford, then the B6001 to Hathersage.

Great British Life: A local offeringA local offering (Image: kevan manwaring)

4. Hathersage Jane Eyre & her Merry Men

Rejoice! You are now in the Hope Valley, and there are no more significant hills. Before you push onto the final destination, I would recommend stopping at the charming tea shop by the crossroads, Cintra's. Suitably refreshed, spend a little time exploring the churchyard up Hungry Lane: there you'll find graves in memory of the Eyres (who inspired Charlotte), and Little John's Grave no less. If you wish to discover more about Hathersage's connection with Charlotte Brontë and Jane Eyre then consider following the Jane Eyre Hathersage Trail (see link below).

For those with iron thighs, it's worth pedalling up to the breathtakingly photogenic Stanage Edge to visit the amazing Robin Hood's Cave. You can recreate a scene from the 2005 Pride and Prejudice film, which was filmed here, but watch the drop!

Great British Life: Across the Hope ValleyAcross the Hope Valley (Image: kevan manwaring)

5. (Don't Give Up) Hope Valley

Carrying on along the A6187, push onto 'Hope Valley' itself, then 'Hope'! Here you need to turn off to Edale (unless you fancy a visit to Castleton and its Blue John caves).

Don't miss the turning on the right at the junction in Hope - it's easily done! Once you're on the Edale Road keep calm and carry on, for it's plain sailing to your destination!

Great British Life: The rucksack of Benny Rothman, who led the 1932 Kinder Scout Mass Trespass, in Castleton Visitor CentreThe rucksack of Benny Rothman, who led the 1932 Kinder Scout Mass Trespass, in Castleton Visitor Centre (Image: kevan manwaring)

6. Edale - The End?

With a smug satisfaction, coast into Edale - where a choice of pubs, cafés and campsites awaits! Consider stopping over and availing yourself of the great hiking opportunities the next day - anyone for a yomp up Kinder Scout? Or, read about the history of the historic Mass Trespass in the comfort of the Moorland Centre, with its gift shop and café! If you have any queries, the friendly staff are happy to help. u

Kevan Manwaring is an author and creative writing lecturer. His books include Turning the Wheel: seasonal Britain on two wheels; and Pen Mine: itinerant thoughts of a Pennine Wayfarer. He is a keen walker and cyclist.


Chatsworth: handsome country house and estate.

Eyam: picturesque plague village.

Hathersage: Eyres, and Little John's Grave; Robin Hood's Cave (optional detour).

Hope Valley Line: steam, glorious steam!

Castleton: stunning show caves; Blue John jewellery.

Edale: great pubs, eye-popping scenery, and the start of the Pennine Way, if you're feeling athletic!

The Essentials

- Distance: 25 miles.

- Level: Moderate.

- Refreshments: Matlock; Eyam; Hathersage; Edale (great chippy, and pub grub).

- Accommodation: Edale has several good campsites and a Youth Hostel (author tip: Field Head campsite has particularly nice pitches down by the Grinds Brook).

- Transport links: Hope Valley Line - various stops to Edale. Bus to Matlock.

Visit Matlock:


Peak Ale Visitor Centre:

Eyam Museum:

Cintra's Tea Rooms:

Jane Eyre Hathersage Trail:

Castleton Visitor Centre:

The Moorland Centre, Edale:

Castleton Caves:

Hope Valley Line:

Cycle Hire: