Straight Outta Manchester
94 Mi.(151 KM)
% Rideable (time)
Based in the North West of England. Used to be a roady, toured a bit, now spends time on wider tyres, diligently plotting routes off the beaten track. Searching for a more UK appropriate name for ‘gravel’ riding. Coming round to the concept of hike-a-bike. Co-founder of @secondcitydivide and @outdoorprovisions. Find Luke on Instagram @lukejdouglas
When heading out for an overnighter on this route, you’re aiming for Hathersage, on the other side of the Peak District, where you can pick from a handful of campsites, a hostel, or a sneaky bivy up around Stanage Edge.
The exit from Manchester is mostly traffic free, not short on climbing, and gets you quickly up into the Dark Peak, heading Eastwards along the Trans Pennine Trail. It’s the classic UK mix of all surfaces, gradients, and scenery on the first day. It offers mega views and a screaming decent into Hathersage to finish, which is over halfway ’round, so tomorrow is a little shorter. Good work.
The way back to Manchester drops into the White Peak. With limestone crunching under your tyres, you’ll ride over gravel tracks alongside the Hope Valley. A bit of a challenge over Scouthead (likely a tiny—but worth it—hike-a-bike) into Hayfield, then Sett Valley trail before joining the High Peak canal back into the city.
Manchester spoils you for choice for post-overnighter beers/pizza/giddiness and easy trains to everywhere.
This route offers plenty of resupply options, so there’s a chance to travel fairly light, unless you fancy a full-on camping set up at the other end. As with all UK ‘gravel’ riding there is plenty of punchy climbing and a right old mix of roughness. Generally, a set of 35mm+ tyres and a sense of adventure should have you well enough equipped. Even the strongest rider may need to push a couple of the steeper/rougher bits, but never for very long. Train and road bail outs/short cuts are always possible.
Route development: Straight Outta Manchester follows bits of various NCN routes, the Trans Pennine Trail, Sett Valley Trail, High Peak Canal and well known all-road Peak sections. Shout to Christian Smith (@alwaysapleasure) for riding plenty of it with me.
- The mainly traffic-free escape from Manchester, with some techy bits, rising up to Hartshead Pike will get your blood pumping and gives you big views back over the city.
- The Trans Pennine Trail shooting you out across the Peak.
- Premium gravel roads close to Strines.
- Stanage Edge and the ripping decent off it towards North Lees and Hathersage.
- North Lees Campsite – quiet, friendly campsite that’s walking/riding distance to town for resupply.
- Hathersage – everything you could want for an overnight, including an outdoor swimming pool!
- White Peak limestone gravel roads on the southern section.
- Slight detour to ride the old abandoned A625 Mam Tor road.
- Scouthead, once described as looking like the Peruvian Alps in summer, is arguably mountain bike territory but worth a bit of hike-a-bike for.
- Sett Valley Cafe + Peak canal offer a nice glimpse of history.
- Post-ride beer/food scene in Manchester.
- Can be ridden anytime of year. The Dark Peak can be exposed and arduous in bad weather. There can also be mega midges at North Lees in summer.
- Works best as an overnighter with a bit of luggage to suit your preferred accommodation method. Plenty available.
- Can be done as one big day out from Manchester if you’re feeling spritely.
- Would also be a worthy three dayer if you want to stay another day in the Peak – add in the traffic-free and mostly gravel loop of the Derwent Dams, or Edale, if you’re staying an extra night.
- The UK’s most visited National Park and entry/exit from a big city so has some inevitable busier road sections to take care on, but not many.
- You could ride straight out of Manchester Piccadilly station, or Manchester Velodrome is a great place to park if you’re meeting people, with an obligatory loop of the pump track to start + bike shop on site.
- If you sleep around Stanage, North Lees campsite or in Hathersage, you’ll have broken the back of the ride on day one, but don’t underestimate the run back to Manchester.
- There’s a small section of footpath before Stanage. Be respectful and dismount if needed.
- Wild camping is not legal in England.
- North Lees Campsite has showers, tent, or bivi pitches and camping pods. More at peakdistrict.gov.uk
- Hathersage has a good YHA and plenty of B+B options.
- Unlikely to be caught short as the Peak is well set for keeping folks fed and watered. See POI’s on map for the best of the on route cafe stops. Support local business!
- Once you’re back in town you’re spoilt for choice. Would recommend a pizza at Rudy’s in Ancoats if you can grab an outside table.