Dark Peak Derwent Delights – Ladybower MTB Trail (15.5 miles/25 km)

No definitive list of mountain bike rides for the Peak District would be complete without the inclusion of trails to and around the Ladybower and Derwent reservoirs. It wasn’t easy deciding which ride I thought was best for this area, but this selected ride is a smash hit by anyone’s standards. It includes the classic Peak District downhill – (infamously named) The Beast. To balance out that gnarly test-piece, it also includes the wonderful flowing descent to Cut Throat Bridge from Whinstone Lee Tor, and fitting between those two it has wickedly fast Lockerbrook Screaming Mile. This is a super route, and one that rides well whatever the weather!

Lockerbrook descent and ready to ride!

Mountain biker ready to roll! At the top of the Screaming Mile on the Ladybower MTB Trail in the Peak District

Ladybower MTB – route details

From Heatherdene car park turn left down the road and take swift right turn over the reservoir. Pick up the Thornhill Trail and plod along this for around a kilometer before hitting some tarmac. Stick on the road now, headed for Thornhill and then Aston.

Leave the road and take a right turn uphill for Twitchill Farm. Through some gates now and steadily ride up hill past the plantation on your right. Envy any mountain bikers coming the other way – for this makes an excellent descent route too!

Keep going, up up up and over Hope Brink. A brief downhill brings you to a broad sandy bridlepath with the woods (hiding many an illicit route) to your right. Stop for a breather at Hope Cross before taking the right turn down the lovely trail which will shortly take you into those trees.

Open the gate, check your helmet one last time, and get riding down the Beast. This is a classic and everyone that has ridden in the Peak District knows this downhill*. It has a bad reputation, but in reality it’s a gem and very manageable. (Somehow I used to ride this in the 90’s on my Marin Bear Valley, rim brakes, zero suspension and 26″ wheels). Soon you’ll be riding over the river and up to the road.

Cross the road, find some legs of steel and start cycling up the trail opposite. Alternatively, join the army of mere mortals who push their bike up this track (another awesome route to come flying down on another day). To the top and head straight on in the direction of Lockerbrook. Soon you’ll be rewarded with awesome views down the Ladybower Reservoir, but no time for that – on on on – there’s a super descent to be had.

Keep your head up, hips over the bottom-bracket and your heels down: you’ll need to be on your game for this next Peak District test piece. Down to the road and turn right heading for Fairholmes where you can get a hot brew or an ice-cream depending on the weather, or how you feel.

Ride past the iconic water tumbling over the dam wall, and pick up the road so that the reservoir is now down to your right. Ride on keeping an eye out for the bridleway which will be on your left. Through the gate and along a slabbed trail which looks pleasant enough (oh how looks can be deceiving!). If you manage to cycle the next section all the way to the gate you’re a better and fitter rider than me!

Push, ride, push some more and ride along this sublime trail which soon affords you more super views along this stunning valley. Over the top of Whinstone Lee Tor and then yahoo downhill some fabulous flowy trails in the direction of Cut Throat Bridge. Before you get to the bridge however, switch back right and continue down the bridleway which will give your mountain bike skills one final test until finally, you get to the road and the pub. Then ride on back down the final stretch of tarmac high-fiving with your fellow riders on accomplishing such a fine ride!

*Route variation – many classic Ladybower MTB Trails will take you down the brilliant Potato Alley which takes you further west down to the A57. Then from there you’d need to ride up past Rowlee Farm to regain the route described.

General Information

Start / Finish LocationHeatherdene Car Park, S33 0BY

Distance: 15.5 miles / 25 km

Height gain: 795m

Time required: 3.5 – 4.5 hours

How tough? A ride of three hills – with some gnarly rocks along the way.

How technical? Two brilliant fast descents which will need you to keep your wits about you – nothing for a seasoned mountain-biker to worry about. You’ll also need to be cycle-fit, though there’s always the option to cut the route short should you not be feeling on your usual form!

Nearest bike hire: The Bike Garage – Bamford/Hope Valley– This is the only bike hire in the Peak District that will be worthy of this ride and up to the task! (You could also start/finish the ride here with a minor variation to the route).

Local pubs we would recommend: The Yorkshire Bridge Inn (You can stop here en-route, or start/finish from this pub)

The Beast – Ladybower MTB in the Peak District

Ladybower MTB trail - mountain biker riding down the Beast

Descending to Cut Throat Bridge

Peak District mountain bikers on a trail near Ladybower

Mountain bike hire in the Peak District

We’ve listed here a few places that offer higher spec mountain bikes for hire. Typically you can expect to pay around £35 per day for hiring a decent bike from these places. For families looking to do a circuit of the reservoirs, lower spec bicycles will be perfect and cost closer to £20 for the day.

Further reading / information