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The Return Circuit From Edale Valley To Hayfield

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Distance: 16 miles 27 km
Time: 4 hrs


Great circuit but very tough, it wanders around the southern fringes of Kinder Scout and Brown Knoll - high country with rough, sometimes steep tracks. Few riders will manage to cycle all the way without pushing the bike at times. It's for experienced mountain bikers with a death wish but the riders who do the course will see some of the best views The Peak District has to offer.


Start from Barber Booth, GR 112848, just off the Edale valley road. If you turn off along the narrow road which leads to Upper Booth then there is a car park just after you pass beneath the railway. Alternatively, if you bring your bike on the train, start from Edale station and cycle up the valley to Barber Booth.

Get on the Upper Booth road and cycle through that hamlet, continuing up the valley, past the last farm, as the track becomes gradually rougher. Cross the stream via a narrow bridge at the foot of Jacob's Ladder. The main track is extremely steep, roughly paved and with occasional steps - to one side an older packhorse track zig-zags up at an easier angle. It's still steep and very rough in places, so most riders will end up getting off and pushing before the top.

After passisng the zig-zags the angle eases and the track becomes rideable again. It crosses the watershed at GR 081861 and descends slightly before rising to cross a shoulder, where the stump of Edale Cross (an old wayside cross) can be seen. From here it's fairly steeply downhill, on a very rough track, so the descent is tricky and a little dangerous for inexperienced riders.

Part way down the hill the surface improves and near the bottom of the valley you pick up a farm track coming in from the left and the road soon gains a tarmac surface. You reach the River Sett at the bottom and the road forks, the left fork crossing the river. It doesn't matter which fork you take - they rejoin later - but a short distance along the left fork a brideway goes back up the hillside, and this is a possible short-cut avoiding Hayfield, but it's a fairly steep ascent. Its probably better to keep on the tarmac and continue downstream, following the Sett all the way down to the centre of Hayfield, where there are good possibilities for refreshment.

In the centre of Hayfield turn left and follow the road (Church Street) past the church. At the top of the rise this turns right to join the main road (A624) and there is an antique shop on the corner with a large clock. Take the small road which branches off left here - it's called Highgate Lane, but there's no street sign - this is the old road from Hayfield to Chinley. Ignore another left fork (Valley Road) and continue straight on, up the old road, which runs parallel to the A624 most of the way up to Peep O'Day. It's a steady climb but after about a kilometre the angle starts to ease. Pass an isolated bungalow on your right and soon you come to a 3-way junction: a farm entry branches off perpendicularly left, the tarmac road continues almost straight on, and between them there lies a sunken bridleway. Take the bridleway, which soon opens into a farm track, heading almost straight for Mount Famine, which you see in front of you. It's rough and steadily uphill, so it feels like hard work.

Mount Famine is set on the south of the circuit here and heads for the gap between that hill and the next one, South Head. There are good views of Kinder Scout from the track around here. Skirt to the north of South Head and soon after the path divides. The left branch goes up Brown Knoll and is not a bridleway, and therefore not cycleable, so take the right fork, which descends diagonally down the hillside.

This track passes the top of another which comes up from Chinley and continues round the hillside, slowly descending. It's fairly rough and rocky, and quite exciting cycling with fine views and situations. There is a steep rough descent to cross the double streams of Roych Clough and then a steep, rough ascent up the other side - after which the surface starts to improve slightly and the track makes long, gradually rising, traverse around the hillside to reach the A625 at the foot of Rushup Edge - GR 092825.

About 100 metres up the road to a stile which marks the start of Chapel Gate - an old packhorse route into Edale. This old track has cut a deep trench into the hillside and its floor is rough and rocky. Follow it with difficulty up to the top of Rushup Edge and from here you have a choice of routes. Branching left takes you over the ridge and directly down to the Edale Valley, to rejoin the road only 400 metres above Barber Booth.

A more interesting variation is to fork right and take the bridle path which goes just below the crest of Rushup Edge right along to Mam Nick, just below Mam Tor. Here you join the road over into the Edale Valley. Turn left and follow the road down to Barber Booth. (Or, if you started at Edale Village, turn right at the first leftward bend and take the bridle path which leads directly (and steeply!) down to Edale Village.