The best places to go mountain biking in the Midlands

Inspires by Avis contributor and outdoor adventurer Rob Haggan details his favourite biking routes across the Midlands.

It may not have the biggest mountains or the vastest expanses of wilderness but the Midlands is still an incredible place to explore on two wheels. Whether it’s fast, flowing single track, legendary forest tracks or dark and eerie tunnels, there are trails that will appeal to everyone throughout this region.

If cycling to the Midlands is too far for you, save your energy and throw your bike in the back of a rental car alongside your packed bags. Then, kick-off your Midlands road trip and start ticking some of the best places to go mountain biking in the UK off your bucket list.

Cover image: Cannock Chase path

Peak District Rail Trails

The Peak District is home to two former railway lines that have been converted into cycling and walking routes. These trails cut through the national park offering incredible views over the surrounding countryside and offering a glimpse into the history of the former railway line and the villages it served.

The flat, well-surfaced trails make a great option for beginners and families, and through the summer months offer a range of services and amenities from trackside cafes to bike hire facilities.

Cyclists on a country lane surrounded by green fields

The Tissington Trail is the longest, and perhaps the most well-known of these routes. Running from the Derbyshire town of Ashbourne up to the village of Parsley Hay, the trail runs for 13 miles and can be extended or deviated from to really explore the area.

The trail passes close to the famous Dovedale, a stunning valley with steep ravine and gently flowing river. It’s Peak District ‘must do’ if you’ve never been to the area before.

How to get there: Parsley Hay is just off the A515 road between Ashbourne and Buxton. The Ashbourne part of the trail is 1km from the Market Place in Ashbourne and is signposted from there.

Tunnel with a cycle path running through it

The Monsal Trail is a slightly shorter route, running 8.5 miles between Buxton and Bakewell, but this route offers more in the way of variety and things to see as it passes through several old railway tunnels.

The longest of these tunnels is the Headstone tunnel at almost 500 metres long, it makes for an eerie ride through the dimly lit tunnel, with only the sound of your tyres and the occasional drip of water as it seeps through the tunnel walls. The trail also crosses over the Headstone Viaduct, a great place to have a rest and enjoy the stunning views.

How to get there:  The Monsal Trail is at the centre of the Peak District National Park, starting north of Bakewell. There are many entrance points to the Trail between Bakewell and Blackwell Mill at Chee Dale.

Cannock Chase

Cannock Chase may be a relatively small forest at only 26 square miles, but it undoubtedly packs a punch when it comes to mountain biking.  From the trail centre at Birches Valley you can head out into the forest on the ‘Follow the Dog’ trail, a 7 mile, red graded mountain bike route that features fast single track and many trail features such as boardwalks, rock gardens and drop-offs, designed to keep you thoroughly entertained.

If 7 miles isn’t enough, you can extend the route by joining onto the Monkey Trail, another 7-mile red-graded route but this one is a lot more challenging with technical terrain and steeper climbs. You need a good level of competency to ride these two trails but you’ll love every minute of it. Incredible for an area with not even a hint of a mountain in sight.

How to get there: Head for the Birches Valley Visitor’s Centre, postcode WS15 2UQ. From here you can access the forest and pick up a trail map from the bike shop.

Sherwood Forest

Path into a forest

Sherwood Forest is legendary as the stomping ground of Robin Hood and his band of merry men but these days the forest is used more for mountain biking than it is for robbing the rich. Sherwood Pines trail centre has a whole range of trails to suit different abilities.

From the red-graded Kitchener Trail to the family-friendly Adventure Trail there is plenty to keep you entertained here. If you’re feeling brave there’s even a dirt jump area so you can practice your gravity-defying bike skills.

How to get there: Parking for Sherwood Pines is at the forest centre, use postcode NG21 9JL for your sat nav. From there you can explore the best of the forest trails.

The Shropshire Hills

Green hills with dirt road leading over them

The Long Mynd near Church Stretton in the Shropshire Hills is an incredible place to get out and explore by bike. With stunning views that reach as far as Snowdonia in one direction and the Malvern Hills in another, it’s definitely a place where you’ll be justified in stopping for a rest to take in the views.

There are multiple trails all over the hills and with steep climbs and fast descents it’s not for the faint-hearted. The Long Mynd is home to Minton Batch, a single track descent that is often voted as one of the best in the country.

How to get there: There are multiple options for parking and trails in the area, but the Shropshire Hills MTB Centre is as good as any, and there’s also a pub on site for your post-ride rest and recovery. Use postcode SY6 6QE for your sat nav.