Buy the OS Route Map and instructions for this route

Twenty-three kilometres on the western edge of the Peak District doesn’t sound too taxing for an afternoon spin, so you’d be forgiven for questioning the medium grade we’ve assigned to this route. But the terrain that surrounds Macclesfield Forest is as undulating as anywhere in the National Park, and although the hills don’t top out at quite such exalting heights as those of Hope and Edale, the trails that link them are just as full-blooded and technical, with one or two sections that will test even the most carefully honed trail skills.
This ride starts easy enough: a lightning fast descent through Macclesfield Forest on well-surfaced, permissive bridleways followed by a short road loop around Ridgegate Reservoir. The first climb hurts though — especially since some over-exuberant re-surfacing with loose gravel leaves you hunting for traction and a clean line. At the top, things hot up nicely, and the drop into Hardingland is one to savour — you’ll certainly want to come back for another go at this one at some stage. There’s more gravel to negotiate to the wonderfully named Bottom-of-the-Oven, and then it’s up to the Cat & Fiddle, but thankfully this one’s all on tarmac.
A good trail strikes out over Danebower Hollow to the A64, where a quick loop of Three Shires Head provides some fine scenery as well as a few technical sections — both up and down. But the best is saved for last, especially if you like your descents on the rough side. Cumberland Clough’s a beauty, with plenty of loose rubbly stuff as well as one or two rather more sinister rock steps to negotiate. Good line choice is everything here, so get it right and you’ll still be grinning when you get back to the car park.