It’s August, but mist shrouds the hills. The boys are undeterred. They think the countryside looks like something out of The Hobbit.
We’re at Parsley Hay Cycle Hire Centre in the Peak District National Park, setting off on the Tissington Trail. This glorious easygoing stretch taking you 21 kilometres from Parsley Hay near Buxton to Ashbourne is perfect for families. Following an old railway line, it’s mainly linear and has interesting things to see en route, including an old signal box retaining its working parts, several bridges, and benches created from old train components. There are also woods and nature reserves to stop off at and explore, pretty picnic spots and even tea-rooms en route.
'There’s an impressive choice of equipment, including electric bicycles, tandems, trail-a-bikes and wheelchair bikes, meaning everyone can get out and enjoy the trails.'
With our eight-year-old in tow, we make it the 30 kilometres there and back between Parsley Hay and Tissington, a picture-postcard village with several tea-rooms and pubs at which to refuel. Despite on-and-off drizzle, the scenery is gorgeous – all wonky low stone walls, placidly grazing sheep and cows, and wildflowers growing riotously around.
We take out regular bikes (helmets and repair bikes are provided free), but there’s an impressive choice of equipment, including electric bicycles, tandems, trail-a-bikes and wheelchair bikes, meaning everyone can get out and enjoy the trails (Parsley Hay is also on the family-friendly High Peak Trail).
Our base, just five kilometres from Parsley Hay, is the YHA Hartington Hall, a charming, characterful 17th-century manor that looks as if it should be a boutique hotel but that in fact welcomes budget-conscious families with its basic but comfortable rooms for up to six (some with private bathrooms).
Inside it’s all as cosy as can be: there’s a games room, a bar and a wood-panelled lounge with board games and books to use around the log-burning stove. Simple, hearty breakfasts and dinners are provided in the buffet-style restaurant, or there’s a shared kitchen for preparing your own meals. You can also order picnics to take out with you.
But it’s Hartington Hall's lush and lovely gardens that are the real star of the show, with plenty of space for ball games, a giant chess set and old farm buildings to explore (the animals are no more, alas). If you’ve brought your own bikes to the Peak District, there are facilities for those too.
Read more about family holidays and breaks in the Peak District.