The Best Driving Roads in The Peak District
The ultimate route map including the location of super unleaded petrol stations, photography hotspots and where to eat. Featuring all the best roads of the Peak District, including Snake Pass, Holme Moss Summit and the Strines Pass
f you’re a serious motorsport anorak, you could make a convincing argument that the greatest circuits in the world are derived from roads, not custom built for purpose. Monaco is perhaps the most famous, but better ones will quickly come to the fore - Circuit de la Sarthe, Spa, Mount Panorama, Long Beach, The Isle of Man, Pau and Clermont-Ferrand.
Building a circuit is prohibitively expensive. Plotting a loop on a map, closing some roads and dropping a few hay bales pales in comparison, especially in the mid 20th century before health and safety became a thing.
Back in the 1950s, a couple of ambitious motorsport enthusiasts attempted to establish a circuit circumnavigating the great roads of Derbyshire's Peak District. Reg Parnell, a member of the works Aston Martin team, found a kindred spirit in Moto-Guzzi rider and TT winner Bill Lomas. Both lived locally and quickly sussed out a challenging 12-mile loop worthy of inclusion on the list above, putting their proposal to the Derbyshire council, who backed the idea, proposing a bill to parliament in 1955.
The scheme found favour with many prominent MPs and was gaining momentum when tragedy struck at Le Mans - this was the year Pierre Levegh’s Mercedes 300 SLR catapulted into a crowded spectator enclosure, killing 84 people. Parliament immediately lost its appetite for road racing, and the bill was black flagged.
Written by Craig Toone
Photography by Ben Midlane
START /END POINT
Tesco Superstore Petrol Station, Glossop SK13 8HB
Travel time - approx. 1.5hrs
Distance - approx. 48 miles
Ideal car - Toyota GR Yaris, Renault Megane 265
But the spirit lived on amongst motoring enthusiasts, the temptation of winding roads ascending hills and tor’s before plunging down into a valley proving hard to resist. An underground circuit emerged, whispered from one car or motorbike posse to another, secretive yet somehow spreading as rapidly as wild-fire - like an automotive Fight Club.
It may have differed significantly from the 1950s proposal, but the name given to the ‘circuit’ tells you everything you need to know - the Oopnurthring. A humorous play on words it may be, the actual association isn’t that far off the mark, for the loop comprises three of the Peak Districts most challenging roads - the Snake Pass, the climb to Holme Moss Summit, and the Strines pass. There are no long straights. No concessions to allow imaginary D-type Jaguars or Maserati’s to stretch their legs, no need to accommodate the logistical constraints of a pitlane or grandstand. It’s not hard to see where the route got its name from.
Our paddock is Glossop, brimming the tank at the Tesco Station if necessary. A quick canter down the high street funnels us towards the dislocated jaw of the Snake Pass, which presents us with a combination of tight, blind 90 degree corners and rapid, open ones that climb smoothly to its 1,680ft summit.
Allow yourself a brief moment to take in the vista, then it’s down into the belly of the snake. After the openness of the moorland, the closeness of the tall pine trees initially feels claustrophobic, and the road changes tact in tandem, jinking and diving over a now rough (in places) surface. Once past the dormant Snake Inn - what a Caffeine & Machine style venue that would make - the road surface regains its composure but continues to contort in hypnotic fashion.
The relentless rhythm only lets up once you reach the Ladybower Reservoir, a sneaky spot for the occasional speed trap. You may wish to catch your breath at the popular little bikers cafe, however we’d press on towards the left hand turn onto the Strines Pass, taking a pit-stop at the aptly named Strines Inn. Sit outside in summer and you’ll be kept company by the free roaming Peacocks.
Depending on your choice of car, the Strines Pass will either frustrate or liberate as it flips from well-sighted to single-track and blind. Watch out for the double hairpin halfway along the route, many-a-sump have come a cropper in this sector.
Exercise caution as you take the left onto the A616, for this road is average speed monitored. Not to worry, the yellow leash is brief and to be honest, the road merely exists to connect the dots to the B6106, where its full NSL steam ahead to Holmfirth.
Once you reach the village, take a left at the traffic lights T-junction onto the high street. This is the A6064 - aka Woodhead road - and you’ll be following it all the way to Holme Moss Summit. Once free of the terrace houses and parked cars, the road will begin to climb and the width will mercifully increase.
Despite the generous asphalt, this is a challenging ascent that won’t be mastered at your first attempt. The corners feature an on/off camber which requires familiarity to take advantage of, and you’ll end up rueing any frustrating loss of momentum up the steep climb.
Handily, the car park at the summit acts as the perfect pivot point, allowing you to retrace your footsteps. Depending upon your direction of travel the road will either tax the torque of the strongest AMG Mercedes, or fry the brakes of the most featherweight of Caterham's. There is a reason this section of our route was used in the UK leg of the Tour de France.
Afterwards, the descent towards Woodhead Reservoir will feel comparatively calm - that is, until you hit the section of entertaining yumps. The peaty moorland in these parts is rather prone to subsiding, and several ridges are capable of putting fresh air between tyre and tarmac. The clear view for miles ahead will doubtless egg you on.
Tread carefully when joining the A628 at the bottom - exiting the T-junction can feel like a lucky dip given the appalling sightlines, combined with the road being a popular detour for HGVs hustling their way between Manchester and Sheffield. An immediate left takes you onto the B6105, a classic rollercoaster B-road that skirts the Reservoir before ricocheting off the notorious Devils Elbow corner, bouncing us back towards Glossop and the journey's end.
A series of wisely placed speed bumps will allow any lingering thrill to dissipate before you re-join the High Street, complete with the temptation to go for another ‘lap’.
POINTS OF INTEREST
Blue John Caverns
Cat & Fiddle Distillery (make sure you sign into the car park - ANPR cameras)
Buxton Spa Town
OTHER ROADS IN THE AREA
We're planning to pen you an additional guide to the Peak District to cover the best of the central and southern roads, but here's a quick sneak preview
Edale Valley road
A5004 Whaley Bridge to Buxton
A537/A54 Cat & Fiddle Pass
A626 Glossop to Penistone