Beginners’ Brickworks

Climbing from Bollington and Pott Shrigley through the Old Brickworks of Bakestonedale Moor is one of the Peak District’s most famous cycling climbs, but this Cheshire challenger needn’t be quite as fearsome as you might think.

Route details

Let’s be honest: there is nothing “beginner” about the Brickworks climb. This is a hefty, strenuous, two-mile climb up into the Peak District National Park that has been eternally loved by serious “roadies” and most recently included in the Tour of Britain 2016. But if you’re trying it for the first (or even fiftieth) time, there are better ways to tackle it, and more unpleasant ways.

Bakestonedale Road itself is rarely referred to by the cyclists who love it. Instead the climb itself takes its name from the Old Brickworks, an unlikely hive of industrial activity which sits roughly one third of the way up. Now housing small businesses, the estate began life in 1820 as a small brickworks, tapping into the ideal seams of clay and coal which were mined under Bakestonedale Moor to the north.

Tour of Britain or a standard bank holiday on the Brickworks climb? Hard to tell...
Tour of Britain or a standard bank holiday on the Brickworks climb? Hard to tell…

It was taken over by William Hammond in 1886 and expanded, remaining in the family and coming to importance during the two World Wars, when production was increased and women were taken onto the production line to ensure a continued output. The mines were closed in the 1950s and their shafts are now eerily dotted across the moor with their square concrete caps.

Above the old mines, past Bakestonedale Farm, is where the climb becomes a truly wondrous bit of cycling. Here it follows only telephone poles across the desolate, green landscape, before a turn below Brink Brow reveals a spectacular final run above Harrop Brook with views to the Tors of the upper Goyt Valley.

Beyond the Old Brickworks, the real climb out into the beautiful Peak District National Park really begins.
Beyond the Old Brickworks, the real climb out into the beautiful Peak District National Park really begins.

The downside to Bakestonedale Road is where it leads you. Though the view over Todd Brook between Sponds Hill and Charles Head is spectacular, the only onward route is the fast B5470 Macclesfield to Whaley Bridge road. Continuing on this, all the way up the painfully unpleasant climb through Kettleshulme, or even over towards Rainow, might be where some go wrong — the key for an enjoyable ride is to surely touch it as briefly as possible, and turn off at the first chance.

Though Higher Lane throws you back into an immediate hill climb, it’s a far quieter road and the view from the summit is absolutely sensational. In a single glance, the full house of Kinder Scout, Chinley Churn, Eccles Pike, Windgather Rocks and the rounded tops of Cats Tor and Shining Tor stretching away behind. You don’t get that gasping away amongst the impatient traffic on the B5470.

Near Brink Farm, the view looking back down Bakestonedale Road is just as awe-inspiring as that going up.
Near Brink Farm, the view looking back down Bakestonedale Road is just as awe-inspiring as that going up.

Getting to the start of the Brickworks can be made a little better, too. The obvious road past Shrigley Hall, leading straight up from Adlington, is well-traversed by cyclists but can sometimes feel an unpleasant place to be when Cheshire SUVs race up behind. Instead, this route actually uses the very first part of the Blaze Hill climb (a genuine horror attempted in full) then turns to approach Pott Shrigley on a far quieter lane.

Much of the lead-in is taken care of thanks to the delightful traffic-free Middlewood Way, while this route also includes an energetic but scenic diversion away from the A6 between Disley and High Lane, to complete the loop.

Route map

The route stats featured here are automatically generated by Komoot. For the most accurate guide, please refer to the route details above, based on actual rides recorded by Strava.

Where to start

From Marple, Macclesfield and anywhere connected to the Middlewood Way, simply join this trail and head towards Bollington (see the separate route guide for more tips). While the Alan Newton Way also links into the start of it, from Hazel Grove, Offerton and inner Stockport it might be preferable to use the rural Torkington Road as a route out from the residential back streets, assuming you want to avoid the A6.

Disley on the very north eastern edge of Cheshire is also a good starting point. The route passes through the main junction of Fountain Square. An easy route to here is the Upper Peak Forest Canal, leaving at Bridge 26 on Redhouse Lane and turning right into Hollinwood Road, which leads up to the A6.

(Tip: If approaching Disley from this direction, to avoid being sandwiched in the middle of the junction trying to turn right into Jacksons Edge Road, turn left before the traffic lights into the small slip road beside the old fountain. Then turn right, so you’re simply going straight across the junction when the lights go green.)

By train: Both Middlewood railway station and Disley railway station are right on the route, with services on the Buxton to Manchester Piccadilly line, though not all trains stop at Middlewood.

By car: Disley railway station car park or the small Disley community centre car park accessed off Buxton Old Road are good starting points, or see the Middlewood Way cycle route guide for more parking spots along this part of the route.

On the home straight towards Disley, Mudhurst Lane offers glorious views over Lyme Park and the Cage to Greater Manchester.

Things to note

  • The Brickworks is a remarkably consistent climb from start to finish with little let-up. From Pott Shrigley, it climbs for 3.2 km (2 miles) and totals 171 metres (561 ft). There are several places to catch your breath where it widens out, though: notably the Old Brickworks industrial estate itself and beside Bakestonedale Farm. Just beyond the summit, the view over Gnathole Brook and Kettleshulme provides a perfect celebratory stopping point.
  • From the top of the Brickworks, the route briefly joins the busier B5470, with an immediate drop and sharp bend through Gnathole Brook which requires care not to over-shoot. There’s a similarly sharp drop into a dip on Higher Lane which follows — again, good grip on the brakes and handlebars required.
  • On the return leg via Mudhurst Lane, watch out for the uneven surface, especially around metalwork in the road. Heading down Buxton Old Road into Disley, things deteriorate further with some incredibly harsh speed bumps.
  • The lanes featured here are all fairly quiet, sometimes even busier with bikes than cars, but it can help to avoid peak rush hour times when rat-running motorists can spoil the peace.
  • It’s possible to cut out the entire extra climb over Jacksons Edge by simply cycling down the busy A6. However, with its terrible current road layout through High Lane, with stop-start painted cycle lanes, that’s not something you’ll find recommended here. See the extra hill and the wiggly backroads as part of the adventure.
  • See the Middlewood Way cycle route guide for things to note about this section of the route. You’re not on the Brickworks yet, so do take it easy around other users: see Tips for Cycling on Shared Paths.

Route description

  1. Starting out on Middlewood Way, from just off Torkington Road there’s a leafy 10.2 km (6.3 miles) of traffic-free, unrestricted cycling ahead, all the way to Bollington. Along the former trackbed of the Macclesfield, Bollington and Marple Railway, you’ll pass the disused stations of High Lane and Higher Poynton, the unusual operational Middlewood station and several beautiful views of the Cheshire landscape, whenever the line emerges from its damp, nature-rich cutting. After crossing the impressive Bollington Viaduct, with views to the left of the hills you’re about to attempt, pass under one final overbridge before approaching Grimshaw Lane around a (rather annoying) metal barrier.
Between Torkington Lane and Buxton Road, the wide open views across Greater Manchester continue to impress - particularly on a crisp winter day.
Some Brickworks riders might not dream of using a trail like Middlewood Way to get to chart a relaxed route to the start of the climb. Their loss.
  1. Turn left onto Grimshaw Lane and a set of traffic lights are immediately encountered, guarding the one-way route under an unusual aqueduct of the Macclesfield Canal. The road ahead takes a sharp climb up past the wharf and a corner shop and then again past a primary school. Rounding the final bend at the top, spot White Nancy, the gleaming white hilltop landmark, straight ahead. Turn left into the very narrow Chancery Lane, following signs for the Cheshire Cycleway, and there’s a graceful, enjoyable descent ahead through the old heart of the town, taking a sharp left onto Lord Street and then following the road left onto Church Street. At the end, turn right around the roundabout then immediately right again, past the bus stop, into Ingersley Road, signposted for Rainow and the Cheshire Cycleway. (Taking this diversion avoids the more direct but sometimes unpleasantly fast road to Pott Shrigley.)
At the roundabout at the end of Church Street, turn right then immediately right again, into Ingersley Road. Be careful to go right around the roundabout, avoiding the raised centre.
At the roundabout at the end of Church Street, turn right then immediately right again, into Ingersley Road. Be careful to go right around the roundabout, avoiding the raised centre.
  1. Follow the road ahead and, as the stone cottages peter out at a pub, follow the road in a sharp left onto Smithy Brow. This is now the start of the Blaze Hill climb, but we’re only on it briefly — which, as it climbs immediately in a solid gradient, you’ve got every right to be thankful for. At the first house straight ahead, turn left and the lovely swooping Spuley Lane takes you through Berristall Dale at the foot of Harrop Brook. Eventually, at an angled t-junction, turn right onto Shrigley Road (take care to stop and give way with the poor visibility to the left). The tiny but picturesque village centre of Pott Shrigley with its parish church and bright red phone box is soon ahead.
From the picture-perfect Pott Shrigley Parish Church, it's a right turn to finally begin the Brickworks climb — ready?
From the picture-perfect Pott Shrigley Parish Church, it’s a right turn to finally begin the Brickworks climb — ready?
  1. From Pott Shrigley, turn right into Bakestonedale Road, signposted Old Brickworks. The Brickworks climb has begun! You first climb briefly around the dale towards Overheyes Farm and then again between wooded banks, perhaps wondering what makes this strenuous climb so special. The Old Brickworks are quickly encountered, a curious collection of industrial businesses with one very popular, shrewd newcomer in the form of an artisan coffee roastery. Leaving the stone buildings behind, the road returns immediately to the rural landscape, climbing directly beside Bakestonedale Moor, where the clay and coal to fire the bricks was painstakingly mined. Now you get it: alongside banks of ferns and a cackling stream, between beautifully rounded knolls and cheered on only by telephone poles and sheep, you rise up fantastically, gloriously into the Peak District landscape.
Brickworks from afar: looking towards Bakestonedale Farm, where the gradient shifts up a notch again, from Bakestonedale Moor.
Brickworks from afar: looking towards Bakestonedale Farm, where the gradient shifts up a notch again, from Bakestonedale Moor.
  1. Rounding a challenging bend, the gradient eases off briefly for a long straight below Ellis Bank, as Bakestonedale Farm comes into view ahead. Twisting immediately to the right after the farm, perhaps the most challenging part of the climb kicks in, the gradient just that much keener and for that much longer. The kink in the road at Brink Farm is the breathless, gasping, “nearly there” marker of the route. Around the bend, the road suddenly levels out, buildings, trees and the mounded top of Brink Brow briefly hiding the stunning panorama that then reveals itself. As if now willing you on to avoid dawdling at the view, the road drops gently, then rises again. See that tiny little hill ahead? That’s it: cresting the top, you’re there, you’ve done it!
Top of the Brickworks! If you don't stop for a celebratory selfie with your bike here, have you even climbed it?
Top of the Brickworks! If you don’t stop for a celebratory selfie with your bike here, have you even climbed it?
  1. The verge ahead has been trodden by an endless stream of cycling fanatics, capturing the stunning view through the hills ahead to the High Peak. When you’re ready to carry on, continue gingerly to the t-junction with the fast B5470 Macclesfield Road. Visibility here over the brow of the hill is not the best, so take care turning left, immediately down the plummeting hill into Gnathole Brook. Apply brakes well before the sharp bend at the bottom, if not all the way down, to ensure you make it around in one piece — more thanks to the Cheshire potholes and potential for gravel at the bottom than anything. Continuing to coast downhill, the triangular warning sign of a road joining ahead is the point to prepare to turn left, at a junction sometimes hidden until the last minute by vegetation, into Higher Lane. Even if you need to slow to turn, it’s a good idea not to lose too much momentum: there’s an immediate hill climb ahead. The road climbs for one challenging kilometre (0.6 miles) up around the side of Reed Hill; the gasping turns of each tyre hopefully placated by the brilliant view over Todd Brook and Kettleshulme. Yes, you’re still very much in Cheshire.
Beware the 'bridge of doom' between Higher Lane and Mudhurst Lane!
Beware the ‘bridge of doom’ between Higher Lane and Mudhurst Lane!
  1. Over the first blind summit of Higher Lane, Kinder Scout comes into view in the far distance, surrounded by Chinley Churn, Eccles Pike and Whaley Moor. You feel as if you could be on top of them all. A shrieking descent down past Higher Cliff Farm follows, into a dicey dip over a bridge where g-force will certainly be felt if brakes are not keenly applied. But where there’s momentum, use as much as you can to get up the sharp rise which follows. Narrowing badly, the lane twists over a second “bridge of doom” (watch carefully for any impatient drivers approaching) and then turns right for the final climb of the route. Pedals eventually bringing you up to Dissop Head and Cock Knoll, Mudhurst Lane unfolds satisfyingly ahead. With views now back over Greater Manchester, the lane rolls and twists gently downhill with sensational views. Lyme Park and its Cage are prominent to the left, along with Bollinhurst Reservoir, while the rugged Black Rocks are up above to the right.
A classic of Cheshire's Peak District, completed.
A classic of Cheshire’s Peak District, completed.
  1. At the final t-junction, beside a beautiful old Cheshire fingerpost sign, turn left and follow Buxton Old Road swiftly downhill into Disley. Approaching the Fountain Square traffic lights, take the second (centre) lane to continue straight ahead, up the immediate climb of Jacksons Edge Road. Beyond a set of one-way traffic lights at the top, the road descends past the golf course. Just as the 20 mph speed limit begins, turn right into Wybersley Road. A far-reaching view of the River Goyt’s valley through Strines and Marple Bridge opens up.
Fountain Square traffic lights, where the route crosses straight over the busy A6 at Disley, on its meandering and more strenuous route just to avoid the nasty painted cycle lanes towards High Lane.
  1. Before the bend ahead, turn left into Thornway, suddenly entering darkest suburbia. Even here there’s a view, though, over the south of Greater Manchester with Alderley Edge just visible as the road suddenly twists downwards. At the bottom, pass the first cul-de-sac on the right then turn right into South Meadway which becomes simply Meadway, passing more bungalows. At the t-junction, turn right onto Andrew Lane. Heading downhill, the Macclesfield Canal is crossed on a narrow bridge.
Torkington Lane can be surprisingly busy at peak times with drivers rat running off the A6, but it’s otherwise an enjoyable Cheshire lane — especially in this more downhill direction.
  1. At the next t-junction, turn right onto Windlehurst Road. Rather busier with traffic to and from Marple, this is nevertheless reasonably wide for a minor lane as you climb and then drop over a short rise. In the dip ahead, turn left into Torkington Lane. Follow this “quiet lane” (which is never as quiet as it should be) for 1.3 km (0.8 miles) around several twists and turns. Passing over the Middlewood Way on a bridge, there’s a wonderful view over the now remarkably flat-looking Greater Manchester.

Other route options

  • Climbing via Kerridge — 19.7 miles (31.7 km), 1690 ft (515 m)
    An even quieter and more scenic start to the on-road route, but does include narrow zig-zag ramp south of Bollington. Ideal if starting from Macclesfield. Head to Clarke Lane bridge on the Middlewood Way, using the ramp to access the road above. Turn left and follow the road, soon veering sharply left and climbing gradually up through Kerridge. After a pub, the road becomes Jackson Lane and descends. At the next bend between stone cottages, turn right onto Chancery Lane and rejoin the main route from midway through stage 2. Upon returning to Middlewood Way, follow the trail back to your starting point.
  • Brickworks Both Ways! — 18.4 miles (29.6 km), 1289 ft (393 m)
    Riding up the Brickworks is one thing, but it’s the B5470 and the extra hills beyond that can really make it a challenging loop if you’ve never done it before. So here’s an obvious but perhaps controversial idea: why not cycle up to the top, following the route here out of Bollington, then just turn around and whizz back down again? See it as an ultra-energetic, stunningly scenic diversion off the Middlewood Way! To vary the return leg, turn right at the t-junction opposite Pott Shrigley church and follow Shrigley Road, turning right again at a triangular junction and following the lane back to Poynton Coppice car park on the Middlewood Way.

Both of these routes are mapped on the Beginners’ Brickworks Pocket Guide with additional GPX files included in the download.

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More to explore

  • Disley
    Nestled between hills at the start of the High Peak but very much a Cheshire village with a good handful of pubs, access to Lyme Park and the Peak Forest Canal.
  • Bollington
    Once a major centre of cotton spinning industry, this Cheshire mill town on the River Dean in the foothills of the Peak District boasts brilliant cycling, be it trail, towpath or serious road climbs, and an unusually high number of pubs, strung along the “happy valley” below the hilltop landmark of White Nancy.

Please note: While great care and attention has been put into gathering these routes, ensuring details are accurate and determining their suitability, all information should be used as a guide only and is not a replacement for using your own judgement or research when setting out on new adventures. Peaks & Puddles cannot be held responsible for any problems you may encounter.

Always ensure your equipment is safe for use, that you are well prepared carrying everything necessary including access to a good map. Follow the Highway Code and the Countryside Code at all times, respect the landscape and the wildlife and people you encounter. But most importantly, have fun!