The Trans-Pennine Trail is a "green corridor" stretching from coast to coast across the industrial Pennines.
It's a colossal endeavour: NCN 62, which forms the bulk of it, is 210 miles long, the great majority is traffic-free. Railway paths, canal towpaths, and valley trails mean there's virtually no hills to speak of, other than the unavoidable Pennine ridge itself.
Starting from Fleetwood, the first miles of the route are coastal or estuary-flat, taking in the great pleasure resorts of Blackpool and Southport. From here the route cuts inland to the Liverpool Loop Line, a remarkable greenway following a former railway line through urban Merseyside.
More railway paths take the TPT along the Mersey valley past Warrington to the outskirts of Manchester. The route stays clear of the city centre, instead continuing along the Mersey trough Sale, Didsbury and Stockport – most of it, remarkably, traffic-free. The Tame, a tributary of the Mersey towards south-east Manchester, is an enjoyable green setting for this relaxing ride.
It seems amazing that a electrified trunk railway was closed as recently as the 1980s, but that was the fate of the Woodhead route, now converted into the Longdendale Trail. This makes for a gentle ascent to the crest of the Pennines. Unfortunately, Woodhead Tunnel itself has been claimed for electric cables, and all that’s left for cyclists is a rocky track – or the busy A628.
Happily, the railway paths soon resume with a long descent into South Yorkshire. This part of the TPT doesn’t go through Sheffield, but you can divert along NCN 627 from Penistone for a traffic-free approach. Otherwise, we continue to the Don valley for a rather more piecemeal route to the flatlands of East Yorkshire. Railway paths, canal towpaths and the odd minor road connect to ultimately shake off the urban north.
NCN 62 finishes at Selby, a small town dominated by its mighty abbey. Here the Trans-Pennine Trail continues east on NCN 65 to Hull and Hornsea.
Some parts of the Trail are more successful than others, and the gravel or earth sections rule it out for road bikes. Its dedicated band of supporters have made many upgrades since the route was established for the Millennium, and slowly, this is being upgraded to become a high-quality cycle route.
We wouldn’t recommend it in its entirety as a family tour, though there are several sections that make excellent day rides. But if you enjoy exploring industrial heritage and would like to discover more of the North of England, this is a fascinating ride.