A Walk or Ride Along the Monsal Trail
A walk or ride along the traffic-free Monsal Trail is the perfect way to see the glorious White Peak countryside of this part of the Peak District. It runs for 8.5 traffic-free miles from Bakewell to Chee Dale. It is flat, level and well-maintained, so it’s not just perfect for walkers and cyclists, but also runners, horse-riders and wheelchair-users. There are wheelchair-accessible ramps at Bakewell Station, Hassop Station, Great Longstone Station and Millers Dale Station.
The Monsal Trail follows the former track of the Midland Railway Line, constructed in 1863 to link Manchester and London. Its route was placed through the beautiful Wye Valley on the orders of the then Duke of Devonshire, who refused permission for the railway to run through his land at Chatsworth House. The railway closed in 1968 and was converted into a pedestrian trail in 1981.
The Monsal Trail passes through the most stunning White Peak scenery, running close to villages and settlements at Blackwell Mill, Millers Dale, Cressbrook, Monsal Dale, Great Longstone and Hassop on its route from Bakewell to Chee Dale.
Many traces of the Monsal Trail’s railway past can still be seen, with bridges, old stations, sidings and tunnels! The trail runs through six old railway tunnels, all fully opened and lit during daylight hours: Headstone Tunnel, Cressbrook Tunnel, Litton Tunnel, Chee Tor Tunnels 1 and 2, and Rusher Cutting. Some are almost half a kilometre long and curved, meaning that it’s impossible to see the lit opening from the start of the tunnel, which just adds to the excitement of exploring! Be warned that you should take a torch if you visit and might not return until after dusk.
Along the Way
Aside from the tunnels and the beautiful views, there is plenty to see along the way on the Monsal Trail.
The Headstone Viaduct
Spanning the beautiful River Wye, the Headstone Viaduct is a truly impressive sight, at 300 feet long and 50 feet high, with five 50 feet arches. From the Monsal Trail it provides a perfect aerial view along the Upper Wye Valley.
The Headstone Viaduct is now a protected structure, but it was not always loved. When it was first built in 1863 the poet John Ruskin noted:
‘The valley is gone, and the Gods with it. Now every fool in Buxton can be at Bakewell in half an hour, and every fool in Bakewell at Buxton.’
A number of old lime kilns can still be seen and explored with care close to Millers Dale Station. They were used from the 19th Century until 1944 to produce quicklime, used as an agricultural fertiliser.
Cressbrook Mill is a spectacular sight from the Monsal Trail, nestled in the lush valley. A thriving cotton mill in the 18th and 19th Centuries, the first mill building was constructed for Sir Richard Arkwright in 1783. It continued operating as a working mill until the 1960s but is now luxury residential accommodation.
Litton Mill was opened in 1782, also a textile mill powered with water from the River Wye. It became notorious for the cruel treatment of pauper children who worked there during the Industrial Revolution, many of whom died as a result of their experiences. It now offers luxury residential accommodation, although very little of the original building still stands.
Cycle Hire on the Monsal Trail
Cycle hire is available from Hassop Station Cycle Hire, close to the Bakewell end of the trail, where you’ll also find a large café and shop. At the other end you can hire bikes from Blackwell Mill Cycle Hire.
How Do I Get to the Monsal Trail?
The Monsal Trail starts at Bakewell and runs to Chee Dale. There are many access points along the route, including at Hassop, Millers Dale, Monsal Head and Blackwell Mill.
There are several pay and display car parks in Bakewell (postcode DE45 1BU) and also a large car park at Hassop Station (DE45 1NW). Further car parking is available at Monsal Head, Tideswell Dale, Millers Dale and Wyedale.
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