Distance: 6 miles
Time: 4 hours
Terrain: Field paths, woodland trails, country lanes
Accessibility: Well-made paths but with uneven surfaces, gates, a few stiles
This walk starts and ends in the lovely village of Ashford in the Water, which is well served with tea rooms and pubs and has public toilets. It follows well-made paths up and out of the village towards Monsal Head and over the iconic viaduct. There is a further pub and a tea room at the half-way point. The route then descends and follows pretty woodland trails alongside the River Wye back towards Ashford in the Water.
This is a circular walk of nearly 6 miles. The trails are clearly marked and easy to follow. It is ideal for energetic dogs although there are a couple of stiles. You are unlikely to encounter cows, although there are often sheep in the fields. Parking is free within Ashford in the Water. Allow 4-5 hours, particularly with stops to admire the scenery.
Park close to the bandstand in the centre of the village of Ashford in the Water (SK19483 69689). There is usually plenty of free parking on the street, although please be considerate of residents. With the sheepwash bridge behind you, walk past the bandstand and along Fennel Street.
Just after the sign for the car park, continue straight ahead on Vicarage Lane and head up the road for approx. 100 metres. Look out for a public footpath sign on the left and take this path. The path doubles back on itself and then turns sharp right to run behind houses.
Follow the path through a small gate into a field. Walk straight on across the field and look out for a stile in the top right corner. This leads on to Pennyunk Lane, a winding track between two stone walls. This track continues for a few kilometres through high pastures with wonderful White Peak views. Continue on the track until you reach a gate, with a sign ahead of you pointing right towards Monsal Head.
Turn right to follow the field path towards Monsal Head. You will soon see stunning views to your left over Monsal Dale. Continue straight on to reach the Monsal Head car park, with picnic benches, a pub and a tea room for refreshments if needed.
From the car park follow the path signposted Monsal Viaduct, down a series of steps through trees. On reaching the Monsal Trail at the bottom of the path, turn right to cross the viaduct.
Immediately after crossing the viaduct, go through a gate on your left and take the central path to walk gently down towards the River Wye. Continue on this path, keeping the river on your left. You will pass an impressive weir and walk through pretty woodland. There are plenty of picnic spots along the river bank.
The path continues until it reaches the A6, first crossing a stile and a small stream with stepping stones. Cross the A6 with care and walk immediately over the road through the car park at White Lodge. There are picnic benches and public toilets here.
From the car park take the path signposted to Ashford. It continues through mossy woodland and reaches another stile over a stone wall. Turn left, again following the signposts to Ashford. Continue on the obvious track up to where the path splits, and then take the left hand track towards Ashford and Sheldon. You are now entering Great Shacklow Wood.
At a gate on the outskirts of the wood the Sheldon path goes right, but you should continue straight on and follow the signposts to Ashford. The path tracks through pretty beech woodland, high above the River Wye (and the A6) to your left down in the valley.
Continue following the path straight on towards Ashford, at one point passing a beautiful disused water mill on your left. The path eventually comes back down to meet the river and joins a minor road at the bottom of Kirkdale. Turn left and walk along the minor road towards the A6.
On reaching the A6 turn right and walk on the footpath for a short distance before returning to Ashford in the Water on your left. Cross the A6 and then the pretty sheepwash bridge, to find yourself back at your start point.