The Monsal Trail is a traffic-free path running for 8.5 miles between Combs Road in Bakewell and Blackwell Mill in Chee Dale, in the heart of the Peak District National Park.
The path follows the former track of the Midland Railway Line, constructed in 1863 to link Manchester and London. Its route ran through the beautiful Wye Valley on the orders of the Duke of Devonshire, who refused permission for the railway to run through his land close to 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.
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 is impossible to
see the daylit opening from the start of the tunnel, adding to the excitement
of exploring! Be warned that if you
visit and intend to go through the tunnels after dusk, take a torch!
There are many entrance points to the Monsal Trail along its route – see the map below. It is flat, level and well-maintained, perfect for walkers, runners, horse-riders, cyclists and wheelchair-users. There are wheelchair-accessible ramps at Bakewell Station, Hassop Station, Great Longstone Station and Millers Dale Station.
the tunnels and the beautiful views, there is plenty to see along the way on
the Monsal Trail. Highlights include:
picture-perfect structure, spanning the beautiful River Wye, the Headstone Viaduct
is an impressive sight from anywhere surrounding the Monsal Trail. It is 300 feet (91m) long, with five 50 feet
(15m) arches, and is 70 feet (21m) high at its highest point. From the Monsal Trail itself it also provides
a perfect aerial view along the Upper Wye Valley.
Viaduct is a protected structure, with a Preservation Order placed on it in
1970 to reflect its historic and architectural importance. It was not always so loved, however, and 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.’
His words are
displayed on the viaduct today.
Mill was a thriving cotton mill in the 18th and 19th Centuries, powered by
water from the river. The first mill
building, constructed for Sir Richard Arkwright, was opened in 1783 but was
destroyed by a fire soon afterwards. Its
replacement was built in 1812 and had two large water wheels, used until steam
replaced water power in the 1890s.
Mill continued operating as a working mill until the 1960s. It has now been converted into residential
was opened slightly before its counterpart at Cresswell, in 1782. It too was a textile mill powered with water
from the River Wye.
became notorious for the cruel treatment of the pauper children who worked
there during the Industrial Revolution under the mill owner, Ellis
Needham. Tragically, many children died
as a result of their experiences there and are buried in local
mill building was subject to a number of economic and structural disasters,
including a serious fire and damage to the water wheel. By 1815 Ellis Needham was bankrupt. The mill was taken over by another owner but
another fire destroyed much of the building in 1874. Very little of the original building still
A number of
old lime kilns are evident on the Monsal Trail close to Millers Dale Station,
and are very interesting to explore. The
kilns were used from the 19th Century until 1944 to produce quicklime, used as
an agricultural fertiliser.