Monsal Head viaduct
The Monsal Trail follows the path of the former Midland Railway from Blackwell Mill cottages to Coombs Viaduct, about 1km past the former Bakewell station - a distance of about 20km. For the most part the trail follows the path of the River Wye, which means it offers some spectacular scenery.
The Peak District National Park have recently spent £2.5m on re-opening the tunnels so it is possible to walk, cycle or horse-ride right the way along the trail. It was opened in May 2011.
When a railway through this valley was first proposed early conservationists led by John Ruskin voiced vehement opposition, but now it seems part of the landscape.
The Monsal Trail in Cheedale
From the western end, approach the trail from Wyedale car park at Topley Pike. About 1 km along the track you reach a railway bridge - go under it and on your right a path leads up onto the former track. There is a new refreshment stop and cycle hire shop
here, opposite Blackwell Mill cottages.
Once on the trail, follow it down a further 2 km in the magnificent surroundings of Cheedale before entering a short tunnel leading to a bridge over the Wye. Notice on your right, a path leads down to a the river and a footbridge taking you back across it. This leads to a riverside path which gives access to Chee Tor and by-passes the Chee Tor tunnel.
Stepping stones near Chee Tor
It includes stepping stones which can be well underwater in flood conditions. (It is not suitable for cycling!)
However, now the tunnels have been re-opened you no longer need to take this path, but can continue straight on through Chee Tor tunnel, which is about 400m long and emerges near the viaduct at the foot of Blackwell Dale, where the riverside path rejoins the trail.
Continue along the railway track to Miller's Dale, where you cross the Wye by the imposing viaducts. The section downstream gives fine views of Ravenstor and leads to Litton Mill, where you enter another tunnel, followed by a short open cutting and a second tunnel - the Cressbrook Tunnel, which at 800m is the longest on the route. You emerge in Monsal Dale.
If you are on foot and wish to see more of the scenery, we recommend dropping off the trail at Litton Mill, cross the river and turn right to go through the yard of Litton Mill and follow the delightful riverside path through Water-cum-Jolly to Cressbrook Millpond. At the far end of the millpond re-cross the river and follow the path to re-join the trail. Note however that this path can also be submerged in places after heavy rain.
In Monsal dale
Follow the trail down Monsal Dale and across the magnificent Monsal viaduct to another tunnel - the Headstone tunnel. Once through this you emerge amongst fields near Little Longstone. An alternative is to climb up just before the tunnel to Monsal Head (ice creams available!) and follow the small road opposite into Little Longstone, where a path across the fields (just after the Packhorse Inn) allows you to regain the railway track.
The section from Longstone is relatively uneventful. It follows the railway track all the way through Hassop station (where there is a cafe and cycle hire
available) to Bakewell, easy cycling if you are on a bike, pleasant walking if you are on foot. Get off at the former Bakewell station and cycle down the hill into the town if you wish to go into the town. The trail continues a short distance beyond Bakewell to terminate at the Coombs viaduct not far from Haddon Hall.
Note - if you cycle this trail in the reverse direction and want to continue to Buxton then this is rather problematic. The obvious route is to follow the A6 alongside the River Wye, but this is narrow, twisting, very busy and positively dangerous for cyclists. The best alternative is to follow the A6 for 800m, going under a viaduct, then take a bridle path which crosses the river via a small bridge. Go right up the dale (Woo Dale) to reach a narrow road (Church Lane) in an area called Green Fairfield. Follow this to a T-junction (turn right) and eventually to a major road (Waterswallows Road). Turn left and follow the road alongside the golf course to reach the A6 on the north side of Buxton. Turn left again and descend into the town. This is only suitable for mountain bikes and is a long way round, but much better than the alternatives.
If you want to walk from Wye Dale to Buxton then we recommend crossing the A6 by Topley Pike Quarry and going up Deep Dale to Thirst House Cave, then ascend the right-hand wall of the dale to reach King Sterndale. Continue from here towards Cowdale and then on to Staden and Buxton (OS map required to find this route).