Monsal Trail walk
Gentle Peak District walk along a disused railway line via viaducts, tunnels, and escarpements
|Length||9 miles (14.5 km)|
|Toughness||1 / 10. Good surface. Very gently up or downhill|
This walk follows a closed railway line, over viaducts (with view) and through tunnels (lit, torch not needed) and cutting, in the Peak District National Park. It is a walk / cycle /ride trail.
The trail is 9 miles long, starting 3 miles east of Buxton, and follows the Wye valley via the Chee Tor No. 1 (361m) and 2 tunnels (83m), Miller's Dale viaduct, Liton tunnel (472m) , Cressbrook tunnel (431m), Headstone viaduct, Headstone tunnel (487m), Hassop, Bakerwell and ends at then closed Coombs Road viaduct.
The trail is surfaced, has a gentle gradient, and is suitable for wheelchairs. Millers Dale, Hassop, and Bakewell have wheelchair access.
The trail is on Google Streetview
The trail is being extended 12km south to Matlock, but the work to re-open the tunnel south of the Coombe Viaduct will take some time. The route further south will open first, part of it will be alongside the original trackbed now used as a heritage railway.
The trail is also being extended west to Buxton, though not via the original railway trackbed (which is still in use)
Note that the path is very popular with cyclists (it is family friendly!), so either walk it at a less popular time (i.e. not on a sunny day in school holidays), or explore some of the side paths off it - see options.
From west to east
Chee Dale Gorge : Near the start there is a windy path down to the river at the bottom of Chee Dale gorge.
Millers Dale : After Millers Dale station: "I struck off down a side path. I ended up on the quiet road on the north side of the river in Miller’s Dale. This is gloriously scenic and almost no one else was walking or cycling here. Past Litton Mill you have to climb up onto the hillside on a wonderful path that slants up the valley side with mouthwatering views. A steep descent through Cressbrook brings you back to the river, and as you near the Monsal Viaduct, footbridges enable you to cross the river and climb up to it: or you can stay on the road as it climbs to Monsal Head." This sounds like the minor road (marked on the OS map) on the north side of the river.
Monsal Head: After the viaduct, before the Headstone tunnel, climb up to Monsal Head (pub) for the view.
Monsal Head - Bakewell : "I slanted south on a pleasant field path to Ashford, which is a nice enough village ... (on) the Transpeak bus (route). The Riverside path from Ashford to Bakewell was quite pretty." - this is a longer diversion away from the path
The nearest stations are Buxton and Matlock. The "Transpeak" bus runs between them, passing the start and finish of the walk.
Topley Pike Junction
This is the 'west' or Buxton, end of the walk.
There is a layby on the A6 a short walk away (SK17 9TG, by the turn off to a quarry), or the "Wyedale" pay car park (SK17 9TE, £4.50) about 1km away, with a link path).
The bus stop by the Wyedale car park is on the #65/66 Buxton - Wyedale - Sheffield route, not the Transpeak route.
About 10 mins walk away is the 'Blackwell in the Peak' bus stop (by the A6/Blackwell turn off, see the OS map) on the Transpeak bus route to Bakewell (for Coombs Viaduct). There is a pretty link path. Follow the linked path on the OS map down to the line. Where the path splits, the upper path leads to a nice viewpoint over the Chee Dale valley.
Bakewell / Coombs Road Viaduct
This is the 'east' or Bakewell end of the walk.
Park by the side of the road at DE45 1AR.
The viaduct is about 500m south of Bakewell. You could park on the outskirts of Bakewell, or the pay car park in the town centre at DE45 1AS, and walk uphill to the trail. There is a small car park by the trail itself with level access at DE45 1GE.
The closest bus stop, which is on the Transpeak route, is in Bakewell, about 15 mins walk away. There are closer stops further south along the A6, but no footpaths to them.
Use this bus to return to your car, or to travel to the start or finish from Buxton or Matlock stations.
Mon-Sun, hourly, takes 20 mins. Traveline - Bus Times
Route : Manchester (3/day) - Buxton station - "Bakewell in the Peak" (A6 Bakewell turnoff, for Topley Pike) - Bakewell (stand E, for Coombs Road Viaduct) - Matlock - Derby (bus station stand 21, train station is 500m away).
From west to east
This section of the "Manchester, Buxton, Matlock and Midlands Junction Railway" was built in 1863 - in the era of competing railway companies, as mainline route for the Midlands railway to Manchester. Even when it was built, the route had too many compromises. It had to avoid the land of influential land owners, in terrain that was already difficult, so the Bakewell station is above the town not in the town. During its construction, the landowners, seeing the value of rail line, relented, but by then it was too late to change the route. So, they influenced the location of stations instead. It was closed in 1968.
The route is safeguared should it ever be reopened, but the cost of restoring the tunnels and viaducts would be prohibitive.
After the walk, we would love to get your feedback
National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline (bus times): 0871 200 22 33 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234
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