The Monsal Trail
The Monsal Trail is a stunning 8.5 miles (13.7 km) cycle, horse riding and walking trail in the Peak District National Park.
The trail follows the path of the former Midland Railway starting at the Topley Pike junction in Wye Dale it runs through superb scenery to to Coombs viaduct, 1 mile to the south-east of the town of Bakewell and can be accessed at several points along the way.
For most of its length the Monsal Trail follows the path of the River Wye. Headstone Tunnel, at the southern end of the viaduct, was re-opened to the public in May 2011, along with nearby Cressbrook and Litton Tunnels.
The trail traverses some of the finest Peak District scenery, passing through Blackwell Mill, scenic Millers Dale, and the hamlet of Litton Mil, beautiful Chee Dale, a winding gorge, which is a nature reserve and SSSI, with stepping stones on the river Wye (pictured right) the village of Cressbrook, panoramic Monsal Dale, the vilage of Great Longstone, (pictured left) with its fifteenth century church, Hassop and picturesque and historic market town of Bakewell.
This route through the Wye valley was necessitated by the Duke of Devonshire's objection to the railway passing through his grounds (which included not only Chatsworth House, but extensive grounds north of Rowsley). This route meant, for instance, that the line had to pass above the town of Bakewell, rather than through it. The Duke of Rutland, of Haddon Hall, insisted on the construction of Haddon Tunnel to hide it from his view.
Headstone Viaduct, at Monsal Head, (pictured left) is one of the more impressive structures on the line, although when it was built it was seen as destroying the beauty of the dale. John Ruskin, a poet and conservationist of the time, criticized the folly of building the railway:-
"There was a rocky valley between Buxton and Bakewell, once upon a time, divine as the Vale of Tempe... You Enterprised a Railroad through the valley - you blasted its rocks away, heaped thousands of tons of shale into its lovely stream. The valley is gone – and now every fool in Buxton can be in Bakewell in half an hour and every fool at Bakewell in Buxton, which you think a lucrative process of exchange – you Fools everywhere."
His words are displayed on the viaduct. However, when the railway closed and there was talk of demolishing the viaduct, there was considerable opposition. In 1970 a preservation order was placed on the structure. Equally impressive, though less easily viewed, are the twin viaducts at Millers Dale, from where a branch line ran to Buxton. The Trail runs across the older of the two.
Car parks and toilets at Bakewell, Hassop, Monsal Head and Miller's Dale. Cycle hire at Bakewell, Hassop Station and Thornbridge Outdoors (eastern end) and Blackwell Mill (western end).
Several miles to the south and south-west of the Monsal Trail trail lie two other cycle/horse riding/walking trails, which similarly utilize former railway trackbeds, namely the High Peak Trail and the Tissington Trail.
Ordnance Survey Maps:
OS Explorer 24: White Peak 1:25,000 map
Follow the Country Code
*Be safe- plan ahead and follow any signs.
Protect plants and animals and take your litter home.
Keep dogs under close control
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