Walk: Monsal Dale, Derbyshire
Hike the high tracks and waterside paths of Monsal Dale in the Peak District National Park and revel in an explosion of seasonal colour
This walk through Monsal Dale takes you through the River Wye's twisting, wooded gorge, deep in the White Peak where, in autumn, woodlands cover the deep slopes in golden tints. Relics of the area's industrial heritage enhance your experience of an already dramatic landscape.
This walks starts and finishes on the edge of Little Longstone where autumn walkers can refuel with drinks and food at one of two delightful pubs – The Monsal Head Hotel and the Packhorse Inn.
If you looking for more walks nearby, there are plenty of options. Just east of Buxton is a captivating area of countryside known as Chee Dale; a union of natural bounty and majestic engineering that together create a truly astounding landscape. Then there is the bleak but beautiful upland plateau of Kinder Scout, a landscape of wind-swept waterfalls and rocky crags, perfect for hikers and scramblers alike.
Monsal Dale walk
4.5 miles | 2.5 hours | moderate
1. Take old tracks
To explore this Site of Special Scientific Interest, walk the lane to Little Longstone from Monsal Head Hotel. On the right just past the Packhorse Inn and The Hollow B&B, a driveway hosts two public footpaths. Join the right-hand one through the handgate; a well-worn path strikes across pastures to an old railway trackbed, the Monsal Trail.
2. Viaduct views
Turn right; the way shortly enters Headstone Tunnel. The 500m bore explodes from its western portal straight on to the viaduct high above the River Wye. Built by Midland Railway in 1863, its five arches span 15m (50 feet) each. Take in the memorable views up and down the winding dale before you reach the far end of the structure.
Use the gate, left, and take the bridleway for Brushfield. A steady climb reaches a wider track; keep uphill on this limestone field road, indulging in extensive views across the gorge, hills and plateau of the White Peak. Look for black rabbits. The track eventually levels out as a walled, gated track past old lead-mine workings above the steeply wooded dale.
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3. Into the woods
Just past the gate in a further 700m, turn left on the signed path for Lees Bottom and White Lodge, shortly joining the farm road to Brushfield Hough Farm. Immediately past the long renovated building on your left, turn left into the yard and bend right past the old stone barn to a gate into another farm lane. As this bends right, slip left over the waymarked wall stile.
A grassy path roughens underfoot as it winds steeply down through woodland. A long, irregular series of steps approaches the valley floor at a junction; turn left for Monsal Head.
4. Head upstream
At the riverside head upstream; keep an eye out for dippers and kingfishers. On a sunny day, light will filter through the golden canopy above to dapple the path. The Iron Age hill-fort on Fin Cop towers above. Pass the thundering old weir, a robust reminder of the long-gone industry in this area, and continue upstream to within 70m of the viaduct.
Branch left up the steep path that reaches the gate back onto the old railway. Cross the viaduct; then fork left just before the tunnel up the path for Monsal Head.
Neil Coates is a Manchester-based writer with nearly 40 walking/guidebooks published.