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Peak District walk around Monsal Dale, Derbyshire

This starts and ends at Monsal Head, a famous Peak District beauty spot. The route goes along Monsal Dale, over the limestone ridge through which the River Wye carves out its valley near Fin Cop, and then descends back into the valley to return to Monsal Head.

Monsal Dale and Brushfield Circuit


Route Info
walk mapDifficulty level: 2  (1 to 5 scale - 1 is easy)
Distance: 10.00 km    Ascent: 300m
Estimated time: 3:00 hours
Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 map sheet(s): 119
The Outdoor Leisure 24 - White Peak 1:25000 scale
map covers this walk also

This is a pleasant circuit which starts and ends at Monsal Head, a famous Peak District beauty spot. The route goes along Monsal Dale, over the limestone ridge through which the River Wye carves out its valley near Fin Cop, and then descends back into the valley to return to Monsal Head.

Monsal Dale View
Monsal Dale View
Park in the car park behind the Monsal Head Hotel. At weekends in summer this becomes extremely busy, so you may need to get there early! After admiring the view from the Head, cross the road and go through a stile in the wall. This leads, via a path through the woods, to the former railway line below, which is now the Monsal Trail, busy with walkers and cyclists, especially at weekends, and particularly so since the tunnels were re-opened in 2011. Before you go on, it's worth having a look at Headstone Tunnel, which goes right under Monsal Head. Then turn West and head out across Monsal Viaduct, one of the most spectacular sights of the Trail, with splendid views in all directions.

Walk along the Trail westwards up Monsal Dale for about 2 kilometres, passing through the former Monsal Dale station on the way, until you approach Cressbrook Tunnel, which has also recently been re-opened.

It is quite possible to walk through the tunnel (and the next tunnel, Litton tunnel) to get to Litton Mill. However, if you do this you mostly miss the views of Water-cum-Jolly, the spectacular gorge which the River Wye has made here.

So rather than go through the tunnel, take the path on the right, which takes a line around the hillside, trending downhill, towards Cressbrook Millpond. Along the way a left branch leads off along a spectacular but exposed path above the gorges of Water cum Jolly, which is a superb path if you are reasonably nimble and have a good head for heights - but this path is definitely not for the fainthearted!. The main path leads down to Cressbrook Millpond and then turns left to take an easy and quite lovely path along the opposite bank of the river. It's worth noting that after heavy rain this riverside path often floods and becomes impassable, in which case you would probably need to go back and walk through the tunnels.

These alternative routes converge again 2km further on just beyond Litton Mill, where the Monsal Trail emerges from Litton Tunnel. If you have followed the riverside path then you must walk through the grounds of Litton Mill and re-cross the river on the footbridge just after the mill entrance and follow the path back up to the track of the railway. About 200m west of the tunnel entrance there is a bridge over the railway and a stile just on the left (south) side of it. Climb over this stile and follow the path steeply up the hillside, perhaps taking the excuse of the magnificent view to take the occasional rest.

View of Brushfield from Sheldon
View of Brushfield from Sheldon
At the top of the hill the path takes a line approximately south-west through a series of old mine-workings and the across several fields separated by stiles before emerging on a track. Turn left (east) and go about 100m along the track before taking another footpath on the right, which leads first gently, then fairly steeply downhill to emerge in a dry valley (High Dale) below.

Turn left and follow High Dale down until it reaches a narrow road. Go up the road to the left and follow it until it branches at Brushfield Lower Farm - sadly no longer a working farm. Turn right and pass through the farmyard and continue along the driveable track which snakes its way up above Taddington Dale and the A6 road, hidden in trees below on the right. Eventually you arrive at a fork in the track by a conspicuous large tree, giving a choice of routes.

Forking left here takes you along a track which follows the brink of the Monsal Dale gorge and then descends to arrive back at Monsal Dale station. If you leave this track on a Z-bend where you have a clear view of Monsal Head, then it is possible to cut a corner and descend directly to the end of Monsal viaduct, and thence straightforwardly back to Monsal Head.

The right fork offers a longer and possibly more picturesque route, which leads initially to the isolated farm of Brushfield Hough, in a spectacular position above lower Monsal Dale. Go around the farm to reach a stile in the wall on the left where the path makes a steep descent into Monsal Dale, near to the A6 road. Once down in the valley, turn left and follow the river upstream through the delightful Monsal Dale to return to Monsal Head.

Monsal Dale
0 - Monsal Dale
Monsal Head Viaduct
1 - Monsal Head Viaduct
Monsal Dale - river Wye
2 - Monsal Dale - river Wye
Cressbrook Mill
3 - Cressbrook Mill
Water cum Jolly and Cressbrook millpond
4 - Water cum Jolly and Cressbrook millpond
Water cum Jolly - Cressbrook Hall and millpond
5 - Water cum Jolly - Cressbrook Hall and millpond
Water cum Jolly
6 - Water cum Jolly