Visiting Monsal Head and Monsal Dale

Written by Shayle Follows

An ideal example of the Derbyshire countryside is Monsal Dale and Monsal Head. It’s a picture-perfect place to wander along the river, take a long walk, enjoy a picnic, and admire the landscape. Here is all you need to know about Monsal Head and Monsal Dale.

Located in Derbyshire, Monsal Dale is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), a Special Area of Conservation and part of a Europe-wide network called Natura 2000. It is a Valley in the White Peak limestone area of the Peak District National Park. One of the most photographed viewpoints in Derbyshire is Monsal Head, located directly above Monsal Dale. The River Wye winds down to the bottom of the dale; there are caves and walking routes to discover along the way.

The view from Monsal Head viewpoint is outstanding, and has plenty of benches to rest and admire the landscape for a while. Plus, it’s only a short drive from famous locations like Bakewell and Ashford. Here is all you need to know about Monsal Head and Monsal Dale. We include walking routes, the Monsal Trail, waterfalls and much more.

The Monsal Trail passes over the Headstone Viaduct.
The Monsal Trail passes over the Headstone Viaduct.

The Monsal Trail

The trail opened to the public in 1981. It is 8.5 miles and runs along the former Midland Railway between Blackwell Mill in Chee Dale and Coombs Road at Bakewell. Today, it is a cycle path and footpath, so you can safely cycle or walk through a selection of the Peak District’s most spectacular limestone dales. It’s also great for prams, wheelchair users and horse riders.

Monsal Head Monsal Tunnel
Headstone Tunnel, image from Tripadvisor.

Four railway tunnels – Headstone Tunnel, Cressbrook Tunnel, Litton Tunnel, Chee Tor Tunnel are lit and open for trail users. Each tunnel is 400 metres long and makes for an exciting walk. In addition, there are two shorter tunnels – Chee Tor No.2 and Rusher Cutting. Monsal Head is where the Headstone Viaduct forms part of the Monsal Trail, You can find more information about the Monsal Trail here.

The Headstone Viaduct Monsal Dale
The Headstone Viaduct, image from Tripadvisor.

The Headstone Viaduct and Monsal Head Weir

Standing over the River Wye, The Headstone Viaduct was built by the Midland railway. It is near the Headstone Tunnel, and it is 300 feet long. It features five 50-foot span arches, some reaching 70 feet at the centre. Grade II listed status was assigned to it in 1970.

Monsal Head Weir is a delightful sight located beneath the viaduct. It may look like a waterfall, but it’s a weir. You can view it from the path nearby, and many of the walking routes we have selected below include it on their trail. The Monsal Head Weir/waterfall is a real highlight of this area. It is a great spot to stop and enjoy a picnic with the family. The perfect location is the large flat grass area on one side of the river, and here, the river also widens and slows down in this area, so it is also great for a paddle in Summer.

Monsal Head and Monsal Dale. Monsal Head Weir is a delightful sight located beneath the Headstone Viaduct.
Monsal Head Weir is a delightful sight located beneath the Headstone Viaduct.


Many people swim in a deep spot close to the waterfall. Only consider swimming here if you are a competent wild swimmer. Rivers can be dangerous, and conditions change quickly. Please be careful and don’t go in if it seems too deep or fast-flowing.

Beautiful views of Monsal Dales, image from Tripadvisor.

A Short Monsal Head Circular Walk

1.5 miles (2.4km) | 40 mins – 1 Hour | Easy walk

This walk is perfect for a weekend or afternoon stroll; it is easy for children yet still features fantastic views. This short circular route guides you past the Headstone Viaduct, forming part of the Monsal Trail, the verdant Monsal Dale, and the River Wye.

The route begins at the Monsal Head Hotel, where you follow the footpath into the dale to Monsal Weir. You will then head across to the other side of the River Wye, along its banks and underneath the Headstone Viaduct. Finally, you will follow the river, cross back over, and climb up to Monsal Head viewpoint. Sometimes this route is referred to as the ‘waterfall walk’ because it leads you down to the weir, a small waterfall along the River Wye. Make sure to wear suitable footwear and be aware this route can get very busy at peak times. You can find more information and the full route here.

Bakewell Station to Monsal Head

7.4 miles (11.9 km) | 2 – 3 Hours | Easy walk

This route is ideal if you are visiting or staying nearby in Bakewell. It begins at Hassop Station car park, and the Monsal Train is just around the back of the old station building. First, you will head through the Headstone Tunnel. When you leave the tunnel, you will walk across the Viaduct, then turn left through a gate signposted to Public Bridleway to Brushfield. Head downhill towards a narrow gap next to an entrance to go under the Monsal Trail.

You can follow the path alongside the river to the footbridge. Cross the footbridge, walk past the buildings and turn right to head uphill to Monsal Head. Once you reach the Monsal Trail signpost, you can turn right and lead down the path back to the Monsal Trail. To return, you walk back to the start. Or you can head up to Monsal Head, where there’s a pub, cafe and toilets. You can find more information and the full route here.

Beautiful views of Monsal Dales From Hobb's Cafe
Lunch at Hobb’s Cafe Tearoom, image from Tripadvisor.

Places to eat, drink and stay near Monsal Dale and Monsal Head

We love to have lunch at Hobb’s Café Tearoom. It is a popular spot to grab lunch, coffee or ice cream with a birds-eye view of the Monsal Dale valley. Afternoon tea here is fantastic, with many reviews of the scones being the best!

Monsal Head Hotel is perfect if you fancy a room with a view, a tasty meal or a few drinks. The menu here changes seasonally and is affordable. They serve real ales from local microbreweries and feature a large outdoor seating area.

The Packhorse Inn is a fantastic pub and restaurant off the Monsal Trail. With open fires and a cosy interior, this is an ideal place to stop and warm up or grab a refreshment. Here you can enjoy real ales and tasty locally sourced food. Muddy boots, children and dogs are all more than welcome.

Monsal Head Car Park

There is a long-stay car park behind the Monsal Head hotel with public toilets and a small cordoned-off area on the hill with benches provided. There is also a small short-stay pay and display car park at the front of the pub, which offers pretty views of Monsal Dale. Postcode: DE45 1NL

There is also a layby on Castlegate Lane, where you can park on the roadside. If you park in this layby, a small path (on the other side of the wall) leads back to Monsal Head.

Where to visit next in the Peak District? Monsal Dales and Monsal Head are close to the village of Ashford in the Water, where you can see its famous Sheepwash Bridge. It is also 10 minutes from Bakewell, where you can try the famous Bakewell Pudding or a Bakewell Tart. We hope this article has helped you plan a trip to Monsal Head.