Ashford-in-the Water walk to Monsal Head (circular 6.2km)

Ashford-in-the-Water is a picture-postcard village in the heart of the Peak District and this circular walk leads you up to Monsal Head and back. Combine this walk with a pub lunch half way round at The Stables Bar at Monsal Head, or at the Bulls Head in Ashford-in-the-Water afterwards. Kids will love walking through the 400 metre long Headstone Tunnel, and the views from Monsal Head are fantastic. There’s also a playground at the end of the walk, if your little ones still have energy to burn.

If you’re looking for a shorter Monsal Head walk, check out our 2.4km Monsal Head circular walk, which leads you down into Monsal Dale to the weir and under the Headstone Viaduct.

England is now back in lockdown. Please only visit if you are local. Please respect social distancing, take all litter home with you, don’t bring BBQs and park your car in designated parking areas.

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Do check out our top tips for hiking with young kids, as well as our essential items to take on a family hike in the Peak District.

Ashford in the Water to Monsal Head circular walk map

On all Peak District family walks it’s a good idea to have the OS Explorer Active Map OL24 (White Peak). We also like pointing out the features on the map to the kids, to help them get them used to map reading.

Need to know

DISTANCE OF WALK: 6.2km

TYPE OF WALK: A circular walk. Can get muddy in wet weather.

PARKING: There is a small car park in Ashford-in-the-Water with an honesty box for payment (£2 – coins only). Click here for Google Maps location, postcode DE45 1QG. Otherwise there is roadside parking. However, do note the Ashford-in-the-Water is a very popular tourist village and parking is exceptionally busy at weekends and school holidays. Aim to arrive early and please respect local residents.

WALK HIGHLIGHTS: Walking through Headstone Tunnel (400 metres), fantastic views at Monsal Head, the pretty village of Ashford-in-the-Water where there is the family run Bulls Head pub, and a village playground.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE:  Without kids this would be a 1 hour 45 minute walk, but as always we take our time with the boys and this walk took us closer to 3 hours.

ACCESSIBILTY: Lots of stiles. Not pram friendly.

TOTAL ASCENT: 230 metres

PUBLIC TOILETS: There are toilets at the car park in Ashford-in-the-Water. There is also a small village shop, pub, café, and playground. Toilets can also be found at Monsal Head car park, although these were shut on our last visit. The Stables Bar next to the Monsal Head Hotel is a characterful rustic pub for a drink and bite to eat half way around your walk. There’s also an ice-cream van here, which is usually open weekends and school holidays.

The route

Our route directions follow the above map anti-clockwise, although take a left out of the car park first and up Vicarage Lane, rather than walking across the village green (leave the playground until the end).

1. From the car park walk back through the car park entrance, along the lane, and take a right up Vicarage Lane.

2. Walk up the Vicarage Lane for 380m, and as you come out of the village you will noticed a stone squeeze stile on your right.

Ashford-in-the Water walk to Monsal Head

3. Follow this footpath, then cross the road, picking up the footpath almost immediately opposite.

Ashford-in-the Water walk to Monsal Head

4. Continue along this footpath to Longstone Lane. Cross the road and pick up the footpath again on the other side of the road.

Ashford-in-the Water walk to Monsal Head
Ashford-in-the Water walk to Monsal Head

5. This then leads you on up on to the Monsal Trail.

Ashford-in-the Water walk to Monsal Head

6. When you reach the Monsal Trail, take a left and after 600 metres you will start walking through the Headstone Tunnel. This is 400 metres long. Keep left and watch out for cyclists. This does get busy during weekend and holidays.

Ashford-in-the Water walk to Monsal Head
Ashford-in-the Water walk to Monsal Head

7. Once you emerge from the tunnel, walk to the Headstone Viaduct to check out the views down into the dale. Then backtrack towards the tunnel. Just before the tunnel, when facing the tunnel, you will notice a little footpath on your left. Follow this footpath up to the view point at the top. This is a good place to have a picnic overlooking the view, or pick up an ice-cream from the van, or perhaps treat yourself you lunch in The Stables Bar (although pre-booking a table is advised).

Ashford-in-the Water walk to Monsal Head

8. Return to where you exited from the footpath and take a left. After about 50 metres, there is a fork in the footpath. Take the footpath on the left.

Ashford-in-the Water walk to Monsal Head

9. Continue along this footpath for 1km until you reach a wooden bench. Here, take the footpath signposted left.

Ashford-in-the Water walk to Monsal Head

10. After 400 metres there is a footpath sign on the left. Ignore this and continue walking straight ahead, following the lane back into Ashford-in-the-Water.

Ashford-in-the Water walk to Monsal Head

11. When you reach the road, take a right. You could follow the road back to the car park. But if the kids want to go to the playground, take the road on the left (Hill Cross) and then the footpath on the right which leads to the playground. The car park is the other side of the village green.


Peak District Kids is a free online resource. If you enjoyed this walk, you can show your support by buying me a coffee. Thanks so much!

Want more ideas for family walks?
Check out our Best Family Walks in the Peak District
or come and join our friendly Peak District Kids Facebook Group

You may also like to read:
Monsal Head circular walk (2.4 km)
Cycle the Monsal Trail with kids
Cressbrook Dale woodland walk (1.8km)

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