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

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. Alternatively, you may want to make this a longer walk, and connect it with our 7km Bakewell to Ashford-in-the-Water walk.

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When planning your visit to the National Park, please arrive early or late in the day to avoid crowds if visiting over sunny weekends or school holidays. Please also take all litter home with you, don’t bring BBQs, and park your car in designated parking areas. Also, please use these walks as a guide; access and stiles may change.

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PARKING INFORMATION: Please do not rely solely on the postcode for parking directions. In the National Park, a postcode can cover a large area. Postcodes are only provided as guidance. Please either use the Google Maps point or what3words, which are provided on every walk guide.

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 walk

Ashford in the Water to Monsal Head circular walk map

On all Peak District family walks it’s a good idea to have an Ordnance Survey paper map with you, even if you have your phone on you. For this walk you need the OS Explorer Active Map OL 24 (White Peak). It’s also a good opportunity to show young kids the map features and get them started with map reading.

This Ashford in the Water walk to Monsal Head follows the below OS Map in an anti-clockwise direction.

© Crown copyright 2024 OS AC0000861980

Get a printable download of this walk

Want to print off this walk guide rather than rely on your mobile? Then click here to download the PDF to print out at home. Perhaps print out a copy for the kids to follow the step-by-step directions and/or photos? It’s a great way to get them engaged with the walk and gives them a sense of responsibility.

All printable downloads are £1.50 each. Click here for the full list of Peak District Kids printable downloads.

Please note that your download link expires 72 hours from order, so make sure you save your PDF somewhere where you’ll remember it. If you are unsure where your download folder is on your mobile device, we recommend you download the PDF on your laptop or desktop.

Need to know

DISTANCE OF WALK: 6.2km / 3.9 miles

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 along Vicarage Lane. However, do note that 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.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT: The Bakewell-Castleton bus (173), the Transpeak (TP2) Matlock-Buxton bus, and the Peak Sightseer hop-on-hop-off bus all stop at Ashford-in-the-Water.

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 2.5 hour walk. Allow at least 3.5 hours with young kids.

ACCESSIBILTY: Lots of stiles. Not pram friendly.

TOTAL ASCENT: 202 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. 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.

Ashford-in-the-Water car park
Ashford-in-the-Water car park

The route

START: Ashford-in-the-Water Car Park
Click here for Google Map point
Grid reference: SK 1942 6977
Post code: DE45 1QG
what3words: ///highly.defender.cherish

Route follows an anticlockwise direction.

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

Ashford-in-the-Water to Monsal Head walk

2. Walk up Vicarage Lane for 380m, and as you come out of the village you will noticed a stone squeeze stile on your right. This is signposted just before the actual footpath.

Ashford-in-the-Water to Monsal Head walk

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

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

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

Ashford-in-the-Water to Monsal Head walk

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. Kids may want to walk along the step on the far left. This does get busy during weekend and holidays.

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 to Monsal Head walk

8. Looking out at the viewpoint over Monsal Dale (or rather, just continue onwards), take the footpath on the left. After about 50 metres, there is a fork in the footpath. Take the footpath on the left.

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

Ashford-in-the-Water to Monsal Head walk

10. After 500m the footpath takes an obvious left and then right through wooden gates. Shortly after this the footpath splits. Take the footpath going straight ahead, which leads all the way back down into the village of Ashford-in-the-Water.

Ashford-in-the-Water to Monsal Head walk

11. When you reach the road, take a right. You could follow the road back down 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. Want to keep walking? Then try add on Bakewell to Ashford in the Water walk.

After your walk

There are a couple of pubs and a café to choose from in Ashford-in-the-Water. Alternatively, head to the superb Thornbridge Gardens and Café where there’s an outdoor play area and beautiful gardens to explore. Kids will love hooking a rubber duck in the fountain.


Peak District Kids is a free online resource. If you have found this website useful for planning your family adventures, you can show your support by buying me a coffee. Thanks so much!

Also, feel free to share your walk photos in our Peak District Kids Facebook Group or on Instagram using the #peakdistrictkids hashtag so we can share with our wider community.

Or perhaps purchase a Peak District Kids iron-on patch. £1 from every sale of the iron-on patches goes towards the Peak District National Park Foundation, a registered charity established to raise funds to care for the Peak District National Park.

Want more ideas for family walks?
Best Family Walks in the Peak District
Pram Friendly Peak District walks
Toddler walks in the Peak District


Or, use the search walks page to find your perfect family walk.

Also, come and join our friendly Peak District Kids Facebook Group for any questions or to share photos of your walks.

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)