This Monsal Head walk is a classic Peak District walk and perfect if you’re just looking for a casual Sunday afternoon stroll.
Iconic Monsal Head is where the impressive Headstone Viaduct, which forms part of the Monsal Trail, straddles the verdant Monsal Dale and the River Wye meanders aimlessly through. This short and circular Monsal Head walk takes you past all these highlights!
Starting from the main view point by the Monsal Head Hotel, follow the footpath down into the dale to Monsal Weir, then across the other side of the River Wye to walk along its banks and to walk right underneath the Headstone Viaduct. Follow along the river little more, so then cross back over and climb back up to Monsal Head view point.
This walk is sometimes referred to as the ‘Monsal Head waterfall walk’, as the route leads you down to the weir (small waterfall) along the River Wye.
Footwear with good grip is essential as this walk can get very muddy in wet weather, and arrive early to secure parking during weekends and school holidays as this Peak District walk is one of the most popular hotspots of the National Park.
If you’re looking for a longer circular Monsal Head walk, read our Ashford-in-the-Water walk to Monsal Head (6.2km).
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If you are planning a 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.
During the winter months, it’s important to be extra prepared and safe when out walking and adventuring in the Peak District. The weather can change so quickly, especially on the exposed escarpments, and we don’t want you to get caught out.
Read our top tips for safe winter walking with the kids.
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 provided for every walk, or what3words.
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.
Download and print out our walking guides ready for your family walk. There are over 80 downloadable walk guides available, and these include all the main Peak District family walks, pram-friendly walks, and toddler walks.
Each printable download is just £1.50, whether it’s a short 1km stroll or an epic walk up Kinder Scout.
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.
|The Peak District: White Peak Area Map | Weatherproof | Peak…||£14.75||Buy on Amazon|
This short Monsal Head walk follows the below map in a clockwise direction starting from the pay and display car park behind the Monsal Head Hotel.
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.
Need to know
DISTANCE OF WALK: 2.4km (1.5 miles)
TYPE OF WALK: A circular walk, with a descent to the River Wye and a short steep ascent back up to the view point at the end. Can get muddy in wet weather.
PARKING: Pay and display car park at Monsal Head car park, next to the Monsal Head Hotel. Click here for Google Map point on your phone. Postcode is: DE45 1NL.
WALK HIGHLIGHTS: Amazing views of Headstone Viaduct across Monsal Dale, an impressive weir, and you walk right underneath the viaduct too. There’s also a little river-beach to play on just past the weir.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE: Without kids this would be a 1 hour walk, but with young kids, allow a good 1.5-2 hours.
STILE: One squeeze stile.
TOTAL ASCENT: 85 metres
PUBLIC TOILETS: There are toilets at the Monsal Head car park (cash or online donation to use). The Stables Bar next to the Monsal Head Hotel is a characterful rustic pub for a drink and bite to eat after your walk. There’s also an ice-cream van here (cards accepted), which is usually open weekends and school holidays.
START: Monsal Head car park
Click here for Google Map point
Grid reference: SK 1845 7155
Post code: DE45 1NL
Route follows a clockwise direction.
1. From the Monsal Head car park, head to the view point in between The Stables Bar and Longstone Bar (which is part of Monsal Head Hotel). On the other side of the road is a small short-stay car park. Follow the road around to the left of the car park, to the Monsal Head viewpoint. Take a moment to appreciate the fantastic view.
2. From the viewpoint, follow the footpath to the left (signposted ‘Ashford Monsal Dale’), which leads downhill.
3. After 50 metres the path splits in two. Take the footpath on the right that leads through the woodland and down towards the River Wye. Be careful with your footing as there are tree roots and stumps that stick up along the footpath and there is a steep drop to the right.
4. Continue along this footpath for 800 metres. It can get quite muddy and slippy along here, so take care as you make your way downhill. Just before you reach Monsal Weir you will walk through a wooden gate. You will hear the water gushing over Monsal Weir before you see it. It’s just on your right after the gate.
5. Continue along the footpath for another 100 metres and walk over the footbridge to cross over the River Wye. Once you’re over the other side, there is a small beach area of the river for the kids to play in the mud/sand to the left.
6. From the footbridge, turn right and follow the footpath towards the viaduct, with the River Wye on your right, soon walking through a wooden gate. Please note that swimming and paddling in the river here is not permitted and fencing has been erected to protect Monsal Weir. Click here for our recommended paddling and wild swimming spots in the Peak District. As you approach the Headstone Viaduct, you will spot people cycling along the top, this is the Monsal Trail.
7. As you approach the base of the Headstone Viaduct, climb through the stone squeeze stile that takes you right underneath. It’s not until you stand right underneath it that you can appreciate its sheer size.
8. Continue along the footpath that veers to the left for 200 metres, until you reach another footbridge on your right to cross back over the other side of the River Wye.
9. Walk to the left of the buildings and through the gate.
10. At the end of the farm building, once you’re through the gate, take the footpath on the right. Follow this path for 380 metres. This gradually leads you back up to the main viewpoint where this circular Monsal Head walk began.
After your Monsal Head walk
Time for an ice-cream from the van or a pint in the Stable Bar. Alternatively, just a three minute drive down the road to Ashford-in-the-Water, is Thornbridge Gardens with a café and outdoor play area where kids can paddle in the fountain and hook a rubber duck, plus the stunning gardens to explore.
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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
Also, come and join our friendly Peak District Kids Facebook Group for any questions or to share photos of your walks.