Monsal Head is one of the most iconic beauty spots of the Peak District. This 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, this short Monsal Head walk leads you down into the dale to Monsal Weir, then across the other side of the River Wye to emerge under the Headstone Viaduct, with a climb back up to the view point. As this walk loops to the weir along the River Wye, we sometimes call this the ‘Monsal Head waterfall walk’. 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 is a Peak District walk is popular with hikers.
If you’re looking for a longer circular Monsal Head walk, read our Ashford-in-the-Water walk to Monsal Head (6.2km).
If you are planning a visit to the National Park, please arrive early or late in the day to avoid crowds. 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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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.
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 OL24 (White Peak). It’s also a good opportunity to show young kids the map features and get them started with map reading.
This short Monsal Head walk follows the below map in a clockwise direction.
Need to know
DISTANCE OF WALK: 2.4km
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.
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 beach to play on just past the weir.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE: Without kids this would be a 45 minute walk, but as always we take our time with the boys and this walk took us closer to 1.5 hours.
STILE: Only one stile.
TOTAL ASCENT: 133 metres
PUBLIC TOILETS: There are toilets at the 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 after your walk. There’s also an ice-cream van here, which is usually open weekends and school holidays.
These route directions follow the above OS Map in a clockwise direction, starting from Monsal Head car park.
1. From the car park, head to the view point in between The Stables Bar and Monsal Head Hotel. On the other side of the road is a small short-stay car park. Take a moment to appreciate the fantastic view.
2. Cross the road to the footpath sign and follow the footpath to the left.
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 until you reach the weir (you will hear it before you see it).
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.
6. Turn right and follow the footpath towards the viaduct, with the River Wye on your right.
7. You can take one of the footpaths on the left up the bank, which leads up and onto the Monsal Trail. However, this walk continues alongside the River Wye and takes you right underneath the Headstone Viaduct. 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 to cross back over the other side of the River Wye.
9. Walk to the left of the buildings and through the gate.
10. Immediately after the gate, next to the building, is a footpath on the right hand side. Follow this path for 380 metres. This leads you back up to the main viewpoint where this circular Monsal Head walk began.
11. 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.
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! You may also want to share your own photos of this walk in our Peak District Kids Facebook Group.
Or purchase the Peak District Kids iron-on patch! £1 from every sale goes towards the Peak District National Park Foundation, a registered charity established to raise funds to care for The Peak District National Park.
Peak District Kids iron-on patchesProduct on sale