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Top 5 Monsal Trail circular walks

Top 5 Monsal Trail circular walks

The Monsal Trail is arguably the most popular cycle track and flat walking route in the Peak District due to its accessibility. But if you step away from the main trail, you will escape the crowds and discover some incredible beauty spots, including Chee Dale Stepping Stones and Monsal Weir.

Here we have compiled our favourite Monsal Trail circular walks. Because let’s be honest, a circular walk is always more interesting than a linear walk.

Planning to cycle the Monsal Trail? Then read our guide: Cycle the Monsal Trail with kids

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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.

The history of the Monsal Trail

The Monsal Trail runs along the former Midland Railway line for 13.5 km between Chee Dale (just a couple of miles from Buxton) and Coombs Road in Bakewell. It follows a section of the former Manchester, Buxton, Matlock and Midlands Junction Railway, built by Midland Railway in 1863 to link Manchester with London. The line was closed in 1968, and remained unused for twelve years before being taken over by the Peak District National Park authority.

In 1981 the section from Bakewell to Chee Dale was opened as a pedestrian way. However the tunnels had to remain closed for safety reasons and footpaths made for people to walk around them. It wasn’t until 2009 that work started on re-opening the tunnels. The tunnels opened in May 2011 at a cost of £2.25 million to allow pedestrians, cyclists, horses, and wheel chair uses to travel the full length along the old railway track.

Further funding and planning permission is being sought to extend the route into Buxton.

Read on for our Monsal Trail circular walks…

1. Monsal Head circular walk – 2.4km

Read the full details of the Monsal Head circular walk here
Click here for start point

Printable walk guide

Monsal Head is one of the most iconic beauty spots of the Peak District and the most popular stop along the Monsal Trail. 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.

Our short Monsal Head circular walk actually goes over, around and under the Monsal Trail. You don’t actually walk along the Monsal Trail at all!

Start from the main view point by the Monsal Head Hotel, down into the dale to the weir, then across the other side of the River Wye to emerge under the viaduct, with a climb back up to the view point.

© Crown copyright 2024 OS AC0000861980

2. Bakewell pram-friendly walk – 3.8km

Read the full details of the Bakewell pram-friendly walk
Click here for start point

Printable walk guide

Bakewell pram-friendly walk

This easy-going, pram-friendly walk starts in Bakewell town centre by Weir Bridge and leads you up to the very start of the Monsal Trail and along to Bakewell station (disused), before returning back into town.

You can extend the walk at Bakewell Station and continue along the Monsal Trail to Hassop Station (also disused), where there is a lovely café and small play area. This adds 3.4km, there and back, to the total distance of this walk.

The route is a mix of tarmac and gravel paths, suitable for pushchairs. Although, please be mindful of cars along Coombs Road (the quiet lane that leads you up from Bakewell to the Monsal Trail) and then of bikes when you’re on the Monsal Trail (keep to the left, especially on busy weekend and school holiday days).

Once back in Bakewell, you can perhaps finish with a Bakewell Pudding or a pint of local ale in one of Bakewell’s (no less than) nine pubs.

© Crown copyright 2024 OS AC0000861980

3. Chee Dale – 5km

Read the full details of the Chee Dale walk here
Click here for start point 
Printable walk guide

Chee Dale stepping stones walk

Sheltered beneath the Monsal Trail, is the peaceful nature reserve of Chee Dale where the River Wye meanders through a deep limestone gorge, and two sets of stepping stones provide access to walkers through the dale.

Our Chee Dale Stepping Stones walk starts from Millers Dale and leads you down into the verdant gorge where you need to navigate stepping stones along the limestone walls, before climbing back up to the Monsal Trail and walking through the long tunnels.

In heavy rain, the Chee Dale Stepping Stones are often submerged in water, so plan this walk for when the weather has been dry and perhaps check in our Facebook group for an update. Also, the footpath along the river is rocky and very uneven in places (with a couple of spots where you may need to slide on your bum), so those with little ones in a carrier may find it tricky in places.

Chee Dale walk OS Map
© Crown copyright 2024 OS AC0000861980

4. Cressbrook Mill to Litton Mill – 5.5km

Read the full details of the Cressbrook Mill walk here
Click here for start point

Cressbrook to Litton pram friendly walk

This pram friendly Monsal Trail circular walk starts at Cressbrook Mill and follows the winding River Wye through the valley to Litton Mill and back along the Monsal Trail. The first half takes you through the steep-sided dale of Water-cum-Jolly with its impressive limestone crags. Whilst the second half loops you back along the trail overlooking the breath-taking valley and river you’ve just walked along. There’s also a couple of tunnels to walk through which the kids always love.

Please note, this is one of our trickier pram-friendly walks. During and after wet weather, the footpath along the river can be very muddy. There are also two small sets of steps leading to an uphill and slightly rocky path to the Monsal Trail. It’s doable, just be prepared.

© Crown copyright 2024 OS AC0000861980

5. Ashford-in-the-Water walk to Monsal Head – 6.2km

Read the full details of the Ashford-in-the-Water walk to Monsal Head here
Click here for start point

Printable walk guide

Ashford-in-the-Water to Monsal Head walk

Ashford-in-the-Water is a picture-postcard village in the heart of the Peak District and this Monsal Trail circular walk leads you up to the Monsal Trail across the fields, through the Headstone Tunnel, over the top to the viewpoint, and back to the village.

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.

© Crown copyright 2024 OS AC0000861980

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:
Cycle the Monsal Trail
Bamford Edge walk
Thorpe Cloud walk