The Monsal Trail is a stunning, family-friendly cycle route in the Peak District National Park. Cycling the Monsal Trail makes a great family day out, as it is traffic- free and offers spectacular views over the Derbyshire countryside.
The Monsal Trail is a perfect bike route for kids, as it follows a disused railway line and is flat. Children will love cycling through the dark tunnels and everyone can enjoy the nature and views.
This perfect guide to cycling the Monsal Trail will help you plan your own bike ride. Discover information on where to start, bike rental, directions and what to expect on your bike ride.
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What is the Monsal Trail?
The Monsal Trail is a cycling, walking and bridal trail in the Peak District National Park. The trail follows the route of the former London to Manchester Railway, built by the Midland Railway in 1863.
The railway was closed in 1968, but was partly re-opened as a trail path in 1981. However, at the start, only the 2 shorter tunnels (Chee Tor No.2 and Rusher Cutting) were accessible.
From 2011, the four remaining tunnels (Headstone Tunnel, Cressbrook Tunnel, Litton Tunnel, Chee Tor Tunnel) also opened to the public. Nowadays the whole trail was now accessible and has become one of the most popular cycling and walking routes in the Peak District.
Where does the Monsal Trail start?
You can start the Monsal Trail at Topley Pike Junction in Wye Vale (4 miles South of Buxton) or at the other end by Combs Viaduct, (about mile from Bakewell).
Where can you hire bikes?
We started our cycle ride at the Bakewell end, so hired our bikes at Hassop Station Cycle Hire & Cafe. (The Postcode for Hassop Station is DE45 1NW). The cycle hire shop has an extensive range of adults and kids bikes and cycle equipment. Prices vary, depending on how long you need it, but seemed reasonable.
The cycle shop were very helpful in finding the right size bikes for each of us. And, pretty soon we had our bikes and helmets and were ready for a quick practice in the car park.
We hired bikes for 4 hours, which costs £16 for adults and £12 for juniors. They provided us with a Monsal Trail map, but you can’t really get lost as it is a very simple trail.
If you want to cycle from the other end of the Monsal trail, go to Blackwell Mill Cycle Hire and park in the Wye Dale Car Park. The Wye Dale Car Park is just off the A6, opposite the Topley Pike Aggregate Quarry. One of the advantages of this bike hire shop is that you have a fixed price for the whole day.
The cycle route
The Monsal trail is about 8 ½ miles each way. It follows the route of the River Wye and takes you through spectacular Derbyshire scenery.
The trail passes through six tunnels, which are great fun for kids to cycle through. There are four long railway tunnels, which are about 400 metres in length and two shorter tunnels. The tunnels are lit during daylight hours.
This historic route will also pass Litton Mill and Cressbrook Mill, both former cotton mills from the 18th Century. You can stop at the information boards along the route, giving accounts of what the mills were used for in their day.
One of the most amazing sights on the Monsal Trail is the Headstone Viaduct at Monsal Head. It is a stunning piece of architecture and stands high above the River Wye. It is definitely worth a stop for the magnificent views across the Wye valley.
Once we got to the Wye Vale End, the trail stops, so we turned and came back.
We cycled back past our starting point at Hassop Station to the final destination of Bakewell, just so we had completed the full trail. Bakewell is a traditional village famed for its Bakewell tart. We visited on our way home, after dropping the bikes off.
Monsal Trail Map
There is a café attached to the cycle shop at Hassop Station at the start of the Monsal Trail. You could stock up here or stop for refreshments on your return. They also have an interesting gift shop.
Alternatively, you could stop at The Refreshment Room Café in Millers Dale Station mid route. This is the former railway building and serves a great selection of home-made cakes and ice-creams.
Of you are starting at the Wye Valley End, head for Blackwell Mill’s Lazy Days Tuck Shop for some provisions before you set off.
The Monsal Trail is a great family cycle route, as it is flat, safe and traffic-free. It also offers some of the most spectacular scenery.
If you are cycling with younger kids, the full route is fairly long, but you can obviously turn back at any point.
The Monsal Trail tunnels provide an element of fun for younger cyclists and there are amazing views along the way. In addition, you can learn something about the history and geology of the route from the information boards along the trail.
Pin for Later: Cycle the Monsal Trail, Derbyshire