The view from Monsal Head, looking across the deep valley carved by the River Wye and the spectacular Headstone Viaduct, is one of the most popular in the Peak District.
Those tempted to walk down to the bridge will be rewarded by beautiful scenery and a fascinating glimpse at the industrial past that shaped the landscape.
The viaduct was built in 1863 by the Midland Railway, as part of the railway line linking Buxton and Bakewell. The railway both began and ended in controversy. It is now regarded as an elegant, imposing structure that leads the eye down through the valley, but when it was built it was considered to be an eyesore that destroyed the valley.
Writer John Ruskin famously commented at the time:
"The valley is gone, and the Gods with it; and now, every fool in Buxton can be in Bakewell in half an hour, and every fool in Bakewell at Buxton; which you think a lucrative process of exchange - you Fools everywhere."
The railway line was one of those which were the subject of Dr Beeching's cuts in the 1950's. The long tunnels which cut through the rock at Monsal Head, Cressbrook and Litton were boarded up and closed for many years. It wasn't until 2011 that the tunnels were re-opened to the public and the Monsal Trail became a family friendly cycle way.
Nowadays, there are lovely walks beside the River Wye that take visitors past huge former cotton mills at Cressbrook and Litton. The latter in particular was notorious during the industrial times for poor working conditions for children who worked in the mill. Today, both buildings have been converted into apartments and nature has reclaimed the peaceful valley. The delightfully named Water-Cum-Jolly Dale is a haven for birdlife below the limestone cliffs, whilst the river is famous for being the only river in the UK with wild rainbow trout as well as wild brown trout. Fly fishing is a popular sport here and was recently featured on the popular TV programme Gone Fishing starring Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse.
Explore Monsal Dale on our Peak District Tours
Monsal Head is a very popular stop on several of our range of private tours of the Peak District. Visitors can choose whether to enjoy the view from the top, or from the comfort of the local tea room, or to walk down to the viaduct and the river and explore the valley itself. The following tours include the opportunity to visit Monsal Dale.
All off our tours are available for small groups of 1 to 6 passengers and are suitable for all ages and levels of fitness.