Offering sweeping views of the Derby Dales, exciting viaducts and tunnels, interesting history and excellent food options, the Monsal Trail really is the perfect family bike ride!
The Monsal Trail is an 8.5 mile cycling/walking/horse-riding path along the former Midland Railway line in Derbyshire, an English county that includes some of the most beautiful landscapes in the Peak District.
How to cycle the Monsal Trail
The Monsal Trail start and finish is between Blackwell Mill and the charming town of Bakewell. We started from Bakewell but you can ride from either end and there are a number of Monsal Trail access points, for example at Hassop Station, Monsal Head and Miller’s Dale.
Because we only have one car, Mr Wandering Kiwi sped back along the trail on his bike and brought the car to collect Wandering Kiwi Jr and I, who spent a pleasant hour sitting beside the stream and watching the antics of the ducks.
Make sure you leave plenty of time to cycle this rail trail because there are so many interesting places to stop and sights to see along the way. It’s not just about the cycling! As well as the Monsal Head Viaduct and the six tunnels (great for whooping), there are bridges and views of several historic cotton mills. As you pass Cressbrook Mill watch out for the information board that has recorded accounts of working conditions in the 19th Century.
At Miller’s Dale you can read more about what was once a bustling railway junction on the London to Manchester line. There was a thriving community and quarrying and lime burning added to the industry in the region. The lime kilns alongside the track are now wildlife havens.
Also learn more about the geology of this area, with the limestone landscape formed over 300 million years ago when much of Britain was covered in a shallow sub tropical sea.
Monsal Trail abseiling
If you want a more adrenalin-filled activity try Monsal Trail abseiling: at bridge No. 75 in Miller’s Dale you can abseil the 24 metres (80ft) down to the river bank of the Wye River below. Talk to Thornbridge Outdoors education centre about doing this with a professional.
Monsal Trail cycle hire
I saw all sorts of bikes on the trail, and yes you can do the Monsal Trail on a road bike. I even saw a kid on a scooter. The path is smooth and level – perfect conditions for the whole family.
Right next to the Hassop Station café is a large Monsal Trail bike hire shop with plenty of options from hybrid mountain bikes to kiddy trailers.
There is also Blackwell Mill Cycle Hire and there are a number of bike hire options in Bakewell.
Monsal Trail cafes
The Hassop Station café serves a wide range of hearty and healthy food and drinks. There is indoor seating and a terrace overlooking the trail so you can watch cyclists cruising past. This is where you will see the most walkers as people often stroll from Bakewell to Hassop Station and back.
There is a very sweet Monsal Trail café by Miller’s Dale Station serving cream teas and ice cream and more. Finally, there is a tea hut / refreshments kiosk at Blackwell Mill.
Monsal Trail map
Take a look at the Monsal Trail map to get an idea of how many interesting things there are to see and do along the way. You’ll find more information on cycling this rail trail on the Sustrans national cycle network website.
The rail trail is open all year around. I hope you enjoy this amazing family bike ride as much as we did!
By Natasha von Geldern