As a venue to get into riding bikes and enjoying them with the family, the Monsal Trail takes some beating. Following the path of old Midland Railway, it crisscrosses the River Wye as it flows from Buxton towards Bakewell. In 2011, as part of £2.5 million Peak District investment, the connecting tunnels were renovated and opened to the public completing an 8 km route. As a result of the Victorians' hard work and modern investment we now have a lovely, level, traffic free, surfaced trail to be enjoyed while admiring the glorious scenery.
Accessibility is the key asset: with two bike hire shops on the trail, at Hassop Station at one end and Blackwell Mill at the other, you don’t even need to own a bike to enjoy the trail. You can start anywhere you choose – just don’t forget you need to ride there and back. It is immensely popular and can be very busy at peak times, but don’t let that put you off. Just choose when you go or arm yourself with a smile and enjoy the experience along with everyone else. The trail is shared with walkers, horse riders and is wheelchair accessible so keep your speed down and your eyes open.
There are several highlights along the route whichever direction you choose to tackle it. Enjoy the waterfall at Water Cum-Jolly and the stunning Monsal Head viaduct. Should you become particularly keen, do enter the annual Monsal Hill Climb race and pit yourself against the best local roadies. The industrial heritage of the water-driven mills is clear to see, as are the numerous lime kilns. If you venture just of the trail there are also many nature reserves to enjoy.
Part of the attraction of the trail is riding through the numerous tunnels, the longest of which is nearly half a kilometre long. Each is lit during normal day light hours, so pack lights if you plan on a late approach. Although the route has been open to the public since 1981 these tunnels are a latter addition funded by a grant from the Department of Transport.
To make the most of the trail as you ride along, just make sure you keep one eye on where you’re going and the other on what’s around you.