One of the most visited beauty spots in the Peak District National Park, Monsal Head consists of a small cluster of guest houses, a hotel and a scattering of cottages and farms.Ancient tracks and paths lead off in all directions from Monsal Head, making this area a stunning and accessible location for walkers, cyclists and horse riders. It is also popular with visitors who prefer to take in the spectacular views whilst relaxing over a pint from the local Stables Bar or a pot of tea at the adjacent tearoom. Very often there is an ice cream van at Monsal Head which has a permanent queue on hot summer days!
Over a hundred years ago a visitor to the area was so inspired by her visit that she wrote the following:
“And Monsal, thou mine of Arcadian treasure
Need we seek for Greek Islands and spice-laden gales
While a temple like thine of enchantment and pleasure
May be found in our own native Derbyshire Dales?”
The area around Monsal Head was originally known as Headstone Head. It was really with the arrival of the railway back in the 1800’s that Monsal Head acquired its new name. The railway viaduct in the valley below is one of Derbyshire’s most famous landmarks and was granted a preservation order in 1970. There are paths from Monsal Head leading down the hillside into the dale with fabulous walks beside the river either downstream towards Ashford or upstream to Cressbrook, followed by an idyllic riverside path at Water-Cum-Jolly. A spectacular weir with cascading waterfalls is situated just beyond the viaduct as well as deep pools where fish hide away to avoid the hooks and lines of fishermen who can sometimes be seen beside the banks of the Wye.
A short drive from Monsal Head takes you to Ashford-in-the-Water, a picture postcard village with chocolate box pretty cottages and an ancient sheepwash bridge. A few miles drive north of Monsal Head and you will leave behind the rich pasture and limestone walls of the White Peak and enter the more dramatic landscape of the Dark Peak with its gritstone escarpments and high moors.