The Monsal Trail, The Peak District

Our last full day away was the Platty Jubes Friday and we chose to spend it on the Monsal Trail. The Trail is set on what used to be a train line, more specifically the train line was in the path of what was hoped to be a Manchester to London line in the 19th Century. Tunnels were dug through the peaks and the Monsal Viaduct was completed in 1863.

The train line transported passengers for over 100 years, and Miller’s Dale Station was at the beginning of the line taking tourists to the spa town of Buxton. The line closed in 1968, later being acquired and reopened by the Peak District National Park Authority as a recreational path in 1981. In 2011, the tunnels on the Monsal Trail were opened and lit, as part of the initiative of making the trail and national parks more accessible for cyclists. Which is exactly what we were interested in.

We knew from our research before the trip that the Monsal Trail had bike hires available to visitors from Hassop Station and for as long as I can remember, Bearded Boyfriend has been hoping for us to try out electric bikes. With my health, the idea of riding a bike again has always felt like a far-off dream or fantasy. It seemed so far from a possibility for me -until I started looking into electric bikes a bit more and it weren’t until we were away that I thought ‘lets give this a go‘. We did an all-day hire, knowing that my need for constant breaks and ‘going-slow‘ would add on a lot of time!

The trail was so lovely. We started at Hassop Station and set off for our adventurous day. With gorgeous views and remnants of a bygone age in the form of the Cotton Mills and the Lime Kilns, it made for such a lovely day. Going along the trail and suddenly realising that you’re going passed a train platform, your shoulders level with the platform was quite surreal. We went passed many train platforms, nature having reclaimed it with grass and weeds growing through its cracks. It definitely had a The Last of Us feel -except it was holiday weekend and there were people around!

One of my favourite parts of the day was going through the tunnels. While the train tracks had been removed, the stones to the edge were still there so you had to be careful not to veer off course or you might find yourself face-planting fairly quickly. They also say not to touch the walls of the tunnel due to remaining residue. I just loved going through them. It’s not often you can just wander through a railway tunnel –without trespassing! Some of the tunnels were fairly long and for that reason they were lit, while others like the Chee Tor tunnels and the Rusher Cutting tunnel were short and not lit -but still completely safe. In terms of accessibility, the whole trail is accessible to those in wheelchairs or scooters. The trail is quite level and due to its original use of being a railroad, there’s no inclines which make it so much easier to simply enjoy.

One of our stops was at Miller’s Dale Station, which has been made into a cafe and refreshment room. It is so quaint with picnic tables and benches set along platform. We took advantage of the cafe and enjoyed some cold drinks and indulged in some bacon sandwiches which were much-needed. I always love going to places like this. Those buildings that were once used for something completely different but have been saved and changed for another purpose rather than knocked down and entirely lost.

We had also heard about some stepping stones, just off the Monsal Trail and had hoped to have made it there but my body just couldn’t handle that too. We still needed to make it back to the Station and while we had a lot of time to still do that, we knew that we also wanted to have a restful evening and an early night before we packed up the next day. With that in mind, we made it back to Hassop Station and after a well-welcomed tea and a GF/DF slice of carrot cake, I was rewarded with the gift shop. I had already noticed in the morning that the shop had a big selection of cards and books so I was really looking forward to perusing its goods. This is where I found a complete gem of a book –Love That Journey For Me: The Queer Revolution of Schitt’s Creek which I have a post about here.

After the Monsal Trail, we then had a brief stop at a bookstore and then headed off to a pub right by the Trail near Miller’s Dale. While I can’t remember the name of the pub, it was so picturesque. It had the type of decor you’d expect from a quintessential countryside pub and had such a great area outside, along the side of the stream. After dinner we sat outside enjoying our final evening, I finished writing our postcards while Bearded Boyfriend went off to see how close to the Trail we were. It was the perfect day to finish our time away.

I’d highly recommend the Monsal Trail if ever you’re in the Peak District. It’s such a great day out and so accessible for everyone, from wheelchairs to prams, etc. I know the Peak District has a few popular cycling routes but this was the only one we checked out this time around.

Cheerio for now!

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