The Monsal Trail in the Peak District is a 8.5 mile-long trail from Bakewell to Wyedale running along the former Midland Railway line, which closed in 1968. To create the current Trail, four tunnels along the route were renovated and reopened in 2011, with access ramps and lighting to create a safe and relatively level trail for walkers, cyclists, and horseriders. The Trail follows the course of the river Wye, taking in some spectacular scenery alongside reminders of the history of the Peaks.
Millers Dale is a valley (and tiny hamlet) on the B6049 between Tideswell and the A6. Much of the area is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and it’s a popular spot for visitors, with the car park at the now-disused station filling up rapidly on busy days!
At one time there were five platforms at Millers Dale, and the station seems very large for such a small hamlet. The reason for this is quite simple however – anyone wishing to travel to the spa town of Buxton had to change here. At one time this was an extremely busy line with both passenger and freight traffic, but the Beeching Report of 1962 sounded the death knell for the Midland Railway line. There’s some great information about the glory days of Millers Dale and the Midland Railway here.
The station building itself is now a visitor centre, providing toilet facilities and refreshments. Pay and display parking is available – there isn’t really anywhere else to park in Millers Dale as the hamlet is built into the sides of the valley. I’d suggest arriving early at weekends and during holiday periods, but generally it’s reasonably quiet. From the station the visitor has a choice of heading east or west along the Trail. Taking the eastern route leads down to the Chee Tor tunnels (1 & 2).
The tunnels are lit dawn to dusk but the Park Authority do recommend taking a torch if you’re there early or late in the day, as the lights are sensor-activated. The level of lighting inside the tunnel is good and the tunnel is wide enough not to be too claustrophobic.
Not far from Millers Dale stand the East Buxton Lime Kilns. Cut into solid rock, the Lime Works was opened in 1880, with the concrete buttresses added in the 1920s. Limestone was brought in from nearby quarries and hauled up an incline to the kilns to produce quicklime, which was then shipped out by rail. At one time the kilns produced over 50 tonnes of quicklime a day.
The last kiln closed in 1944, and today the site is a nature reserve. The kilns can be viewed from the Trail, and a short walk up an incline takes you to the top of the Works where the limestone was brought in.
The Monsal Trail is a great route for a day out walking or cycling – bikes can be hired at either end of the Trail at Hassop or Blackwell Mill. It’s not a particularly challenging route, the path is wide and well-cleared, there are accessible facilities, and there’s plenty to explore in the surrounding area too.