The Monsal Head Walk is one of the most popular routes in the Peak District. In this guide, I share the details of this beautiful circular walk to Monsal Head, as well as all the essential information you’ll need before visiting.
Monsal Head is considered one of the most beautiful viewpoints in the Peak District National Park. Overlooking the jaw-dropping Monsal Valley with easy access to the Monsal Trail and other walking routes, it’s not too difficult to see why.
While it is possible to enjoy a gorgeous circular walk to Monsal Head, the trail might be tricky for those who are less abled on their feet. Thankfully the viewpoint is also accessible by car, meaning that almost everybody can enjoy the iconic sweeping views.
In this guide, I talk you through this relatively easy Peak District walk to Monsal Head. I’ll include all the important waypoints for you to look out for, as well as parking information, maps, and the best time to visit.
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This Monsal Head Walk at a Glance
Time: < 1 hour
Monsal Head Circular Walk FAQs
Before I share my experience tackling this Monsal Head circular walk, let’s cover some key information to help you plan accordingly.
How to Get There
This Monsal Head walking route starts and finishes at the Monsal Head Hotel. If you’re travelling by car, a pay and display car park is directly next door. Click Here for the Google Maps location.
If you would prefer a longer, more challenging route, you might look at walking from Bakewell or Buxton, which are both accessible via the Monsal Trail.
Reaching Monsal Head by bus is also an option. The 173 service runs from Bakewell to Castleton 6 days a week (Mon-Sat) and stops directly by the hotel.
Best Time to Visit
As mentioned above, this is a popular walk and viewpoint. It gets busiest during weekends and school holidays.
If you’re visiting during those times, it might be better to arrive early. That way, you’ll avoid the crowds and won’t have to wait for a parking spot.
Sunset is also an excellent time to schedule your walk around. The golden hour lighting over the valley is truly magical and only enhances the already spectacular views.
It’s also worth mentioning that the trail gets muddy and slippery after it’s been raining. So it could be dangerous for those less abled on their feet.
Monsal Head Walk Difficulty
As I say, there are many ways you can extend this walk to make it more challenging; however, the Monsal Head circular route that I cover in this blog is relatively easy.
There are sections of steep stairs and a reasonably challenging ascent back up to Monsal Head. But so long as you aren’t afraid of a little leg burn, it’s nothing to be intimated by.
Besides that, the trail is well-marked and easy to navigate, so most visitors will be able to manage the route easily.
Monsal Head Circular Walk Map
Monsal Head Facilities
- Pay & Display Car Park
- Public Toilets (Optional Donation)
- Hotel, Bar, & Restaurant
- Cafe & Ice Cream Parlour
- Picnic and Seating Areas
Other Things Worth Knowing
Dogs: This Monsal Head Circular Walk is dog-friendly. Our 11-year-old Jack Russell/Chihuahua handled the trail with no problems.
Kids: Monsal Head Circular Walk is child-friendly too. Your kids will love this walk. There is plenty to keep them entertained along the route, with the promise of ice cream to get them to the finish.
Pushchair/Wheelchair Access: Unfortunately, this route is not accessible with a pushchair or wheelchair; however, the Monsal Head Viewpoint is.
Walk Highlights: The view from Monsal Head; a small but impressive waterfall; the River Wye; walking beneath the Headstone Viaduct; a pint or ice cream at the end.
Hiking Essential Items
Check out our Hiking Must Haves Blog for a list of hiking essentials for each and every adventure. Alternatively, here are some essential items I recommend you have in preparation for your walk:
- Sturdy worn-in hiking boots
- Twin Skin Socks
- A waterproof hiking backpack
- A refillable water bottle
- A waterproof jacket
- Life straw
- Hiking snacks
- Blister plasters
- First aid kit
- Power bank
Here are some other essentials for your adventure:
My Experience on the Circular Walk to Monsal Head
My circular walk to Monsal Head actually started in Great Longstone. We were travelling around the Peak District in our self-converted campervan and found an incredible park up on Moor Road (for anybody who might be doing the same).
If my memory serves me right, I made it to the Monsal Head Hotel in just under an hour, which is where this walk starts and finishes. The pay & display car park is a popular starting place for hikers, with the Monsal Trail and other popular walking routes accessible from here.
I began the walk by eyeing up the hotel bar and its enticing outdoor seating area. It was a hot day, and I imagined how good a pint would be on my return. It was a weekday and very quiet, but I could see that the bar also served food.
From there, I walked to the Monsal Head Viewpoint, which is impossible to miss. It’s a pity that this route starts with the pinnacle of the walk, but luckily it’s the kind of view you can never get bored of. There are plenty of benches at the viewpoint where you can sit and take it all in.
An information board detailing the history of Monsal Head & Trail also sits at the viewpoint. The Monsal Trail was once a railway line connecting London to Manchester. The remaining Headstone Viaduct seen amongst the landscape is one of the most impressive in Britain.
After a short time marvelling at the view, I made my way to the trail and followed the signs for Ashford and Monsal Dale. You could go in the opposite direction if you prefer. Either way, you’ll end up back in the same spot.
The trail descends gradually through a woodland area before reaching the banks of the River Wye. With the soothing sounds of the river as my soundtrack, I relaxed into the tranquillity of the trail, stopping at various sandbanks along the way so Ronnie could paddle and grab a drink.
Before long, we reached the Monsal Dale Waterfall, which I wasn’t expecting, so it was quite a nice surprise. This was also the first time I saw anybody else on the trail, with a fair few groups huddled around marvelling the falls.
I took a few photos and continued on. Not long after the waterfall, a bridge connects to the other side of the river. You’ll want to cross over here and head east toward the viaduct. You really get to appreciate the mammoth structure from this perspective. It’s quite the view and worthy of a photo or two.
From there, we followed the flat part of the trail beneath the viaduct and continued alongside the river. I could see the bridge up ahead connecting us back to the other side, and I knew that the most challenging part of the walk was about to get started.
The next part of the trail was the ascent back up to Monsal Head, taking a short detour to check out the view from the top of the viaduct, which I recommend if you have the time/energy. After reading how busy this route gets, I felt lucky to have it almost all to myself.
We pushed on for the final stretch and reached the viewpoint where we started. I grabbed a beer from the hotel bar and sat enjoying the view. It was too early to wait for sunset, but I could see that it would have been quite the treat if we had.
Enjoy this Circular Walk to Monsal Head
I hope you enjoy this circular walk to Monsal Head as much as I did. Remember to check out my list of the best Peak District walks for more inspiration.
Stay adventurous and Happy travels.