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Monsal Head, Monsal Dale

Monsal Dale Railway, Midland Railway

Monsal Viaduct and Monsal Dale
Monsal Viaduct and Monsal Dale

The route of the former Midland Railway makes its way along Monsal Dale and was carried by the viaduct over the river and into a tunnel which goes right beneath Monsal Head
The railway line across Monsal Dale was part of the Midland Railway, running from London to Manchester via Derby.  It was built to open up the area east of Buxton for limestone quarrying.  As a result, quarrying and lime burning expanded.  The trains carried the products to the factories and foundries that needed them.  The line originally connected Matlock to Buxton, and subsequently to Manchester.  Railway engineers worked hard to carry the line across the Peak District, blasting tunnels and crossing dales with viaducts

The Peak Rail preservation group, who run a restored service from near Matlock to Rowsley on part of the trackbed between Bakewell and Matlock, have a long-term intention to restore the link the whole way to Buxton. This would include the entire length of the Monsal Trail. A study of a full reopening and re-incorporation into the national network of the line was made by Derbyshire County Council in 2004. This concluded that such a plan was not economically feasible; however, it also stated that the trackbed should be protected from development.

When a railway through this valley was first proposed early conservationists led by John Ruskin voiced vehement opposition:

railways spoiled the countryside for no good purpose.  He disliked the massive changes made to the countryside and wasn’t too happy that more tourists would visit.  Ruskin wrote:

Not everyone liked the new railway line.  John Ruskin, the Victorian writer, artist and critic, thought

"There was a valley between Buxton and Bakewell, once upon a time, as divine as the vale of Tempe; . . . You enterprised a railroad through the valley – you blasted its rocks away, heaped thousands of tons of shale into its lovely stream.  The valley is gone and the Gods with it, and now, every fool in Buxton can be at Bakewell in half-an-hour, and every fool in Bakewell at Buxton; which you think a lucrative process of exchange – you Fools everywhere.”  

Lonstone Valley from Longstone Edge
Lonstone Valley from Longstone Edge

The Peak section of the line closed in the late 1960's and in 1980 the track was bought by the National Park who converted it into an 8 and a half mile footpath called the Monsal Trail., linking Coombs Road viaduct, south east of Bakewell to Wyedale, east of Buxton. Since then, several tunnels en route have had to be closed for safety reasons, but alternative paths have been opened. 

Industrial benefits

One local industry that benefited from the new railway was the Monsal Dale Mine, located just to the east of the viaduct.  People had mined lead here for centuries, and more minerals were worked in the 1800s.  You can see the mine’s


Craven Cottage, Little Longstone
Craven Cottage, Little Longstone

A five minute walk from Monsal Head, takes you to the picturesque village of Little Longstone. Craven Cottage is a superbly appointed 16th Century holiday cottage, on the outskirts of the village. Just a five minute walk to the village pub, the Pack Horse Inn. The Crispin, and the White Lion in Great Longstone, are a five minute walk from the cottage. Situated in a peaceful, relaxing location, offering complete privacy for the guest, Craven Cottage is the ideal location, for a stay in the Peak District National Park, and is central to all major tourist attractions.

Inside, the cottage offers a wealth of charm and period character. exposed beams, stonework, and open fires, blend in effortlessly with all the modern facilities, required by today’s guest. 

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