This is a walk that introduces you to some of the most dramatic and best loved of Peak District scenery as it follows a route that takes you by Monsal Head and through the fabulous Cressbrook Dale. Best taken on a clear day it is a joy whatever the season and combines breathtaking scenery with some lovely and iconic, typical Peak District villages.
Starting in Little Longstone, a tiny hamlet, and smaller neighbour to Great Longstone, near Bakewell you get a real flavour for old Derbyshire as this area is still extensively farmed and its landscape is hewn by farm animals but also given drama by the lead mines and spa quarries that litter the area, still.
Taking the short walk out of the village you will no doubt pass the Packhorse Inn and the Olde Worlde pub as well as the Victorian chapel, before getting to the breathtaking Monsal Head, which offers views out over the Wye Valley, with the river meandering below and the old Midland Railway viaduct, built in 1863, now forming a pathway for all those who walk the Monsal Trail.
From the Monsal Head car park, as the road dips and curves down towards the valley bottom keep your eyes peeled for a small opening in the low stone wall opposite the cafe. Turning right once through it, follow the track and its steps down towards the valley floor. Part way down there is a signpost pointing towards the viaduct and the Monsal Trail, which, when followed leads you downhill and onto part of the trail. At this stage, turn to your right and cross the viaduct following it for about a mile towards Cressbrook and Upperdale.
Before you access the railway tunnel, take a right turn and follow the path along the hillside, though taking time to absorb the lovely views of the valley whilst doing so. The path takes you down a stepped section that then leads to a footbridge over the river offering a good view of Water-cum-Jolly, with its dramatic rock formation.
Having crossed over the river take a right turn and leave the Monsal Trail as you then follow metal railings taking you passed what used to be mill buildings in Cressbrook, but which have now all been converted into homes. The old mill was originally built by Sir Richard Arkwright but closed in 1965.
Join the road that leads out from the mill and pass the cottages that historically used to belong to lead miners that worked all across the Peak District landscape.
Follow the road up to the right leading to Cressbrook and Litton and after about 10 minutes walking look out for a signpost pointing in the direction of Ravensdale. Continuing in this direction, passed some more stone cottages you reach a narrow footpath, fenced to the right which leads to the main Cressbrook Dale path, through woods and uphill.
You will reach a footbridge and then rise up the hillside. Take the right side as the path forks and keep right again as you climb a reasonably steep section that leads away from the river, to a wall at the top. This wall offers a great chance to get your breath back and with the great excuse of enjoying the view as you look down towards Cressbrook Dale and Peter’s Mount.
When you are ready, follow the path along the wall until you reach the Nature sign and a stile, which you need to cross.
Continue walking along the wide grass path and squeeze through the next stile following the track into Wardlow, near Winnow Cottage.
As you meet the Wardlow road, turn right and walk up through the village until you find a bend in the road, after the cottages have ended. Before the bend, take the footpath to the left and continue walking straight ahead cutting through an embankment and across fields, taking care if there are sheep or cows about to place your dog on a lead.
Go through the gate in the wall and head over the next field to a smaller gate until you reach a short uphill section that leads to the right and to another stile. Crossing the stile, next to the footpath sign take care in crossing the road and access the path using the gate ahead, following it along and keeping the wall to your left.
Be vigilant at this stage as you need to look out for two wooden posts in a wall with a stile ahead. Before you reach the stile you need to look out for a pronounced pathway that veers up to the right and onto the moorland (if you reach the road you have gone too far) Follow this path over the moorland until you reach another signpost.
Follow the track down the hill and on getting to a wide grassy track take a right and follow it down into the direction of Cressbrook Dale whilst absorbing again the stunning views that take in both Cressbrook and on into Monsal Dale.
Go through the small gate and turn left keeping the wall on your left, but do not go as far as the stone pond. Instead head downhill and after going passed a large gate climb the stile in the wall and switch right again down into the valley on the grassed path to the right of the trees.
At this stage you will pass the stone pond and again be able to take in the fabulous views that this special part of the Peak District has to offer.
At the gate, cross the stile and continue on the lane, off to the right towards a road junction which will be signposted back to Little Longstone on the left.
Continuing over a stile and straight across fields you find yourself walking downhill towards Monsal Head in the distance.
Then with the stone pond on your right veer off to the left and keep walking along the well defined path until you reach a gate. Cross through the gate and walk ahead, over a stile and left into a field with a large tree at the opposite end.
Head for the gate beside the tree and keep walking straight ahead towards a gap next to the large stone barn which brings you out onto the road by the Packhorse inn, back in Little Longstone - an ideal spot to rest up and enjoy a sneaky libation and a bowl of water for your furry friend before your journey home!
Little Longstone via Cressbrook Dale
* Distance: 7 miles
* Grid Reference: SK191718
* Time to Walk: Two and a half hours
* Difficulty: Medium
* Suitable for: Dog walkers, hikers/trekkers
* Pubs on Route: Yes
* This walk was written and produced by Wonderful Wellies for more interesting walks please visit Best Walks in the Peak District