Millers Dale from Monsal Head

Millers Dale

This is a moderate walk that shows off the mixture of landscapes, flora and fauna you experience when you walk through typical White Peak limestone valleys. You will walk in awe of the magical River Wye teeming with Trout, surrounded by enchanting diciduous woodland and flanked by grand limestone cliffs. The industrial heritage of the old mills and railway line add a contrasting edge to the otherwise incredibly natural landscape. The end of the walk takes advantage of the newly refurbished Monsal Trail walking, cycling and horse riding trail which carries you high over the River Wye on the magnificent Headstone Viaduct. Monsal Head at the start and end of the walk provides a great place to take your time, eat and drink whilst enjoying the views. There is also the brilliant Red Lion at Litton conveniently situated at the half way point of this walk.

Route Directions

  1. This walk starts from Monsal Head where there are two car parks. Avoid the small car park by the lookout in front of the Monsal Head Hotel and Hobbs Cafe as this is only a one hour short stay car park. Instead use the much larger car park behind the Monsal Head Hotel at grid reference SK185715.
  2. From the car park head between the Monsal Head Hotel and the Stables Bar to reach the lookout area. Here there is the fantastic Hobbs Cafe and the small short stay car park. The real crowd puller though is the stunning view down the valley of the River Wye, crossed by the magnificent Headstone Viaduct.
  3. From the lookout point head through the stone wall and follow the footpath sign posted to Upperdale and Monsal Viaduct. The footpath gets steep, rocky and slippery as it descends into the valley. After fifty metres or so the footpath splits as one path heads left towards the viaduct. Avoid this path and stick to the descent path heading north west down to Upperdale.
  4. The footpath will eventually join the minor tarmac road at the bottom of the valley. Continue heading north west along the road, always looking out for traffic. The road heads through the small hamlet of Upperdale then bends right towards Cressbrook.
  5. As the road approaches Cressbrook the huge converted Cressbrook Mill dominates the view ahead. This huge and impressive building has recently been brought back to life and converted into apartments for commuters who are lucky enough to afford luxury in the most beautiful of settings.
  6. The Cressbrook Mill buildings you see today were built on the site of the original 18th century mill built and rebuilt by the industrious Arkwright family. The first of the modern mills buildings were built in the early 19th century when a former employee of the Arkwrights William Newton returned to run the mill and created a new culture of respect for its workers. The surrounding village owes its presence to the mill, which was sadly closed down in 1965.
  7. When you reach Cressbrook, walk past the huge mill and past the beautiful pond mill on the opposite side of the road. The road splits in two, one road takes a steep ascent to the left, instead take the road to the right that continues along a slightly less steep gradient along the valley.
  8. After three hundred metres turn right down a road through woodland. This road heads along the bottom of the valley and through lovely woodland. After another three hundred metres the track reaches the quaint Ravensdales Cottages in the most idyllic setting.
  9. Continue through the valley heading north along what is now a muddy track that turns in to a slippery and rocky path. After a while the footpath will reach a small wooden bridge with a sign welcoming you to Cressbrook Dale national nature reserve. Cross the wooden bridge and turn left along a path.
  10. This path now heads for half a kilometre along the floor of the head of the limestone valley. The gorges at the head of most White Peak limestone valleys have these wonderful oasis of ancient deciduous woodland that creates a close damp atmosphere loved by wildlife, flora and fauna. Do be aware of slippery stones and tree roots when walking through this area though.
  11. Once the path comes out the other side of the woodland it opens into a wide grassy canyon. The path heads round a sharp bend to the left, following a stone wall. Once you reach a stile in the stone wall cross it to enter Tansley Dale on the left.
  12. Head west up Tansley Dale. The path rises and eventually reaches a stile. Cross the stile into a farmers field then turn right and head north west towards a corner of a stone wall. Continue on the same trajectory to reach another stile over a wall on to a track.
  13. Cross the track to another stile which can be crossed in to another farmers field then continue the north west trajectory across the field in the direction of the village of Litton. At Litton turn left along the road to the centre of the village and head to The Red Lion at Litton. It is an enjoyable place to sit outside with refreshing local ales on a sunny afternoon or a snug place to enjoy hot drinks and tasty food by a log fire on a cold day.
  14. From Litton head south west along the main road out of the village through Litton Dale. The road eventually has a safe path you can use on its left side. After a kilometre the road will reach a junction with the minor B6409 road. Here turn left and head through a narrow wooden gate through the stone roadside wall. Head along the field keeping the stone wall and road on your right.
  15. After a while the path makes it way passed some big trees and then heads through a car park area where ther is a handy toilet stop. Continue on the path out the other end of the car park. The path now heads in to the pretty Tideswell Dale. This narrow wooded valley is walled by limestone cliffs and has a charming little stream running through its valley floor.
  16. After turning left and crossing the stream the path will reach a tarmac road. Turn left along the road to reach the small hamlet at Litton Mill. Here you get your first glimpse in to the magical River Wye. The river here is often teeming with Trout. Pass the terraces and walk down the left side of the impressive Litton Mill. This mill has also been converted to exclusive apartments.
  17. At the far end of the mill the path turns right, crosses the outflow from the mill, then turns left and heads east into Millers Dale. The River Wye now on your right and the slower old mill outflow on the left. The path passes a few weirs then winds its way through the wooded gorge with sheer limestone cliffs on either side.
  18. The path rounds a left turn at which point the gorge opens to a wider valley. Here looking to the other side of the valley across the river you will see the limestone cliffs and green banks of Water-cum-Jolly Dale. The river now slows down and widens as it approaches the Cressbrook Mill weir.
  19. The path here is very close to the river. When the river floods this can sometimes make the path impassable. Just before the path rounds to the left there is a signed alternative path just in case the river is flooded. I think this path ascends a route back to Cressbrook.
  20. Continue along the path that skirts the now wide and slow moving river. Keeping an eye out for the tame and plentiful Trout. As you get closer to the weir, the path passes under the impressive overhanging limestone cliff known as the Rubicon Wall. Climbers can often be seen hanging precariously from this white giant.
  21. When you reach the left hand side of the weir, turn right away from the mill and walk over a wooden footbridge crossing just below the weir. The view from this bridge is fantastic towards the Rubicon Wall with the weir in the foreground.
  22. The path turns right and starts a short steep ascent then switches back on itself before levelling off and heading south above Cressbrook. The path gives a great view from above of Cressbrook Mill and down the valley. After a short walk the path reaches the Monsal Trail.
  23. The Monsal Trail is a unique short distance trail for walkers, cyclist and horse riders. The trail follows the route of the old Midland Railway Line. Recent investment has seen the tunnels refurbished and opened to the public, creating a unique experience for all. To your right as you reach the trail you will see one of these tunnels. There are plenty of information boards along the trail detailing the history of the old railway line.
  24. Turn left along the trail, watching out for the odd speeding cyclist. The trail takes a very straight line heading south east for over a kilometre. It eventually reaches the Headstone Viaduct you saw from Monsal Head crossing the River Wye.
  25. Cross the viaduct to the other side, then instead of heading through Headstone Tunnel, turn left up a steep muddy path. This steep path is the one you passed earlier in the day at the start of the walk. You will reach the steep path to Monsal Head, so turn right and head back up to the start of the walk.
  26. For food and drink after your walk there is the Hobbs Cafe for cakes, sandwiches and hot drinks or if you prefer a hearty meal and real ales there is the warm and welcoming Stables Bar behind the Monsal Head Hotel.

Maps for this walk

Paper maps for this walk

Click to buy OS Explorer OL24 Map Click to buy OS Landranger 119 Map Click to buy Collins Ramblers Guide Peak District Click to buy Pathfinder Guides Peak District

GPS files for this walk

Route map of this walk

Photos & Trip Reports

Planning for a walk

Check the weather

The weather is a very important part of hill walking. Weather conditions and daylight hours will dictate where you walk, what gear you will need to carry, how far you walk, and may even decide if you go at all. The following links will help you gather information on weather conditions for areas of Britain...

Plan your journey

Planning your journey before you set off for your walk can save you vital hours on the day. You need to make sure you know the area surrounding your starting point as many factors can influence or change the place you park. Don't forget change for parking meters and fees.

Maintenance of your vehicle and being ready for breakdown situations when driving to remote areas is also vital. Pack a full spare petrol can in your boot, and take de-icing tools in winter, including a shovel. The Transport Direct website below is a great resource for anyone wanting to get to the start of their walk using public transport...

Pack the right gear

Carrying and wearing the right gear is essential for walkers to remain comfortable and safe while hill walking in Britain. However, the best gear in the world is of no use to anyone who doesn't know how to use and care for it. Knowing how to use your gear will give you a much more enjoyable experience. The following items are, in my opinion, the essential items to wear and carry for a hill walk in Britain. It would be foolish to head into the hills and mountains of Britain without these essential items and the knowledge of how to use them. Check out the gear section of this site for techniques and gear lists...

  • Footwear
  • Clothing
  • Rucksack
  • Warm Clothes
  • Waterproofs
  • Map & Compass
  • Emergency Kit
  • First Aid Kit
  • Food & Drink
  • Seasonal Gear

Know what to do in emergencies

It is good practise to tell someone where you are going, and when you expect to return. If you don't get in contact when you said you would on your return, and those you told can't get hold of you, at least they will be able to provide the search party with your general location.

Emergency equipment in the check list above means items such as a survival bag, whistle, and emergency food rations. This isn't anything special; any whistle will do, the orange emergency bags only costs a few pounds, and basic food rations can consist of a couple of chocolate bars. Carrying a head lamp is also an important component and a vital piece of kit used for signalling when you require rescuing.

You should always try and get out of a difficult or emergency situation using your own gear, knowledge and energy. If you cannot do this, then you should dial 999 and ask for the police. Use all the gear you have to keep any unwell or injured members of your party or yourself safe and warm, and use your signalling devices to let the rescuers know your whereabouts. To do this blow six good long blasts on your whistle, or flash six flashes of your torch. Stop for one minute. Repeat. Carry on with the whistle blasts until someone reaches you, and don't stop because you've heard a reply.

Never contact mountain rescue unless absolutely necessary, but on the other hand don't ever feel guilty for having to do so, especially if you are a prepared walker. The Mountain Rescue teams are full of fantastic like-minded souls who love nothing more than people who are prepared for being safe in the mountains.