Chee Dale and Monsal Trail - Family Walk Walking

The opening up of the complete Monsal Trail through the tunnels of Chee Dale has allowed much easier access to the delights of this leafy dale. In the past the trip down to the stepping stones and through the narrow part of the dale was a great walk, but a bit long for most families since you needed to go back over the top via Blackwell. The new version allows quick return through the tunnels which also provide excitement and interest to tempt reluctant youngsters out for a weekend walk.
The walk is suitable for a quick afternoon at most times of year and can be considered relatively easy in terms of length and strenuousness. However the terrain is quite tricky for very small legs so make sure younger children are confident and watch them carefully on the short rocky sections. It is a there and back lollipop walk with several points of interest on the way, plus a short-cut alternative should time or desire wain before you finish. The Monsal Trail has become very popular with bikers hence the section on the actual trail does mean that you have to watch your back a bit and watch the little ones, however the bikes seldom go that fast and most are aware of what is going on ahead of them.

Chee Dale Monsal Trail Walk - the tunnels  © Alan James
Chee Dale Monsal Trail Walk - the tunnels © Alan James
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Detailed description

SK1342073328 Set off along the wide trail. After a short distance the huge ugly concrete flying buttresses of the limekiln come into view. You can explore this from above and below to see how the old limekiln system worked.

SK1310673328 The track continues and comes to the bridge used by outdoor groups for abseiling (or lowering people, as it seems to have become). Drop down the steep path to the riverside and turn right and head up the dale.

SK1229873492 After a beautiful open section with some boardwalks, the dale encloses a little. A short walk up is followed by a steep rocky descent to enter the narrowest section of Chee Dale. Take care here on the slippery limestone. The next section is the most awkward and muddy but also one of the most fascinating as you skirt round with Chee Tor opposite, to arrive at the steep Cornice. This will be either dry, and busy with climbers, or wet and dripping.

SK1234673159 The first section of stepping stones drop under the steepest bulging walls of the Cornice. If these are covered with the river then you can't proceed and you will need to retrace your steps. This only happens after very heavy rain.

SK1258673126 As the Monsal Trail and the bridge appears above you, you cross the river on a wooden bridge. You can climb back to the trail at this point for the short-cut version. For a better extension though, cross a second wooden bridge back onto the (right) north bank and continue up the dale.

SK1221372914 The second section of stepping stones under the climbers' buttress known as Max Wall.

SK1197372824 As you round the corner under a very high bridge, a small path leads up right under the bridge; follow this up to the Monsal Trail. Alternatively you can continue here along the riverside and join the trail further up for an extension.

SK1277973215 The Monsal Trail gives a rapid direct line back to your starting point with the only hazard being the bikers who zip by (best if you keep right as a rule). The long lit tunnel cuts off the corner and means that you will be back at the station and welcome ice cream sooner than you expect.

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Further Routes

by Alan James - UKC and UKH