The Headstone Viaduct - Monsal Trail

Sometimes a weekend away is just around the corner – #doorstep destinations

The reason we bought the campervan was for the very reason we came away this weekend. We decided to explore somewhere we haven’t been before that is right on our doorstep. It was the middle of last year when we realised that visiting exotic destinations is fantastic. The problem we had was that we were unable to say we had properly travelled our own country. The UK has some fantastic scenery but we had only really been to Cornwall and The Lake District.

Engineered out of a disused railway line in the Peak District, The Monsal Trail has been somewhere for us to visit for a while. It is about 30 miles from where we live and is an ideal first doorstep destination. We had thought about coming here for a day trip before but it seemed a little far to come just for a walk. Now we have the campervan it has changed this and we can explore what the trail has more conveniently.

The journey down here was quite straightforward. We tried a new formula for us which was to go straight from work. Normally we would have had to go home to pick the dogs up. Instead, we collected them at dinnertime and they chilled out in the campervan while we worked in the afternoon.

We picked the campsite quite late in the week but managed to get the last electric pitch.  As we arrived we were met by the owner who happily helped us onto our pitch.  Others, we believe, found the mud a little challenging and ended either stuck or churning up his field!!  Our first grass pitch, a little boggier than we had hoped but safely in without too much drama.

We are certainly more rehearsed this trip, all set up with a drink in our hand in less than half an hour!! This is exactly what we had signed up for!!  Sal, also more prepared, made tea the night before so we only had to warm up the chilli and butter some bread!!  Perfect, even more so when she asked to watch a Bond movie, although she did fall asleep with over an hour to go!  Almost perfect!


Exploring the Trail

After a lazy breakfast, we got ready and wandered down to the Monsal Trail. There are two ways that you can get there from the campsite. You can either head out and follow a path that takes you through Little Longstone to Monsal Head. We took the other route which was to walk through Great Longstone and down Station Road.

Using this route meant that we could check out the village and take in the sights. We also spotted The Crispin pub but more of that later on. It’s a lovely, typical Peak District village with the weather doing its part as the sun broke through. What is striking for us city dwellers is the silence of rural life. No rumble of main roads or aircraft overhead nor the backdrop of sirens which we have come accustomed.

I mentioned this to Sal and this is how the village sounds now but back in the early to mid-1960’s, things would have been different. The Monsal trail would have been a busy train route and the sound of steam locomotives would have reverberated through the air. Completely different to how things are now with more tranquil country sounds.

The trail’s former life was evident as we walked along the old platform approach. Henry was in his element with lots of new sights and bushes to explore, Harvey not so impressed as we had interrupted his day to exercise.

We went west towards Monsal Head which was a really pleasant walk. The trail is mixed use and you can hire bicycles from a couple of places along the route. One of the highlights was walking up to Headstone Tunnel and the sheer sides of the cutting. Walking through the tunnel is a great experience, it’s well lit but you could imagine how dark it would have been back in the day.

As you approach the exit you can see the piercing light at the end of the tunnel with the approach to Monsal Head Viaduct in view. The views of the Wye Valley are pretty impressive as you stand on top of the viaduct. You couldn’t imagine an engineering project getting the go-ahead in this location these days! Lucky for us, we have the great trail that we have today as a by-product.

Quick Break

Harvey is a little man with short legs, so it seemed a good opportunity for a break. There is a path that leads up to Monsal Head where you can take in the view and stop for refreshments. Thirsty, we chose to have a drink at the Stable Bar while we enjoyed the sunshine. We’d had a late breakfast only an hour or so before, so we chose to skip lunch. Had we, it looked like pretty standard pub grub with some of our fellow guests enjoying it.

We decided to head back rather than venture further down the trail. This gives us a bit of scope for the next visit and I also think Harvey would have disowned us. The trip back down the hill to the trail was much easier on the calves than the way up!

We returned back to Great Longstone to the Crispin pub. Just in time before the kitchen closed, we ordered some lunch and sat by the fire. It’s a great pub with a fantastic menu, we were impressed with the choice on offer. Sal had a sweet potato curry and I had a chicken burger. If you ever get the chance, I would highly recommend it.

After relaxing for a couple of hours, we made our way back to the campsite and chilled out at the van. The sun was shining and we caught up on some writing.

I have to say that this was a great little breakaway. The Monsal Trail has a great mix of history and scenery along with the inevitable Peak District charm. It just goes to show that you can be on your doorstep and feel a million miles away.

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