The Monsal Trail cycling for families

The Monsal Trail is located in the heart of the Peak District National Park, Derbyshire, England. This scenic trail runs along the former Midland Railway line and offers a unique experience for families to enjoy the beauty of the English countryside.

We parked at the old Hessop train station (Hassop Station, Hassop Rd, Bakewell DE45 1NW), which has been converted into a fantastic cycling dream, along with a lovely cafe, play area and ice cream truck. 

History of The Monsal Trail:

Originally a railway line established in the 1860s, the Monsal Trail was repurposed into a recreational trail in 1981 after the railway was closed in 1968. The 8.5-mile route stretches from Bakewell to Wyedale and provides a safe, traffic-free environment for cyclists, walkers, and horse riders to explore the Peak District’s diverse landscapes.

What is there to do?:

The Monsal Trail is a stunning traffic-free cycling and walking route right in the heart of the Peak District National Park. This 8.95-mile route is great for families as there are lots of exciting things to see along the way. There are also many places you can leave the trail to visit somewhere nearby. We pretty much stuck to the path as we cycled, and not all exits were suitable for bikes, but we noted many signs with information about other places to visit along our route if we had wanted to. 

The Monsal Trail For Families Route Map


There is so much wildlife to spot which we all found wonderful, especially when we saw llamas! The old railway tracks and stations are also very interesting to look at.

Cycling is the primary activity on the Monsal Trail. The flat and easy terrain makes it ideal for families with children. Bikes can be rented from the Hassop Station at the start of the trail, and even child seats and tag-alongs are available. We loved looking at all of the different bikes available, especially the tandem because my grandma and granddad travelled around on one of these for years so it is special to us, and hopefully something that Ryan and I will travel on one day! They also hire bikes with huge baskets at the back, bikes with trailers for one or two children and many more. I felt there was a real buzz about the place as soon as we arrived and looked at all the bikes on offer. I found myself chatting with a lady who complimented my bike and we got talking about e-bikes, and how hers had changed her life completely, and that is one thing I love about visiting places like this – you seem to meet like-minded people with a simple love for cycling, and how something so basic as a bike can impact your life so positively. 

There are a few play areas dotted along the trail which are a perfect addition to the ride. We didn’t visit this one but I have heard people talk about a fantastic one near the Bakewell end of the trail (I will update you on this when we visit again). We really liked the play area at Hessop Station – it is very simple and small, but in my opinion, perfectly formed to suit both our children. It wasn’t going to keep them entertained for hours on end (not that anything does ha!) but it was a lovely end to our day out. It is just a wooden structure with some steps, bridges, a pole, a slide, a couple of dens, and a trim trail at the end.  

The old railway tunnels are lit to cycle or walk through and we all found it quite exciting. Matilda and Barney especially did as it was dark – not so dark that you can’t see – but dark enough that your eyes need to adjust on the way in and out. It is very safe though, and I am sure most children would also love shouting echo in every tunnel as our two did!


We found plenty of parking when we arrived mid-morning on a Saturday in May – but if the car park is full then there is a field across the road that visitors are able to use too. 

There are toilets at Hessop station and at Bakewell and Millers Dale. We used the ones at Hessop station and found them clean.

In terms of cafes and food, we stopped at Thornbridge Gardens and Cafe, which was just such a beautiful place. We loved the atmosphere here. There are many bike racks as you arrive and lots of seating indoors and out. We sat at a really cool low table outside and Matilda and Barney used the colouring pencils and pads whilst we all enjoyed the ice cream and brownies! I am very critical of brownies, and this one was very good! The food is all locally sourced or actually grown on-site which we loved. You can walk around their small holding and see a few animals, including pigs and goats. There are plants for sale too but we didn’t look at this bit much. If you would like to spend longer there, you can pay to enter the bigger gardens which looked fantastic (my bad for not noting down the prices but from memory we think £8 per adult and children free…). I don’t know that we would pay to enter because after cycling for a long time we felt that about an hour there eating and looking round the animals was perfect for us – however, if you wanted to then the option is there. 

We took a picnic, as we usually do because it suits us, and there were many places to stop and enjoy the view whilst enjoying your food. 

Would you recommend it?:

Absolutely! We really loved our trip here and will definitely be going back again.

 The Monsal Trail offers a perfect blend of outdoor fun, exercise, and historical interest. Its flat, traffic-free path makes it an ideal location for a family day out. Whether you’re cycling or walking, you will be surrounded by breathtaking scenery and a wealth of wildlife. It is a must-visit for an outdoor experience in the Peak District. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a cafe?:

Yes, as mentioned above there is a cafe at Thornbridge Gardens and then there is one at Hassop Station – when we played in the play area at the end we walked through the outdoor bit of the restaurant and the food looked amazing. There is also an outdoor food hut which sells ice creams and smaller bits.

Are there any hills?:

The route from Hassop Station towards Millers Dale has a very slight incline. It’s not hugely noticeable but on the return leg which is slightly downhill, it’s much quicker and welcome!

What is your favourite part?:

Matilda and Barney really loved the lit-up railway tunnels, the ice cream and Thornbrudge and the play area. I would say that I love that it is pretty flat (one way has an ever so slight incline) and traffic-free with beautiful views and interesting things to look at and talk about the whole way. 

The views from the old railway viaducts are spectacular, and we loved stopping to look at the llamas. Basically, we loved all of it.

Is it suitable for Dog walkers?

Yes, there were many dogs along the Monsal Trail. Dogs should be kept on a lead due to the trail’s popularity with walkers and cyclists.

How much is it to park?

To just access the Monsal Trail it is free but you need to pay for parking – we paid £4 for 4 hours. Then there is the option to buy food and rent bikes etc.

Are there any restrictions or rules to follow on the trail?

Yes, everyone needs to be considerate to each other whether walking, cycling or walking a dog. It’s also worth saying that it is best to stick to the designated trail to protect the natural environment.

Is the trail accessible all year round?

Yes, the Monsal Trail is open throughout the year. However, the conditions can vary with the seasons. In winter, the path can become muddy, and ice may make certain areas slippery. As with anywhere, you would be planning on visiting, it is always recommended to check the weather conditions before setting out.

What should we bring with us on the trail?

There were plenty of signs with the map of the whole trail along the way but you always take a picture of this at the beginning so you have it with you. Just make sure you bring your usuals – plenty of water and food and possibly a bike repair kit just in case, sun cream – whatever you would normally take somewhere of this nature as there are parts of the trail where there are not any facilities to hand.

Pros & Cons


  • Cafe & toilet facilities
  • Suitable for children of all ability levels
  • A vast range of cycling trails
  • Multiple places to stop
  • Family-friendly atmosphere
  • Bike hire is available


  • Nothing. It’s a pretty amazing place.

Cycle enjoyment rating

Last Updated on May 22, 2023 by Ryan

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