Sunday 3 January 2010

Walk from Ashford in the Water to Monsal Head, Derbyshire

Even if you don't want to go on this five mile hike up to the beauty spot of Monsal Head and back, it would be worth visiting Ashford in the Water. It is a handsome stone village with fine old houses, appealing pubs and a picturesque bridge over the fast flowing River Wye. Signposts in the village point you towards the footpath to Monsal Head, which begins with a steep flight of steps through the houses and trees before crossing wide open fields. As you climb gently up into the hills there are sweeping views over the dry stone walls that follow the contours of the dales. After a couple of miles you crest the top of the hill for a spectacular view over Monsal Dale. At the bottom of a steep drop, far below you, a venerable stone bridge crosses high above the winding river on the valley floor. The footpath narrows and swings eastwards towards Monsal Head, clinging to the hillside. It isn't long before you reach the Monsal Head hotel where you might be tempted to stop for a pint of golden Pearl ale (just 3.3% alcohol) beside a roaring fire in the wood-clad Staples Bar. From here, a footpath leads back to Ashford via the hamlet of Little Longstone or you can take the more direct, but more hazardous, route along the B road. 8/10