The bank holiday weekend provided an excellent opportunity for us to put the bikes on the car and make our way across the Pennines to the car park at Bakewell Station (a disused railway station near the end of the trail).
As I mentioned in my previous post, the Monsal Trail follows the route of a disused railway line, making it ideal for cycling, as it's a good wide surface, with nice gentle bends, and incredibly subtle gradients. I can confirm that it is mainly uphill going from Bakewell to Buxton. You can't tell by looking at it, but you can really feel it! On the plus side, that makes it mostly downhill going back though.
There are a few of the smaller stations left, like the one in the photograph above, which make pretty good rest stops (we perched on the platform edge to have a drink and a snack, as did many other people).
It was busy, but we still had nice quiet moments, and plenty of space to cycle and everyone seemed friendly and mainly happy (although we did meet one family twice, and each time we met them, one of their little ones had fallen off and scraped a knee! Not our fault, I hasten to add).
We made it to Miller's Dale for our picnic lunch (where we got to last time too, but from the opposite direction), partook of the ice cream van's wares. We didn't go through the same tunnel as we did last time, however, there are three others (I only got photos of two) which were all lit, and slightly chilly, although not too cold.
There are a number of stops just off the trail, including one at Monsal Head, which appeared to be up a rather steep hill, so we perched (along with many other families) on the wall by the bridge railings for our rest stop and just enjoyed the views!
|if you look closely, you can just see two painters at the bend in the river|
We were really lucky, the forecast was for rain, but it was mainly sunny and only slightly overcast at times. It had obviously rained earlier, so we were lucky that we didn't get rained on, and we even needed a small amount of after sun lotion later in the day!
Overall, we cycled around 12-13 miles and it took us most of the day, including rest stops, however, it's worth pointing out that LittleBit is only 8 and I am out of shape. We already want to cycle the trail again, and we're hoping to be faster next time!
We stopped in a hotel overnight before we came home (must thank the lovely staff at the Premier Inn in Chesterfield, who helped us find somewhere to store the bikes, so we didn't have to leave them on the car, and also just say how incredibly clean and well maintained the room was, always a bonus), but it is absolutely doable as a day trip, and next time we will just drive home after, although we'd probably have our evening meal first. We would like to try the food at the Hassop Station Cafe, which we stopped for a drink and cake at just before we got back to Bakewell. There's a bookshop, a gift shop, a cycle hire, a large cafe with a pretty comprehensive looking menu, a children's play area and a large car park.
There are also toilet facilities, which we couldn't find at Bakewell Station (although we do know that Bakewell town centre has some very well maintained public conveniences, but I don't know how far it would actually be, and Hassop station was close enough for us). It is worth noting that there are also toilet facilities at Miller's Dale, and at the Pub at Monsal Head (up the steep path), but not at the cycle hire and tuck shop in Buxton, so do plan your convenience stops in.
We'd definitely recommend it, and you don't need anything special, or much money (all day in the pay and display car park was £4.50, and we took a picnic lunch [we put it in the basket on my bike, but could have used a rucksack as other people had], and we didn't really have to buy ice creams or cakes, they're easy enough to avoid). There were plenty of people walking the trail, and we saw a variety of types of bikes from fold-up bikes, road bikes, mountain bikes, electric bikes, and many, many bikes with children's trailers and kiddie tandem style ad-ons. There are plenty of car parks near to the trail and cycle hire facilities at both ends, so why not give it a go?