Chee Dale: A secret alternative to the Monsal Trail in the Peak District
Today’s hidden gem about Chee Dale in the Peak District is by Rob Haggan from The Outdoor Adventure Blog. Rob thinks Chee Dale is the perfect alternative to the busy Monsal Trail. The Monsal Trail is an undoubtedly gorgeous trail to walk or cycle along but it does become extremely busy during these beautiful summer months. If you’re looking for a quieter alternative to the Monsal Trail then look no further….
The Peak District is one of those places you can visit again and again and find new places to explore every time. From the wild moorlands of the Kinder Plateau to the meandering riverside walks at Dovedale, there are endless options for adventures.
But it’s the hidden gem of Chee Dale that I’m drawn back to time and time again. This short but challenging walk follows the River Wye through a steep-sided gorge, hidden away from the popular tourist route of the Monsal Trail.
Why You Should Visit Chee Dale over the Monsal Trail?
While some of the more popular beauty spots like the Monsal Trail in the Peak District can become busy and crowded on a sunny weekend, Chee Dale remains something of a secret known only to locals and those who like to explore off the beaten path. Even on the busiest of weekends elsewhere in the Peaks, this little ravine can be empty and silent. If you’re lucky enough, as I have been on a couple of occasions, you might even get the whole place to yourself and not see another person through the whole walk.
Set in a deep gorge, the Chee Dale walk follows the River Wye as it gently meanders under the shade of a thick green canopy. The imposing cliff edges create a sense of being hidden and secluded – in the best possible way. You could be forgiven for thinking that you’re somewhere far more exotic than the Peak District as the crystal clear water flows past below the limestone crags. And the flora seems to think so too, as Chee Dale is a protected nature reserve and home to the rare Jacob’s Ladder plant as well as purple orchids.
But as beautiful and tranquil as the setting is, don’t be fooled into thinking that this is a gentle stroll to take after your Sunday roast. You need a sense of adventure and a good pair of hiking boots to experience this gorge. The route will see you scrambling over rocks, clinging to tree roots and jumping onto stepping stones as you make your way along. It’s definitely worth the effort though, and the stepping stones provide a perfect place to take a few photos for Instagram.
How to Get to Chee Dale
The Chee Dale walk begins just off the Monsal Trail between Buxton and Bakewell. There are several options for parking, including free parking at the Topley Pike layby or paid parking at the Wyedale car park.
The Chee Dale walk is signposted from the Monsal Trail but the signs are easy to miss so I’d recommend using the OS Maps app to keep track of your route.
The Best Time to Visit Chee Dale
Chee Dale is best visited during the summer months when the flowers are in bloom and the trees create a thick canopy that adds to the sense of seclusion you get in the ravine. Good weather is a must for walking the Chee Dale route. The trail can become very slippery in wet conditions and if the river level is high the stepping stones can become covered and impassable.
Other Things to See While You’re There
Chee Dale is situated just off the Monsal Trail, which means that you have plenty of options for making your route a longer one.
The Monsal Trail is built on the site of a former railway line and is now a traffic-free route for walkers and cyclists. There are places to hire bikes along the trail and it’s a beautiful place to go for a bike ride either before or after your walk through Chee Dale. I have some more easy Peak District cycle routes on my blog. The Monsal trail passes through several of the old railway tunnels as it makes its way towards Bakewell. These tunnels are long and dark and certainly add to the adventure and sense that this is not your typical bike ride. The longest of these tunnels is just short of half a kilometre and just as your eyes have finally adjusted to the dimly lit tunnels you are rewarded with stunning views from the top of the Headstone Viaduct as you come back out into the light. From here you can enjoy a well-earned rest while you look out onto the hills and valleys of the Peak District or you can drop down the steep path at the side of the viaduct and enjoy a picnic by the river’s edge.
There’s plenty to explore on the Monsal Trail but make sure you leave plenty of time for Chee Dale. Although it’s only a short walk, it’s one to be savoured and not rushed.
About the Author
Rob Haggan has been hiking and biking through the UK’s national parks and wild places for over 20 years. He writes about his adventures at The Outdoor Adventure Blog and is a Get Outside Champion for Ordnance Survey.