Chee Dale Circular: A spectacular walk through an incredible
gorge, the famous stepping-stones and the Monsal Trail Tunnels
By Izzy Taylor, Outdoor Blog Writer
This 4km loop along the stunning River Wye offers up an astonishing amount of natural beauty; from lush, green rolling countryside to a 200ft beautifully craggy limestone gorge, an abandoned quarry and historical lime kilns as well as THOSE famous stepping-stones. If you enjoy wild swimming, then this is definitely a walk I would remember to pack my swimming costume for!
Chee Dale Gorge
England’s ever popular Peak District, with its varied terrain and picturesque rolling hills is a place worthy of its popularity. In the middle of the Peak District, known more readily as the White Peak and not too far from Buxton, lies Chee Dale; a stunning, and at times magical feeling, limestone gorge that hugs the winding Wye River. Hidden below the Monsal Trail lies this accessible trail that
really packs a punch into such a short walk.
The riverside walk along the River Wye
The walk starts from Miller’s Dale Car Park (a large paid car park with enough space for 80 cars) and the location of an abandoned railway junction. The railway station was built in 1863 by the Midland Railway and served as a junction for trains between London and Manchester. The station closed in
1967 but the once derelict building has now been renovated and serves as a self-guided centre called The Goods Shed where you can find out more about its rich history. Location 1 on map below.
Disused quarry at Chee Dale
From here you follow signs for Buxton and head along the Monsal Trail (watch out for cyclists) surrounded by woodland on each side of you. On your right you’ll see a sign for the “top of lime kilns” and following this will lead you into the disused quarry where cliffs tower above you. There isn’t an awful lot to see here but once you rejoin the path you’ll eventually reach the old limekilns. Location 2 on map below.
Lime kiln at Chee Dale
The abandoned lime kilns were in use from 1880 until 1944 and produced over 50 tonnes of quicklime per day but today the kilns are home to wildlife including swifts which nest in the boxes secured high up on the buttresses. Inside the kilns you can see the remains of fireplaces where the burning process took place and keep an eye out for hibernating bats in winter too!
The stepped path down to the river
Carrying on down the Monsal Trail you’ll reach a bridge with a stepped path down the side leading to the riverbank (Location 3 on map). It’s signposted Chee Dale and you want to follow this down to the riverside. At the river, don’t cross under the bridge and instead head upstream. The next couple
of miles take you alongside the stunning River Wye as it makes its way along the valley. The surrounding nature, wildlife, flowers, wild garlic and trees are worth stopping to enjoy as the scenery then changes quickly. There are also some great swimming spots around here if you want to have a quick dip!
The River Wye flowing through Chee Dale
As you head deeper into Chee Dale Nature Reserve the limestone gorge starts to tower over you with rocks and the cliff face hanging overhead. You might notice climbing equipment drilled into the limestone here or if you’re lucky, maybe a brave soul making their way up the wall. This section of the walk is jaw-dropping and you really feel so small standing under these huge cliff faces. Location 4 on map.
Limestone gorge at Chee Dale
Now the bit you’ve been waiting for – the stepping-stones! The line of stepping-stones is quite long and you may have to turn around if you bump into someone coming the other way at the same time. There are excellent photo opportunities here and the stepping-stones really add a bit of childish fun into the walk. It’s worth noting that they can become covered in heavy rain and there’s also another set of stepping-stones about another mile up the river but this route misses those out. Location 5 on the map.
After the stepping-stones, the path continues up river for a short distance until you cross under a viaduct and see a path cutting left up the hillside. If you follow this path, it will lead you onto the viaduct above and the entrance to the Chee Dale Tunnel looms in front of you (location 6 on map). This tunnel forms part of the 8.5 mile Monsal Trail, a spectacular traffic-free route suitable for cycling, walking and horse riding between Blackwell Mill in Chee Dale and Coombs Road in Bakewell. Following this tunnel will lead you all the way back to the car park at Miller’s Dale where you started.
The tunnel that takes you back to Miller’s Dale car park
Map and key locations
1: Parking at Miller’s Dale
2: Disused quarry and lime kiln on the right of the path
3: Path down to the riverbank underneath the viaduct
4: Limestone gorge at Chee Dale
5: Chee Dale stepping-stones
6: Path back up to the next viaduct and the entrance to the Chee Tor tunnel that will lead you back
to the car park
Have you ever tried Komoot? Komoot allows you to access routes planned by others or plan your
own which you can then download to your phone to follow while you are out. Komoot is free to join
and access and you can find the route for his walk here.
This 5km circular walk around Chee Dale starts at Miller’s Dale Car Park.
Postcode: SK17 8SN
Cost: £4.75 for all day parking (coins or card). Correct at time of writing (June 2023).
- Arrive at the car park early or later on in the day. Even though it is a large car park, it’s a popular location so it does fill up quickly especially during weekends and school holidays.
- In or after bad weather the river level will rise and the stepping-stones will likely be underwater so I’d probably save this one for after a period of dry weather.
- Some of the banks can become quite slippery in wet weather so caution is needed in these sections.
- Dog friendly? Absolutely! With lots of places for your beloved pooch to cool off in and with the walk being relatively short, it’s definitely dog friendly!
- After your visit, I recommend heading into Bakewell (not too far down the road) and making a naughty stop off at Cake Corner – an absolutely delightful shop selling a delicious selection of handmade cakes. You won’t regret it, trust me!
Enjoy! Izzy x