Day 2. Treak Cliff Cavern & The Monsal Trail, Peak District

After starting the day with plates of smashed avocado and eggs cooked to perfection in The Cow’s attractive bar we set off to Treak Cliff Cavern just outside Castleton.  Our approach took us through the dramatic limestone gorge of Winnats Pass with its stunning views as we drove along.

Winnats Pass near Castleton
The Winnats Pass near Castleton

The Castleton area is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) famous for its large deposits of Blue John stone.  This semi-precious mineral is a rare form of fluorite characterised by bands of purple, blue or yellow and is unique to this part of the Peak District.

Footpath leading to the entrance to Treak Cliff Cavern, Castleton
Footpath leading to the entrance to Treak Cliff Cavern, Castleton

Treak Cliff has off road parking and from there a footpath leads uphill to the visitor centre and cave entrance.  Tours are currently self guided by means of a cleverly designed app which we downloaded onto our phones.  There’s no need to worry if you don’t have a smartphone though as several are available for visitors use when booking tickets.  Tours average 50 minutes but the beauty of the self-guided tour is that you can go at your own pace and take as long as you wish using the audio guide along the route.  The pathways are well lit and signage is clear so there is no danger of getting lost in the subterranean caverns.

Stalactite formations at Treak Cliff Cavern, Castleton
Stalactite formations at Treak Cliff Cavern

Listening to our narrated audio guide we learnt how miners in the 1750’s built a tunnel using only hand tools to reach the Blue John deposits and of how it has now been mined here for over 300 years.  We gazed in wonderment at the results of hundreds of thousands of years of multi-coloured flowstone deposits leaving stunning stalactite and stalagmite formations and of fossils embedded in the limestone rock.

Flowstone formations at Treak Cliff Cavern, Castleton
Flowstone formations in the cavern

The underground temperature in the caves is a constant 10 c all year round and as the cavern floor is damp due to the natural underground environment I recommend wearing warm clothes and suitable footwear.

Stalactites and Stalagmites in Treak Cliff Cavern, Castleton
Stalactites and Stalagmites in Treak Cliff Cavern, Castleton

We emerged from the cavern slightly further up the hillside from where we enjoyed spectacular valley views across the valley.  The path alongside Treak Cliff is also one of the starting points for Mam Tor, standing at 517m.  It’s one of the Peak District’s most famous walking trails sitting on the edge of the gritstone Dark Peak and the limestone White Peak.  We didn’t have time to embark on this circular walking route on this occasion but it is something that we would like to do on a future visit to the area.

Views across the valley from Treak Cliff Cavern, Castleton
Views across the valley from Treak Cliff Cavern

Our visit to the cavern didn’t end there as we had opted to try our hand at stone polishing in the cavern workshop adjacent to the visitor centre.  We started off by each selecting a piece of Blue John stone to work on and then following expert guidance we sanded these down before polishing the edges using a buffing machine.  It was such a fun activity suitable for the whole family and the perfect souvenir to take home with us to remind us of our visit.

Stone polishing at Treak Cliff Cavern, Castleton
Using the buffing machine to polish our Blue John stone pieces

Before leaving, we explored the interesting small museum which displays a collection of Blue John, geological samples and a history of the cavern as both a working mine and tourist attraction.

Polished Blue John stone, Treak Cliff Cavern, Castleton
My completed piece of polished stone

It was then back down the steps to the car for the short hop to the village of Castleton which is one of the most beautiful villages of the White Peak.  Not far from where we left the car was the main visitor centre for the Peak District National Park so that seemed a good place to start.  The newly refurbished centre covers the geology of the area and includes a gift shop and cafe.

Peak District National Park Centre, Castleton
The Peak District National Park Centre in Castleton

From there, we explored the narrow streets of this pretty village located in the Hope Valley surrounded by hillsides.  It’s a popular centre for walkers with numerous outdoor shops alongside tea rooms and gift shops, with their windows filled with jewellery crafted from Blue John.

Castleton village green
Castleton village green

Our walk continued along winding lanes to the pretty village green with its old stone cottages overlooking the war memorial cross and Norman church.  From there we had good views of Peveril Castle perched high on a hillside and constructed in 1086 by William Peveril who was a knight of William the Conqueror.  It’s now operated by English Heritage with standard admission £7.60.

Peveril Castle, Castleton
Peveril Castle, Castleton

Back in the car it was then just a 10 minute drive along to Hathersage, our next stopping off point.  The village is another of the Peak District’s outdoor hubs and is charming with a good selections of shops, pubs and restaurants.  The village is overlooked by Stanage Edge which is a gritstone ridge stretching for four miles and extremely popular with rock climbers who visit from all over the country.

Millstone artwork in Hathersage
Millstone artwork in Hathersage

Another of Hathersage’s attractions located just outside the village is the David Mellor Design Museum, cutlery factory, shop and cafe which is free to visit.  David Mellor was one of the best known 20th century British designers and the museum showcases his collection of work from handmade silver to his world famous cutlery.

The David Mellor Design Museum Shop, Hathersage
The David Mellor Design Museum Shop, Hathersage

It was a surprise to us that one of his aims was to improve the quality of the urban environment with his design of everyday features such as bus shelters, post boxes, litter bins, bollards and traffic lights.  These set the new standard for street furniture and by the end of the 1960’s all of Britain’s traffic light sets were being replaced by Mellor’s new design.

David Mellor Design Museum and Cafe, Hathersage
The David Mellor Design Museum and Cafe, Hathersage

If you are visiting at weekends, free Cutlery factory tours take place in the Round House at 3.00 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.  We hadn’t timed our visit to coincide with one of these tours but couldn’t resist popping into the gorgeous cafe complete with working traffic lights and pedestrian crossing!  We really enjoyed our visit which would appeal to anyone but especially those interested in design.

Street furniture designed by David Mellor on display in Hathersage
Street furniture designed by David Mellor on display

Leaving there, we continued on to Hassop Station near Bakewell for a spot of exercise.  This old station building has been transformed into a cafe, book and gift shop.  There’s a large car park divided between free parking to the right of the cafe and pay and display on the other side.

Hasssop Station Cafe on the Monsal Trail
Hassop Station Cafe on the Monsal Trail

The station is also a popular starting point for the Monsal Trail, a traffic free cycling and walking route running along the former Midland Railway line.  We’d arranged to hire e-bikes from Monsal Trail cycle hire with the intention of cycling the 8.5 mile scenic route which goes through four illuminated railway tunnels each about 400m long and two additional shorter tunnels.

Setting off along the Monsal Trail
Setting off along the Monsal Trail

Unfortunately it wasn’t to be as on the day of our visit the Monsal Trail was closed from the entrance to the first tunnel leading onto the Monsal Viaduct for essential maintenance works.  Rob at the cycle hike centre discussed options with us and we followed his suggestion by starting off cycling along the trail as far as the closure at the Headstone Tunnel entrance and then turning round and continuing onto Bakewell.

Former platforms on the Monsal Trail
Former platforms on the Monsal Trail

This alternative route was very pleasant and although our planned cycle trip along the full length of the Monsal Trail didn’t quite go to plan it might hopefully be possible for us to return later in the year to complete it then.

E-Biking through Bakewell
E-Biking through Bakewell

A pot of tea followed in the attractive cafe before making a short stop in the beautiful village of Tissington just north of Ashbourne.  It was falling dark by the time we approached the village along an elegant avenue of lime trees but there was just enough left of the day to view its Jacobean Manor House and pretty stone cottages.

Tissngton Hall near Ashbourne
Tissngton Hall near Ashbourne

It was then just a short drive back to our cosy accommodation at The Cow in Dalbury Lees where we relaxed in our room awhile before having dinner at The Bluebell at Kirk Langley, a sister pub of The Cow just a five minute drive along Derbyshire’s leafy lanes.

Eating dinner at The Bluebell in Kirk Langley
Eating dinner at The Bluebell in Kirk Langley

The Bluebell has been recently modernised and is extremely tasteful with its contemporary interior.  Over drinks we studied the menu featuring pub classics including beer battered fish and chips and homemade steak pie which we decided to opt for.  Generous portions arrived, both cooked to perfection and we savoured every forkful.  Service was friendly and unrushed even on a busy Friday evening with a mix of families and groups of friends all enjoying an evening out.

Room Three, The Cow, Dalbury Lees
Our cosy room at The Cow, Dalbury Lees

Back at our cosy inn, we made ourselves coffee from the in-room Nespresso maker and settled down in our comfortable room to watch television awhile before getting ready for bed.  It was a perfect end to another fun filled day touring the beautiful Peak District.


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Treak Cliff Cavern, The Peak District


51 thoughts on “Day 2. Treak Cliff Cavern & The Monsal Trail, Peak District

  1. So much beauty here, especially Winnats Pass which feels quintessentially Peak District. This was an action-packed piece Marion that gives Sladja and I much to think about ahead of our potential visit in a month or two. When I saw the name David Mellor I thought “surely not ‘that’ David Mellor” ha ha. Indeed I now know there are two.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Aw this brings back such happy memories for me – we did 20km hike around Monsal Trail and Monsal Dale in the baking sunshine and then went to a cave to cool off! It was such a beautiful day, and at the end of it my (now) husband proposed 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The Treak Cliff Cavern looks like a wonder: I’ve visited caves before on my travels, but this one is something that I haven’t quite seen before. Definitely looks like a treat to visit…and the fish and chips afterwards was just as good of a treat, if not even better (the fish is MASSIVE)! Glad you had a lovely time. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  4. The Peaks District is so fabulous. Our Sheffield friends took us hiking on Stanage Edge and also Monsal Trail. We hiked to the viaduct and then up the hill to the Stable Bar in the Monsal Head Hotel. Both beautiful hikes. Thanks for showing what else the area has to offer, Marion. Allan

    Liked by 3 people

  5. The limestone gorge of Winnats Pass are truly beautiful! And how amazing are the caves at Treak Cliff Cavern! I would definitely enjoy a walk through Castleton – it looks like a pretty place to explore. And who would not be pleased with a plate of that fish and chunky chips 😊. It was yet another great day of exploring the Peak District with you, thanks Marion!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. The Peak District is a really beautiful part of England and it was such a treat to visit the David Mellor Cutlery Museum and discover he designed so much of our everyday street furniture too! Thanks for taking the time to comment Amanda, it’s much appreciated and I hope your week is progressing well.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. This brings back teenage memories. Our Nottingham school had a trip to the caverns back around 1969. When we stood on the stairs in the main chamber and just as the guide turned off the lights, to show us what ‘real darkness’ looked like, a large drop of water fell from the roof and down the back of my shirt.
    “Ye gods and little fishes!” I exclaimed (I can’t remember why but it was a standard expletive of mine back then), very loudly and in the otherwise total silence. Never lived it down.
    I think I still have my little bit of Blue John somewhere.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I’m so pleased that this post brings back fond memories for you. We had such a wonderful day and visiting the caverns was special for me as well as long ago we were given a lovely table lamp base made from Blue John stone as a wedding present. It still graces a corner table today! The gift was from a former colleague who liked nowhere better to spend her holidays than in a cottage in Castleton! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, it means such a lot.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow, what a wonderful trip, Marion as there’s can be nothing more exciting than visiting an underground wonderland of stalactites and stalagmites, rocks, minerals and fossils. I am in awe of beautiful cave formations and the colour of Blue John Stone; I can’t believe I’ve never heard of it before. I am glad to see you had a great time! Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

    Liked by 4 people

  8. So many village names from my childhood, having grown up in Mickleover with the Peak District on our doorstep. In fact it was the pub at Dalbury Lees (it was called the “Black Cow” then) where I used to sit in the car with drink and crisps while Mum and Dad had an evening in the pub! The walk through Monsal Dale is still one of my favourite walks anywhere, to this day.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. What wonderful memories for you and the fact that you are even familiar with the pub in Dalbury Lees, what a small world. I remember the days as a child of also sitting in a pub car park, how times have changed! Thanks so much for getting in touch, it’s really appreciated.

      Liked by 3 people

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