The trail in a tunnel

Published 16 August 2020

Path running through an old railway tunnel
At least the lights are on.

The impact of Doctor Beeching on the country can never be understated. But one thing his closure of railway lines did result in was lots of land becoming available for use in bridleways. Railway tracks were (eventually) replaced by trails that could be used by walkers, horse riders and cyclists.

But when it came to tunnels, those new bridleways stayed resolutely clear. The tunnels were often in poor condition. It was easier and cheaper to seal them up and divert the trail off the old route for the duration of the tunnel.

Not so on the 14km long Monsal Trail in the Derbyshire Peak District. The six tunnels on it were refurbished, electric lighting was installed, and were opened up for all to enjoy.

Two of the tunnels are short, but the others are longer. And the longest is this one, the 487m long Headstone Tunnel. That’s nearly half a kilometre of walking in one single tunnel.

It’s quite an experience. It’s cold for starters. Water drips intermittently from the ceiling. And because the tunnel is curved, you can’t even see the light at the end of it. As a walking experience, there’s little like in the UK.

Headstone Tunnel is also on the White to Dark, a walking trail that goes from the bottom to the top of the Peak District. If you’re after a three day walk in the Peak District, it’s well worth checking out.



13 September 2020 at 2:58 am


I like the odd railway tunnel on a walk. Recently I’ve walked (twice, on subsequent days) through the 1km long Karangahake Tunnel here in New Zealand (see my walking blog website focusing on both U.K. LDWs and NZ short/day walks, specifically the post on the Karangahake Gorge walk). There are similarities with the Headstone Tunnel naturally, with the dripping water, however the Karangahake Tunnel is longer, straight and dimly lit. I will consider doing either the Monsal Trail or the Light to Dark mentioned here next time I am in the U.K.

I look forward to when you are able to do some more long distance walking and the subsequent posts about them.

Joyce Reid

30 January 2021 at 8:38 am

Andrew, I am sure you know about the Two Tunnels Greenway in Bath where the longest one is a mile long. I think I am right in saying the path was opened in 2014. Worth a look.

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