The Area around Monyash
The Bull's Head sits right at the heart of Monyash village, in the centre of the White Peak. The picturesque town of Bakewell is only five miles down the road, with the vibrant spa town of Buxton eight miles to the North West, up the nearby A515. The main road is far enough away to be completely inaudible from the village, which is peaceful within a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
The ancient village church, just up the road beyond the pub, is well worth a visit and normally kept unlocked during daylight hours; behind it stands a huge yew tree thought to be at least seven hundred years old. Continue a short village tour past this onto Church Lane, turn right down the tiny Icky-picky Lane, (yes that really is its name) and you will arrive at Fere Mere, a truly delightful spot if ever there was, with ancient cottages, trees and church spire reflected in its calm waters. Sit on a bench, feed the ducks, take an interest in the other wildlife, (there is often a heron and swallows dip in for a drink during the summer) before completing your circuit down Rakes Road and back to The Bull's Head.
Because Monyash was once a very important centre for lead mining, (the Barmote Court regulating the industry held its sessions at the Bull’s Head up until 1814) it sits today at the very centre of a vast network of ancient green lanes and footpaths. These make ideal rambling routes across the rural, stone-walled landscape, which reaches an altitude of over one thousand feet after only a short stroll beyond the village green.
Less than a mile away, or a ten minute walk down the road towards Bakewell, is the start of Lathkill Dale, one of the natural glories of the Peak District, packed with fascinating wildlife, caves, a crystal-clear river and some stunning scenery. Stay for week at accommodation in the village and you will not run out of amazing walks to undertake from your doorstep, many of which will cross or plunge down Lathkill and its tributary dales. Most of Lathkill is a National Nature Reserve, managed by Natural England.
Arbor Low Stone Circle
Sometimes known as “The Stone Henge of the Peak District”, Arbor Low can be reached on foot from the village, if you plan a circular walk of two to three hours, taking in the little-used track of Derby Lane and the wooded Cales Dale, which branches off Lathkill to the South. Although, for reasons much debated, all the stones now lie flat, it is nonetheless a really impressive place, complete with earthworks and panoramic views. By car, it is no more than a ten minute drive. Entrance is free, but there is a very modest foot-toll to pay as you pass through the farmyard to access the extensive site, managed by English Heritage.
A similar distance out of the village to the North East, and just as accessible on foot, is the ruined Magpie Mine. Looking like something out of Poldark, it was actually built by Cornishmen and stopped work only a few decades ago. Today it is the kind of place that kids with a little imagination love to explore, with its mounds, safely covered but deep shafts, old machinery and crumbing buildings. The good news is it's completely free and open to visit year round. The charming village of Sheldon is just a short step away, if you are doing a circular walk, and well worth an explore.
A little to the South of Bakewell, Haddon Hall, on a much more modest scale than its superbly grand neighbour, Chatsworth, is a real gem of Tudor Jacobean architecture. Dripping with atmosphere and charm in a quaint riverside setting, the gardens, chapel and house itself cannot fail to capture your heart and interest. (Not open during the Winter months).
Yes, okay, this brings us neatly to the granddaddy of all stately homes, the other side of Bakewell from Haddon Hall. It needs little introduction, featuring the most impressive architecture, landscaped gardens on an epic scale – the water cascade is worth the entrance fee on its own – as well as fascinating and beautiful interiors. Families might be interested to know that there is also a wonderful working farmyard, full of delightful animal characters and a superb adventure playground, set on the edge of woods. Entrance to these two is separate from the main attractions, making for an economical day out, given half-decent weather. You can always leave the house and gardens for another time.
A short drive down the A515 is the pretty village of Hartington. On one level, Monyash is just as attractive, with as many interesting buildings, a much more impressive mere and village green, but it has to be admitted that there is more going on in Hartington. For a start there is a wide variety of places to eat and drink; beyond that there are craft and antique shops – and don't miss Hartington Stores, effectively the village shop, but with deli-like attractions. The jewel in the village crown, however, has to be the cheese shop. Leave visions of the Monty Python sketch behind you, this tiny store is a magnet for connoisseurs and the only place in Derbyshire producing and selling its own genuine Stilton Cheese (now geographically protected under EU regulations). If you like your Stilton creamy and characterful, this is an absolute “must visit”.
The Upper Dove Valley and Longnor Village
For some reason, perhaps to do with it straddling the Derbyshire/Staffordshire border, this corner of the Peak District barely rates a mention in many summary guides. It is literally just over the hill from Monyash, to the West, and the ten minute drive there has to be one of the most scenic in the whole of England. Winding down the continuation of Monyash's B-road into the hamlet of Crowdecote, you are confronted with “The Dragon's Back”- Parkhouse and Chrome Hills, set in the broad Dove Valley. High Wheeldon, right next to Crowdecote has panoramic views from its summit, while Pilsbury Castle, a Norman motte-and-bailey guarding the River Dove, is both historic and atmospheric. Longnor village is like a little Trumpton, for those of you old enough to remember the children's classic. It looks over both the Dove and Manifold valleys, and despite being not much bigger than Monyash, is crammed full of charm and character, while seeming untouched by the hand of the tourist office. The village chippy is so good you have to book tables in advance most evenings.
Staffordshire Moorlands and the Manifold Valley
Beyond Longnor are the heather-clad moorlands of Staffordshire, again so little visited, yet a real scenic delight, encompassing the slightly better known Roaches escarpment – popular with climbers, walkers and lovers of great views. To the South of Longnor, the Manifold enters a magnificent stretch of woodland, riven by walking and cycling trails; Thor's Cave being a real highlight and well worth the climb up to visit.
Ilam and Dove Dale
The chocolate box village of Ilam stands at the entrance to Dove Dale, just about parallel to the Manifold Valley – and the most famous of the Derbyshire Dales, with the iconic River Dove tumbling through its impressive landscape. Ilam Hall and church are fascinating and have to be explored. As with everywhere in the region, there are very many magical walks, both short and long to be started from here, taking in Ilam Park, the hill of Thorpe Cloud and the river itself.
Traffic-free Cycle Trails
Developed more and more over recent years, the country within a few miles of Monyash has some of the best, easy, yet incredibly scenic, cycle trails in all of England. At Parsley Hay, just up the hill from Monyash and over the main road, there is a cycle hire shop set beside the High Peak Trail. This, making use of former railway lines, branches just South of here onto the Tissington Trail, running all the way to Ashbourne. Both the High Peak and Tissington Trails are fantastic cycling experiences, set in amazing scenery and great for families not wanting to risk the dangers of the open road. Further North, the Monsal Trail is equally impressive, again with hiring facilities, but this one has the added attraction of newly re-opened, long tunnels – again, a great hit with kids, all lit up and echoing to voices. There are many more such trails within the National Park, all used as much by walkers as cyclists and each with a different offering on a scenic level.