A top menu with a stunning view

editorial image

If Led Zeppelin ever visited Monsal Head in Derbyshire, the inspiration for their most famous song would be a tad clearer.

It’s unlikely Jimmy and Robert ever did make the trek up the steep trek to one of the most county’s most stunning viewpoints.

The Stables Bar at the Monsal Head Hotel, shrouded in mist and frost

The Stables Bar at the Monsal Head Hotel, shrouded in mist and frost

It really is something of a stairway to heaven.

Crowds of walkers visit the spot to sit and stare at the rolling viaduct, river and hills beneath every weekend.

They can drop down to the Monsal Trail, the former railway line which has been transformed and re-opened for leisure, to stroll or cycle on to Bakewell.

And the less energetic can brave the winds on the cliffside for an ice cream or a pint at the Monsal Head Hotel.

I’d like to say our stay slotted in to the former category, but that would be stretching the truth,

For the majority of time, the most exercise we tool was in lifting forks to our mouths.

After a couple of hours hiking on the trail and getting close to nature we headed to The Stables pub, also part of the former coaching inn hotel.

There’s a roaring fire, every ale is from a local brewery, and the booths are packed with locals as well as tourists.

It was an ideal, rustic spot to sink a few and read the papers away from it all.

When stomachs started to rumble, it was just a few steps to the restaurant.

We had expected good food, a heart Peak District pie, perhaps.

It was the best kind of shock to learn there were top chefs in the kitchen and gourmet delights on the menu. Again, everything is locally sourced where possible.

Manager Keith Robson, who took over the hotel with wife Hannah five months ago, came over to talk us through it.

Their level of service was top-notch.

It takes a great deal of skill and experience to advise indecisive diners on the best menu item and recommend the perfect wine to go alongside without coming across as overbearing.

Our adjectives began with my companions’s ‘beautiful’ smoked rainbow trout and continued through my melt-in-the-mouth cheese souffle to pain-fried seabass with crispy shallot bhaji. The other half said the rump of lamb with tagine spices was the ‘best plate of food he had ever eaten’.

The Monsal Head is currently undergoing rennovation and not every aspect is yet as faultless as the food.

Signs in the toilets advised customers to expect improvements and the check-in desk didn’t seem to be in use when we were there.

But the double room we rolled into with full bellies, one of just seven, was pretty and welcoming, with a powerful monsoon shower.

It was only a few hours until breakfast - eaten overlooking that majestic view.

Our drive to Monsal Head took 40 minutes; its a destination I would travel miles for.

48 hours in Monsal Head

Walk, run or cycle - a trip along the Monsal Trail is a must. You can travel through former railway tunnels and many paths leading off the beaten track will take you closer to nature.
Horse riding is also permitted.

The trail can lead you to Bakewell, where it is mandatory to see the ducks on the River Wye and enjoy at least one traditional Bakewell Pudding.

Chatsworth Estate is also a short drive away, with the house now back open for visitors and the grounds always available for a pleasant stroll and a look at the latest art installations.

If you are still hungry, the Chatsworth food shop nearby offers gourmet food perfect for a picnic, including a delicious chicken and grape pie.

After a full day’s walking, The Stables bar at Monsal Head offers local beers, a roaring fire and the same menu as the hotel.