The Millers Dale Viaduct consists of two parallel viaducts which cross the Millers Dale limestone Valley on the River Wye, stretching between Hassop and Buxton as part of the old midland railway. The now defunct viaducts were once a crucial part in the railway line between Manchester and London, with the nearby Millers Dale Railway Station being the point in which Buxton passengers either boarded or alighted the train. The western viaduct was restored in 1981 and the trackbed has since been used frequently by walkers and cyclists as part of the Monsal Trail. The tracks also lead toward several tunnels at the base of the Che Tor cliff – several of which are now, as of 2011, open to the public.
The first of the two Millers Dale Viaducts was built in 1866 by the Midland Railway and is positioned 80 feet above the River Wye. A particularly ingenious feat of architecture of the time, the original westerly viaduct features three 30-foot stone arches on one side, and iron arches on the other. Local limestone was incorporated in the bridge for its piers and abutments.
As travel between London and Manchester grew in popularity, an additional viaduct was constructed in 1905 in order to meet the uptake in demand. Slightly different in style, this viaduct featured four stone arches made of Staffordshire blue brick. This second viaduct took three years to build and was constructed jointly by the Whitaker Bros of Leeds and the Butterley Company.
Despite the fervour in which this second viaduct was built, the Millers Dale Viaducts fell slowly out use, and were eventually axed in 1968 during the Beeching Axe – a series of cuts aimed at making British rail more efficient – and the viaducts became derelict.
After a lengthy struggle, the Peak District National Authority finally procured the viaducts from British Rail in 1981 and incorporated the western bridge into the Monsal Trail, which opened in the same year.
The northern viaduct was refurbished in 2018 having remained redundant for several years.
How to Get There
The best way to experience the Millers Dale Viaducts is by walking the Monsal Trail, which is an 8.5 mile hike which takes you along the whole of the former Midland Railway, from Blackwell Mill to Bakewell, and encapsulates within it some of the most striking limestone dales of the Peak District.
Alternatively, visitors who are not wanting to partake in the full Monsal Trail can visit the Millers Dale Viaduct exclusively by starting at the site of the former Millers Dale Railway Station. A carpark can be found to the left of the station, and from there, visitors can easily reach the viaduct by following the former trackbed.
Good to Know
– If you are planning on exploring the nearby tunnels of Che Tor Cliff, it would be worth taking a torch along with you, as previous visitors have found certain stretches of the tunnel to be underlit.
– Despite how breath-taking as the views are, and how impressive the architecture is, it is worth remaining vigilant for cyclists, as the roads are narrow and of course involve tunnels nearby.
– For a quick, accessible respite, a snack van is normally situated near the carpark.
Things to See & Do While at Millers Dale Viaduct
Litton Mill is a nearby, a former cotton mill, infamous at the time for its terrible working conditions. This reputation was immortalised in the harrowing accounts of Robert Blincoe, who, after working at the mill as a child, wrote later about the cruelty he experienced. It has since been converted into apartments but is worth visiting for those interested in the Industrial Revolution.
The nearby small village of Miller’s Dale only dates back to 1867, coinciding with the construction of the Midland Railway. Given the village’s locality to both the railway line and the limestone quarries, Miller’s Dale was once formerly heavily populated, and many of the houses that stand in the village today are the original homes of miners and railway workers. Today, Miller’s Dale is worth visiting both for its café and its country pub, the Angler’s Rest.
The disused Miller’s Dale Lime Kilns, found next to the Monsal Trail, are worth visiting for their impressive height and architecture; between the years of 1880 and 1940, these kilns produced a whopping 50 tonnes of quicklime per day! The limestone used was collected from quarries located directly behind the kilns, and once the quicklime had been produced, was promptly wheeled to the Midland Railway line.