The Malham Classic : North Yorkshire

by | Nov 16, 2019 | Go Outside, North Yorkshire, Walking

Route Information

An out-and-return circular walk Via Janet’s Foss, Gordale Scar & Waterfall (Optional), Malham Tarn, Malham Cove.

Route Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 13.76 km (8.55 miles)

Route Elevation: 199 m

Route Time: 3-5 hrs

Start and Finish: Malham National Park Centre Car Park, Chapel Gate, Malham, Skipton, North Yorkshire, BD23 4DX

Depending on the featured walk and especially in mountainous areas, you may need to Calculate the time using Naismith’s Rule and factor in to your own pace.


There are toilets at the National Park Centre and a visitors shop, for more information vist their website 

The Lister Arms  in the village is well known for serving great pub meals and ales. For more information have a look at their website 


Obvious hazard is if you climb the waterfall at Gordale Scar, The first part is tricky, but if you place your hands well it’s easy to navigate.

Ings Scar can be tricky in wet weather so take your time.

The top of Malham Cove for obvious reasons, apart from the 260 foot drop, the stones at the top are fractured and there are large gaps between the formation.

The Urban Ranger Website cannot outline every single hazard on a walk – it’s up to you to be safe and competent, and to be able to read a map and use a compass. Plan your route properly with the latest advice from the AdventureSmart website

Public Transport

Traveline for UK Public Transport

Weather Forecast

Malham Weather

Walk updated 07/11/2019

Some two years after first doing this walk i have returned many times , and still it remains a firm favourite of mine.

You can climb the waterfall at Gordale Scar weather permitting, which is easier than you think and it will bring you out at the same place the route below explains. If you feel up to it, then climb the waterfall and get a different perspective and enjoy the second waterfall that is out of view from the bottom of Gordale Scar.

Malham is a popular destination at weekends for walkers and cove visitors, so if you plan on doing this route and want free parking then it is best to arrive around 8:00am. There is roadside parking on the left just before you reach the National Park Centre for around 20 cars. Once they are taken up you will need to use the car park and field providing the weather has not damaged the ground.

Malham has become very popular since Julia Bradbury’s Britain’s best walks program, and the infrastructure is not designed to take the volume of traffic, and I know there were a few instances of mayhem and gridlock over the last year. To make it worse the bus route to Malham on a Sunday is timed to perfection for visitors but if you want to walk during the week, the last bus leaves just after dinner, so you have no option but to travel by car.

Despite the traffic issues, don’t let that put you off taking a trip to Malham and experiencing the Amphitheatre that is Malham Cove rising majestically from the dales, it is a spectacular view. The route starts from National Car Park and will take you anti-clockwise visiting every point of interest this walk has to offer.

When you come out of the main car park turn left towards the village, and after around 200 yards cross the river and head back on yourself. Follow the path through the gate and to be honest you cannot get lost Your first port of call will be Janet’s Foss which is a pretty waterfall which you can view from below or above. Then the path will lead you out on to the road near the mobile sandwich bar.

Once at the sandwich bar keep heading up the road until you come to a gate on your left, pass through it and this will lead you to Gordale Scar. If you are following this route with navigation software, it will take you back out of Gordale Scar and around and up above the Scar (New Close Knotts). If you want to climb the waterfall which is easy if you think about where to put your hands first, then go for it. Either way you will end up at the top of New Close Knotts and be able to continue the route.

Once above Gordale Scar the views are pretty impressive and the land opens up with a clear path lined with drystone walls. Eventually you will come to a wall crossing on your left, navigate the wall and then follow the dirt track to your right all the way to the cattle grid (Leads to Middle House Farm). Once over the cattle grid take the path to the left where the trees are and this will lead you towards Malham Cove. This part of the route underneath Great Close Hill can get rather boggy after a sustained period but you can navigate the puddles by taking the higher ground to the left.

You should now have the very pleasing to the eye view of Malham Tarn now and the old boat houses, with Malham Tarn House (Field Centre) behind. I normally stop here and have lunch and especially in the summer months, it is a place of peace and tranquillity. Once you have finished at the tarn follow the path that heads SSW and head through the gate. There is normally wooden logs piled up by the side, so it is hard to miss.

You will then head around the trees so they and the tarn are to your right and follow the path until it brings you out at the tarn car park. Head right up the road for a few metres before taking the gate/stile on your left, this will then lead you on to the Pennine Way. In summer there is always an ice cream van situated near the gate.

Once on the Pennine Way you will see markers for Malham Cove, but first you will pass underneath Comb Hill and head through the rather impressive Ings Scar. The boulders and stones make walking tricky on this part of the route and especially in wet weather. The views as you head towards the top of Malham Cove are pretty impressive and especially when you walk down through ice age carved scar.

Eventually you will arrive at the top of Malham Cove and views south across the Dales into Lancashire have to be witnessed to be appreciated. The stones on top of the cove bring about a curiosity of how they became so shattered and separated but I believe a waterfall used to run over the top of the cove, which has since dried up and what is left has found a way underground and comes out at the bottom of the cove.

After exploring the cove, head to the right-hand side where you will see some steps on your left which take you down to the bottom of the cove and eventually the path will lead you back to where you started in the village.

But before you do that, make sure you experience the cove from the bottom and gaze up at this amazing natural wonder. If you are lucky enough you will see people scaling the cove in good weather. As you head back towards the village you can’t help but keep looking back at the 260 feet cove and how the perspective changes the further away you get.

Local knowledge

Malham is a village and civil parish in the Craven district of North Yorkshire. Before 20th century boundary changes, the village was part of the Settle Rural District, in the historic West Riding of Yorkshire. Malham is included in the Domesday Book, the name is given as Malgun, meaning “settlement by the gravelly places.”

Janet’s Foss is a small waterfall in the vicinity of the village of Malham. It carries Gordale Beck over a limestone outcrop topped by tufa into a deep pool below. The pool was traditionally used for sheep dipping, an event which took on a carnival air and drew the village inhabitants for the social occasion. The name Janet (sometimes Jennet) is believed to refer to a fairy queen held to inhabit a cave at the rear of the fall. Foss is a Nordic word for waterfall. Janet’s Foss was the location of the fictional Molkham Falls as featured in the 2006 independent British film, WATERFALL. Filming took place there in May 2006.

Gordale Scar is a limestone ravine 1 mile (1.6 km) northeast of Malham. It contains two waterfalls and has overhanging limestone cliffs over 100 metres high. The gorge could have been formed by water from melting glaciers or a cavern collapse. The stream flowing through the scar is Gordale Beck, which on leaving the gorge flows over Janet’s Foss before joining Malham Beck two miles downstream to form the River Aire. A right of way leads up the gorge, but requires some mild scrambling over tufa at the lower waterfall.

Malham Tarn is a glacial lake near the village of Malham. The lake is one of only eight upland alkaline lakes in Europe. At an altitude of 377 metres (1,237 ft) above sea level it is the highest marl lake in the United Kingdom. Its geology, flora and fauna have led to it being listed under a number of conservation designation’s. The site is currently owned by the National Trust, who lease part of the site to the Field Studies Council who offer residential and non-residential field courses there. The site was the inspiration for Charles Kingsley’s 1863 novel, The Water-Babies, A Fairy Tale for a Land Baby.

Malham Cove is a limestone formation 0.6 miles (1 km) north of the village of Malham. The large, curved feature was formed by a waterfall carrying meltwater from glaciers at the end of the last Ice Age more than 12,000 years ago. Today it is a well-known beauty spot within the Yorkshire Dales National Park. A large limestone pavement is above the cove.

The cove was formed by a large Ice-age river that fell at this point as a cataract. The water drop was 80 m (260 ft) high and more than 300 m (980 ft) wide. The colossal amount of water flowing over the waterfall created the curved shape of the cove because the lip was more heavily eroded than the sides.

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