Walk to Gordale Scar & Malham Cove
Route Summary: Gordale and Malham forms one of the most popular circuits in the country. This is the Yorkshire Dales at its very best.
Gordale and Malham forms one of the most popular circuits in the country. This is the Yorkshire Dales at its very best.
|11.84 km||602 m||4.5 hours|
Calculate the time using Naismith’s Rule and factor in your own pace.
Start and Finish: Malham village
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Walk to Gordale Scar & Malham Cove Route Map and GPX Download
Summits and Places on this Route
Walk to Gordale Scar & Malham Cove Details
Aside from the Yorkshire Three Peaks, this circuit is probably the most popular walk in the Yorkshire Dales and rightly so. In fact, it was voted number 3 in the top 100 walks in the UK. The walk takes in the spectacular scenery around the village of Malham which stands close to the Craven Fault, a major geological feature which extends from Grassington to Ingleton.
The fault generally defines the boundary between the limestone uplands of the higher dales and the gentle green pastures of the south and has dozens of remarkable limestone features littered along its length, the most famous being Malham Cove. There is interest throughout including the delightful waterfall at Janet’s Foss, the dark, foreboding Gordale Scar and the scientifically important Malham Tarn. This is one is not to be missed.
Walk to Gordale Scar & Malham Cove Route Description
1 – There is ample parking in Malham village due to the popularity of the area. A National Park car park will allow you to park for the entire day for a modest fee. If you are early enough you could park on the roadside just as you reach the village. From the car park, turn left along the road towards the centre of Malham. Just before you reach the Buck Inn, turn right off the road through a low wall and cross the stream via a footbridge.
2 – Once across the stream turn right onto the wide gravelled path (the Pennine Way) and head south away from Malham. The way-marked path passes through a gate, following the steam. Follow a sign pointing the way to Janet’s Foss, leaving the Pennine Way (SD 90220 62398). Follow this path past some old farm buildings to reach Gordale Beck. The beck is followed to Janet’s Foss wood.
3 – The path continues through the wooded ravine to a waterfall – Janet’s Foss (Foss is the old Scandinavian word for waterfall). According to legend Janet (or Jennet in some cases) was the Queen of the local fairies and lived in a cave behind the waterfall. Pause for a moment before taking the path that climbs away up to the left of the waterfall to pass out through a gate onto a lane. Turn right onto the road passing a modest layby and, as the road bends round to the right, follow the footpath sign for Gordale Scar to the left through a gate, entering the Gordale campsite.
4 – Follow the path through the campsite and along the river towards the towering limestone cliffs ahead. Gordale Scar isn’t revealed until the very last moment as you round a corner. Gordale Scar is a narrow canyon with towering rock walls on either side. A waterfall tumbles down the rocks in the centre and marks the route ahead. A short scramble is required here to continue up the ravine and may not be possible if the waterfall is in spate. If this is the case, a detour can be found by returning to the layby on Gordale Lane and heading west along Hawthorns Lane (path). When you reach the drystone wall, turn right and cross the field in a northeasterly direction to another drystone wall at SD 91070 63618. Pass through the wall and follow the path as it climbs the hillside This will ultimately rejoin the main path above Gordale Scar.
5 – Climb the rock barrier to the left of the ‘hole’ that can be seen between the two waterfalls (or one if it has been dry). The water-worn rock provides plenty of hand and footholds and any difficulties are quickly passed. Once above the first waterfall, you will be in the heart of Gordale Scar. Bear left over the wet rocks, climbing through the canyon to find a set of man-made steps which climb out of the ravine.
6 – The path now leaves Gordale Scar, following the rim of Gordale Beck. Eventually, the path becomes wide and grassy. Follow it for 3km to Malham Tarn.
7 – At a crossroads (Street Gate – an ancient junction of Pennine routes SD 90494 65652), cross the drystone wall and head west along the path before bearing right a short distance later (SD 90361 65674). A gravel path heads north-west towards Malham Tarn. At the second stand of trees on the right (SD 89824 66424), take a left back onto the Pennine Way which is followed south-west to the outlet of Malham Tarn.
8 – On reaching the road and the Watersink car park, turn right and go through the gate and over Malham Beck, then turn left following the footpath sign for “Malham Cove 1½ miles”. Head away from the road and then bear left towards the drystone wall. The path follows the wall into a dry limestone valley.
9 – The path makes a slightly circuitous and occasionally steep descent into the Watlowes dry valley, created by the ancient river that fed the waterfall which formed Malham Cove. The path follows the length of Watlowes directly to the limestone pavement atop Malham Cove. This is a stunning place to explore but take care crossing the clints and grikes and be aware of the unfenced edge of the cove.
10 – Head west along the limestone pavement to a wall and a gate. Pass through the gate and descend the steps to the valley below Malham Cove. Bearing left at the bottom will take you up-close to the cove itself while bearing right leads along a well-defined path back towards the village.
11 – Keep on this path until you reach the road. Turn left onto the road and follow it back into Malham.