Wednesday, 6 June 2018

A walk round Malham

A friend and I decided one day to do the 'classic' walk from the Yorkshire Dales village of Malham up to Gordale Scar and then over to Malham Cove, before heading back to the village. It's a beautiful walk but very popular. Malhamdale is an area best avoided at weekends and holiday times. This was midweek and not the school holidays but even so the large car park in Malham was full and we had difficulty finding somewhere safe to park. Once we set off to walk though, the route wasn't crowded. Maybe everyone else was in the coffee shops?

Initially, it's a very pleasant amble from the village on a good path alongside a stream, through meadows twinkling with buttercups. You then enter a wooded valley, which was sun-dappled and fragrant from wild garlic. It had rather a magical feel.

The path arrives at a waterfall called Janet's Foss, which pours into a clear, circular pool. It's like a fairy glen, very pretty. In fact the name Janet, or Jennet, is said to refer to a fairy queen believed to inhabit a cave behind the waterfall. There wasn't a lot of water coming over the cascade, as May has been a very dry month. (All the little spots in the photo, bottom left, are tiny flies dancing in clouds above the water.)

Climbing up past the falls, the path widens out again for a short while, up a rocky valley towards limestone cliffs that narrow into a gorge that may have been gouged by glacial meltwater or the collapse of an underground cavern. Another waterfall (also very meagre that day) tumbles over a rocky outcrop known as Gordale Scar. It looks nothing in my photo, though you can get some idea of the scale if you spot the small figure above the ribbon of water tumbling over the rocks at the base. I once climbed up that first outcrop into the upper chamber (where there is a much bigger waterfall)  and it is steep, treacherous and terrifying! Never again!

Thankfully, by retracing one's steps about half a mile back down the valley, there is another path that climbs up and over the hillside to eventually arrive above Malham Cove. The Cove is one of the most spectacular features of the Craven Fault, an important geological feature across the Pennines, which defines the boundary between the limestone uplands to the north and the gentler pastures to the south and west. The views down to Malham village and beyond are beautiful. The limestone areas of the Yorkshire Dales are so attractive on a sunny day. Blue sky, verdant green foliage and the pale stone outcrops and walls make a very harmonious scene.

We sat for a while above Malham Cove, trying to spot the peregrine falcons that nest there every year, but we couldn't see them. Sometimes at weekends the RSPB set up telescopes below the Cove so that people can view the nest and the birds. It's rather exciting as peregrines are not all that common in the UK.

In the photo below, the winding white ribbon is the gravel path that leads back to Malham village, which we walked down later when we'd descended the steps beside the Cove. You can see the steps in the photo above, far side. It makes them look like a gentle slope, but in fact they are massively steep and long, rather knee-trembling!


  1. Super pictures of a classic walk. I've done the circuit many times and used to scramble up Gordale Scar without a second thought. However I found that the older I got the steeper it looked, and once I'd discovered the alternative route experience and expediency took over from enthusiasm and exertion.

  2. Great photos as usual, bringing back memories of childhood and adult holidays in this most beautiful part of the country.

  3. Beautiful photos! The Gordale Scar is scary.

  4. What a surprising change of topography, and well documented! Thanks for the easy chair tour.

  5. Splendid views and good references to the geology. (Which latter I like.)
    Days are 100F here, so it's nice to see some green, some water, and to guess that it might be a bit cool.

  6. Crowded? You wouldn't know it from this series of photographs.


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