Walking Route: Malham, Dales

Caves and crags in Yorkshire's limestone Dales make for stunning walking.


Posted: 13 May 2008
by Dave Mycroft

Walking Route - Malham, Yorkshire Dales

Malham > Gordale Scar > Malham Tarn > Victoria Cave > Malham

Average Time: 5 hours 20 mins

Distance: 13.6 miles (21.9 Km)

Height Gain: 1357 ft (1015m)

The Yorkshire Dales make an ideal destination for those long summer days. The mix of caves and crags brings interest that more than compensates for the lack of height, and nowhere demonstrates this better than Malham.

Maps: OS OL 2, OS LR 98

Online: Streetmap

Strenuousness: 3
Technicality: 2
Photo Grade: 3

Start Point: SD 900 628


Overview The Yorkshire Dales make an ideal destination for those long summer days. The mix of caves and crags brings interest that more than compensates for the lack of height, and nowhere demonstrates this better than Malham.

Although avoiding the honeypots of Malham Cove and Tarn these can easily be added into the route with minimal diversion. Gordale Scar is spectacular in full flood, but summer water levels allow a relatively easy ascent. The return route takes in the famous Victoria Cave near Langcliffe, where 130,000y ears of climate change history, flora and fauna have been studied.

History is an added attraction throughout the route with a Roman camp, ancient field systems and long abandoned mines along the way.


Section 1: Malham to Gordale Scar

Distance: 1.8 miles (3km)

Height Gain: 458ft (140m)

Average Time: 1 hour


From the car park at the National Park Centre turn left and cross the road. At River House cross the bridge then turn right onto the Pennine Way. Cross two stiles then turn left after the third one down a signposted path to Janet's Foss.

Follow the fledgling River Aire upstream, past a barn on your right and over a furthe couple of stiles to enter a small wood. The path leads through a short section of trees to janet's Foss, a 4m wide waterfall - below.

The top of the waterfall is made of tufa, a rock consisting of pure calcium carbonate precipitated out from the lime rich water. Continue past the waterfall to the road, where you trun right. Cross the stream then turn left at the signpost to Goredale Scar.

Follow the path round the approach to the scar to the base of the waterfalls. Gordale Scar takes a lot of water in winter and spring, but summer levels allow an easy scramble either up the centre or the left hand side.


Section 2: Gordale Scar to Malham Tarn

Distance: 1.78 miles (2.86km)

Height Gain: 500ft (152m)

Average Time: 1 hour


Above the first waterfall the ravine widens slightly and the ground gets easier. The path now turns to the north west towards the small summit of Seaty Hill. As the path approaches the road keep to the left at the fork and walk up to the road. Turn left along the road to where the Pennine Way crosses.

Malham Tarn is just to the right with the stream sinking a few yards down the Pennine Way to the left. The water is next seen at Malham Cove, a mile away.

If the stream coming down Gordale Scar - above - is too swollen it cuts off the chance of scrambling up below the first waterfall. To continue the route means retracing your footsteps to the road. cross Gordale Bridge then turn right at the Malham Cove signpost.

A series of yellow waymarks help guide you across fields to a gate. Turn left at the gate and continue on past the barn to a road. Cross the road and turn diagonally right , north west, and continue to join the wall on your right. Stay to the right where the path to Malham Cove turns off and continue north west over Malham Lings for a mile and a quarter to the road.


Section 3: Malham Tarn to Victoria Cave

Distance: 4.7 miles (5.17km)

Height Gain: 610t (82m)

Average Time: 2 hours 10 mins


Turn left, along the Pennine Way, and follow the broad track left then right to the Malham road. Cross the road onto a good track and start the long climb towards Black Hill.

The path soon narrows, and follows a wall on the right past ancient mine workings. As you approach Black Hill the path turns left and starts to descend sllowly. After four miles the route turns left as you approach Langcliffe, passing Jubilee Cave on your left.

A few yards on, as Attermine Scar opens up ahead, is Victoria Cave. The cave was discovered accidentally in 1837 and has provided archaeologists with an almost complete record covering 130,000 years and including the first records of human habitation in the area.


Section 4: Victoria Cave to Malham

Distance: 5.2 miles (8.3km)

Height Gain: 799ft (243m)

Average Time: 2 hours 30 mins


The next mile and a quarter continue along the base of Attermire Scar, a popular crag for rock climbers and a fine example of limestone geology. Eventually the path turns left, just beyond another old archaeological site at Attermire Caves,

Ahead lies the long climb to Rye Loaf Hill and Kirkby Fell, passing just left of each. As you start the descent from Kirky Fell you meet a junction at a wall. Go straight ahead here, keeping left at the fork a few yards further on.

The route now descends Fair Sleets gate, passing another ancient settleent and field system to the right, to meet Cove Road. Turn right here and follow the road downhill into the village and your start point, seen below in winter from Malham Cove.


Route Map


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Discuss this story

Malham Tarn is just to the right with the stream sinking a few yards down the Pennine Way to the left. The water is next seen at Malham Cove, a mile away.

Dye tests show that it comes up at Airehead Springs south of the village, the water flowing from the cove comes from Smelt Mill Sinks instead.

Posted: 15/05/2008 at 21:19

Talkback: Walking Route: Malham, Dales



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