The Magic of Malhamdale

Malham. The ultimate honeypot of the Yorkshire Dales, it draws visitors in their hundreds, both locals and tourists alike. And for good reason! Malham Cove towers above visitors providing a dramatic backdrop where walkers can spot peregrine falcons diving in front of the cliffs. Rock climbers are also drawn to the challenge offered by the cove, while those who prefer not to climb can trudge up the hundreds of steps to reach the limestone pavement at the top. But this is just the beginning of all the wonders of Malham just waiting to be explored…

We are lucky to live close enough to Malham to be able to drop in for a walk whenever we like. Our favourite walk is this circular walk on Walks in Yorkshire which takes in all of Malhamdale’s most popular spots. The cove, limestone pavement and tarn are all visited on this seven and a half mile loop, as well as Janet’s Foss and Gordale Scar. This walk does get exceptionally busy and we therefore avoid it like the plague in summer and school holidays – if you want to enjoy Malham in relative peace and quiet a week day in the off season is best.

The walk itself is easy to navigate, and should be manageable for walkers with a reasonable level of fitness. The climb up from Gordale Scar is pretty steep but this is a relatively short section of the walk, so persevere, it’s worth it! Up on the exposed ground near the tarn and limestone pavement it can be very cold and windy so make sure to take plenty of layers if you visit in winter, and even a few extras if you visit in summer – you never know with the great British weather! The first time Sam and I did the walk was a beautiful crisp winter’s day with a dusting of snow on the higher ground. Walking back to the limestone pavement we came across a slowly melting snowman which was lovely – Merry was a bit suspicious at first but soon came to love it!

Do you wanna build a snowman?

Parking for this walk is in the Yorkshire Dales National Park car park which is pay and display and has public toilets. There are two pubs in Malham if you want to start or end your walk with a pub lunch – the Buck Inn in particular frequently appears on lists of ‘Best Pubs in the Yorkshire Dales’ and is dog friendly to boot!

The limestone landscape of Malhamdale has drawn visitors for centuries, from 19th century tourists who came to see the natural wonders of the area, to 21st century Potterheads touring locations of the films! The limestone pavement at Malham was a location for one of the Deathly Hallows scenes where Harry and Hermione are setting up camp and is therefore a feature on many Harry Potter bucket lists. Janet’s Foss is also a place associated with stories, but this time, the story is much older. The beautiful waterfall and woodland glade are said to be the home of Janet, Queen of the Fairies, and it is easy to imagine fairies dancing across the water and through the wild garlic which thrives in the woods here!

There’s something magical about Malhamdale. The diversity and wonder of the Yorkshire Dales is captured in a microcosm centred on Malham: fairytale woods and waterfalls, extraordinary limestone pavements, windswept moors, the wonderful gorge at Gordale Scar and the awe-inspiring cove itself. Gordale Scar is a surprise favourite for many: people flock to Malham to see the cove with no idea about the enormous gorge just around the corner! Many people are so thrilled by this discovery that it stays with them as their favourite part of the day.

For those who don’t want a strenuous walk and want to avoid the crowds that gather around the cove, Malham Tarn is a slightly quieter alternative. There is a National Trust walk starting from Watersinks car park which is slightly shorter at around four and a half miles. Malham Tarn is one of only three natural lakes in North Yorkshire – the other two are Semerwater in Raydale and Gormire Lake in the North York Moors (which you can read about in my blog about Sutton Bank).

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. This walk is a bit of a mixed bag for dogs. At the start you pass along the river and some enclosed lanes, where your dog can have a swim and a run off the lead. In the woods too there are opportunities for off-lead running and swimming. However, beyond this point, leads should be on as there are both sheep and cows on this walk as well as a seventy metre drop off the top of the cove. The limestone pavement, too, can be tricky for dogs, with deep cracks criss-crossing the surface. Dogs can and do manage this walk though so don’t let this put you off!

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