Yorkshire Dales – Gordale Scar to Malham Cove

1 09 2011

A nice little walk (around 5 miles) I do quite regularly is from Malham and takes in both Malham Cove and Gordale Scar. The whole walk is spectacular limestone scenery and involves a small scramble of around 20 feet up Gordale Scar’s lower waterfall.

You can either reach Malham by bus from Skipton (trains to Skipton) or park up in Malham (plenty of large carparks and of course, if you pay to park, it goes to the upkeep of the area). At the start of the village there is a footpath over a little bridge signposted for Janet’s Foss, a beautiful waterfall in a little wooded glade.

Janet’s Foss

A well-made, mostly flagged, path crosses the fields and heads round the corner into a little wood. Just as you are about to leave the wood you reach the Foss – from there the path clambers up left to a minor road where in summer, if you’re lucky, there’s a convenient ice-cream van! 🙂

Turn right along the road briefly – almost opposite where you come out onto the road, a path sets off from the other side of the road signposted for Gordale Scar.

Gordale Scar

Gordale Scar Crags

Follow another well-made stoned path round the corner of the spectacular gorge to find your way apparently blocked by a waterfall. This is the lower fall of Gordale. The best way up it is centre-left, just to the left of the fall coming down the middle – around a large bulge. There is also a way up the right hand side of the falls but this is far more difficult and quite slippery – I’ve actually seen a guy fall right down this and hurt himself.

Gordale Scar waterfall

The route up the side of the fall has knobs for handholds and plenty of them, footholds are also great so there is no problem whatsoever, even for a mountain coward. However, the first time I ascended it, I have to admit to being shocked when I stopped at the top and looked back down it (see the people below for scale…)

Above the first fall, scree and boulders lead up left around a corner, passing a little waterfall coming out of a hole in a rock curtain above you to your right.

The path keeps left of another rock curtain which has an interesting narrow ledge near the top coming back out over the drop you’ve just ascended. I made myself walk along it once up onto the top of the narrow curtain – looked a long way down!

The ledge is at the top of the left-hand side of the jutting ‘curtain’
Gordale-above waterfall route


However, the other side is just grassy and rocky steps with no exposure. It’s well worth crossing over the ‘curtain’ (you don’t have to do the narrow ledge) down to the beck to investigate where the upper falls go through the hole in the opposite rock curtain.

Gordale-upper fall curtain

Gordale-through upper fall hole

Ascending back to the top of the route you then break out right through a drystone wall heading along a smooth grassy track towards Malham Tarn (more a lake than a tarn).

The grassy path continues through the wall ahead
Gordale upper scar

Gordale gorge end

Upon reaching another minor road, if you want to visit the tarn (worth a look), continue on the track the other side in the same direction for about another quarter of a mile.

Malham Tarn

Return to the road and follow it (right if you visited the tarn and left if you didn’t) to (hopefully) another ice-cream van/snack wagon in about another quarter of a mile. You don’t really need to bring any provisions on this walk!

At this point you will see another signpost pointing left through a gate sending you back towards Malham Cove across more grassland. The path soon winds into a narrower grassy valley and eventually passes an interesting cave on the left up another little scramble – again, well worth a look. In the evenings this cave get lots of sun so is a pleasant place for a sit. From here the path winds interestingly round the edge of limestone crags and into a narrow rocky valley.

Malham-gorge by Comb Hill (from the cave)

You keep straight on through this defile and soon you pass through a tiny gate atop a stile and then you are on the famous limestone pavements above Malham Cove.

Malham Cove and pavement

There is some great exploring to be had on the grassy ledges above the cove – and some huge drops to look down!

Malham Cove – view from

Don’t scare any bunnies over this drop please – there’s a few around!

When you tire of exploring, head for the right-hand side (looking out over the drop) of the cove, where you will find another path just below the limestone pavement which descends back down to the lower valley.

Malham Cove from Descent

From here you can head back to beneath the cove for another look around. There is an interesting limestone ledge about 20 feet up the scar which can be crossed. It’s great fun but quite polished and slippery so be careful! Also, this is a favourite taking-off point for climbers so try not to get in their way…

Malham Cove lower ledge

The ledge from the other side and the spring emerging

It is then a short walk back into Malham (about half a mile). You can go either side of the river to reach the village where there are a couple of good (but very popular and busy) pubs which do food and real ales.

Malham Cove



8 responses

17 11 2011

I love all the crags and the waterfalls…quite a bit of wonderful geologic history right in front of you on those hikes. And again…beautiful photos. 🙂


17 11 2011

Our limestone areas are geologically very interesting indeed – shame we don’t have more of them!


6 09 2011

Was down there years ago on the way home from a caving trip.Fantastic place and great photos of Malham cove.We were just getting into the area when we were turned back by landowners as we,d tried to walk too far up river from the cove.When we were Standing back down at the bottom of the limestone wall under the cove however I decided I wasn,t really cut out to be a climber after all.


10 09 2011

It’s a fearsome place to imagine climbing up isn’t it – smooth, slippery and then overhanging! Didn’t realise you went caving? I’ve thought about taking the slightly extended Ingleborough Cave trip – goes about another hour on from the show cave. I’m not sure I’d like squeezes though and there is one…


3 09 2011
Colin Gregory

It’s a grand little walk in the yorks dales most spectacular few square miles.Do they still have orange triangular P.W. markers up? They were all over the place when I was at Malham Tarn earlier on in the year. They caused great confusion to one young couple I came across. They were supposed to be walking the Malham trail (cove to Scar direct and not via the Tarn) They’d seen the orange markers and assumed they marked the trail. Totally lost they caught up with me and explained what they were supposed to have been doing.They were pretty miffed when they realised they’d strayed. At this point I was half way up Fountains Fell around a mile above Tenant Gill Farm. They’d actually headed 5 miles off course without realising it. I told them to head back to Malham by the Tarmac road just incase they got lost again!! As the markers continued over Fountains Fell I was left wondering how far they would have gone if they hadn’t met me.


10 09 2011

Hi Colin,
Despite doing the walk fairly regularly, I haven’t been recently as I’ve been too busy in Scotland so I’m not sure about the orange markers. I haven’t seen any anyway. They may have popped up since my last visit though?

LOL – those poor people were way off course weren’t they!


2 09 2011

Very impressive sculptured rocks Carol. Looks like an lovely walk and added scrambles/climbs if you were that way inclined. 🙂 Puts many munros to shame


2 09 2011

It’s a great place to hone scrambling skills and get confidence 🙂

Wouldn’t fancy the climb up Malham Cove though – all that smooth and overhanging rock and such a huge drop! 😮


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