Malham Cove & Gordale Scar, Malhamdale, Yorkshire Dales, North Yorkshire.
Distance: 5 miles / 8 kilometers
Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Map: OS Explorer OL02 - Yorkshire Dales, Southern & Western areas
This is one of my all time favourite walks, readily enjoyed by people of all ages, particularly on sunny summer days - many great places for a picnic - if you can find a quiet place!. The waterfalls are at their most spectular after a heavy rainfall. This walk is good in any season, though a little more care is required when walking across the top of Malham Cove, or when scrambling up Gordale Scar in winter when it is icy and snow covered.
This is an easy unchallenging 6 mile walk through one of the most magical and naturally beautiful areas of Malhamdale. After leaving the car park, and crossing the footbridge next to the Smithy's workshop where wrought iron is sculptured over a traditional coke forge by the local smithy - well worth a visit either before or after the walk.
The path follows the beck away from Malham, on a gentle stroll to Janet's Foss waterfall - Legend has it that Janet, or Jennet was the Queen of the local fairies who lived in a cave behind the waterfall. The cave was created as the tufa limestone was dissolved and eroded by water saturated mosses growing on the lip of the waterfall. The waterfall creates a screen that plunges into a pool below. (Tufa is a porous limestone formed from calcium carbonate (what limestone is made from) which reacts to the carbon dioxide from the mosses and plants that has been dissolved in the water).
In the magical wooded area of Wedber Wood with its ash, birch and hazel trees just before Janet's Foss, there are a couple fallen trees, where old and new pennies have been pressed into the trunks, as people make a wish to the queen of the fairies....
The walk then passes through a private camp site along a public rights of way footpath to take in the specatular Gordale Scar housing a double waterfall. The route passes through a narrow canyon towering hundreds of feet high on either side, this site is very popular with rock climbers, scramblers and artists. Gordale Beck flows down the ravine, producing a series of waterfalls over the tufa. There is a scramble route up Gordale Scar but should not be attempted by the inexperienced. There is a pathway up the side, though the route is not clearly obvious.
There is the option to take a 2 mile detour to Malham Tarn - a place of oustanding beauty, before returning back via the top of Malham Cove, which is a grand geographical marval with an amphitheatre of limestone rock 250 feet high, paved at the top with limestone 'clints' and 'grykes'.
The walk is very popular in good weather, especially in the summer, bank holidays and weekends due to being easy to access and being too well known! as a place of outstanding beauty. In early summer (March to July) the resident Peregrines can be seen raising their young with spectacular aerobatical displays as the adults bring them food.
During busy periods the National Park Centre car park gets full, but there is plenty of free roadside parking, this too can fill up, and it is not uncommon to stretch nearly a mile, so it is often wise to get their early. The National Park Centre houses toilets and a tourist information bureau.