Malham Cove, Gordale Scar and Janet's Foss walk from Malham

Janet's Foss
Goredale Scar
Malham Cove

Malham Cove, Gordale Scar and Janet's Foss Walk Video

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Malham Cove, Gordale Scar and Janet's Foss Walk Information

Walk around Malham's geological wonders: Janet's Foss waterfall, Gordale Scar (100m high gorge) and Malham Cove (over 80m high and 300m wide) which was used in a scene from a Harry Potter movie.

     

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Walk title: Malham Cove, Gordale Scar and Janet's Foss walk from Malham
Author: Andrew Forrest - December 2022
Walk start point: Pay and display car park in Malham (grid reference SD 899 626) - small amount of road side parking available, but please park responsibly as Malham does get very busy, especially at weekends and bank holidays.
Parking: As above
Directions to nearest parking place: Google Maps: get directions here / What3words: blubber.failed.valve
Walk distance: 7.9 km
Estimated walk time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Height climbed: 225 metres
Technical difficulty: Moderate - as determined by our interpretation of the Ordnance Survey guidance on technical difficulties
Peaks / summits: None of note
Map: Ordnance Survey - Explorer OL2 (Yorkshire Dales - Southern & Western Area)
Buy this map from Ordnance Survey
GPS/GPX file: Download here
Facilities / refreshments: Toilets in car park at Malham, 3 pubs/restaurant and café in Malham
Nearest town: Walk starts in Malham, nearest larger towns Settle or Skipton
Local self-catering accommodation: View self-catering accommodation close to the start of this walk from Sykes Holiday Cottages or Holidaycottages.co.uk
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Estimated walk time

Walk time estimates used are from the Ordnance Survey mapping app, which uses a refined Naismith's rule, adjusted by OS overlaying their own data collected from more than one million people using the OS mapping app. Naismith's rule allowed one hour for every three miles walked and added pro-rata an additional hour for every 2000ft of ascent - roughly one hour for every 5km, plus one hour for every 600m of ascent.

Malham Cove, Gordale Scar and Janet's Foss Walk Route Map

 

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Malham Cove, Gordale Scar and Janet's Foss Walk Summary

This Malham Cove, Gordale Scar and Janet's Foss circular walk from Malham takes in many of the stunning geological features that surround the village. From Malham village centre, the walk follows Malham beck and then Gordale beck, on through a delightful wood to reveal Janet's Foss, a waterfall set in its own little amphitheatre.

A little further on Gordale Scar is reached, a gorge with limestone cliffs over 100m high. The walk briefly retraces its steps to then head over a short climb to reach the limestone pavement above Malham Cove.

The walk heads down from the limestone pavement to the foot of Malham Cove and away from it to reveal the cove in its full splendour - over 80m high and 300m wide - it was once the site of a waterfall higher than Niagara Falls!

The walk is a firm favourite with hikers and bird watchers alike - one of the best walks in the Yorkshire Dales.

Malham Cove, Gordale Scar and Janet's Foss Walk Description

The full walk is shown in the video above and the route for the walk is shown on the Ordnance Survey map above. Below is a brief description of the walk.

The walk starts from the pay and display National Park Centre car park in Malham in the Yorkshire Dales. Leave the car park and turn left along the road, passing the church and a café. Before reaching the Buck Inn, cross the road just before the Malham Smithy and pass to the right of it to immediately cross a stone bridge over Malham Beck and then turn right along the gravelled path, following the sign for Janet's Foss. This path is part of the Pennine Way, a 268-mile walk from Edale in the Derbyshire Peak District to Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish Borders.

Yorkshire Dales National Park Centre in Malham

Yorkshire Dales National Park Centre in Malham

Bridge by Malham Smithy

Bridge by Malham Smithy

Continue through a series of gates following Janet's Foss footpath signs. After about 1 mile, enter the woods by the Malham Tarn Estate sign and along the undulating path to arrive at Janet's Foss.

The information sign lets us know that "According to legend, Janet (or Jennet), queen of the fairies, lived in a cave behind the waterfall. Foss is the old Scandinavian name for a waterfall."

Path in the Woods heading towards Janet's Foss

Path in the Woods heading towards Janet's Foss

Janet's Foss

Janet's Foss

Walk along the path past the information board, alongside the wall and up a short climb, to pass through a wooden gate and head right along the road for 100m or so, passing a layby, to turn left off the road and through a gate following the footpath sign for 'Gordale Scar ½m'. A gravelled path leads around to reach Gordale Scar and its two waterfalls.

Approaching Gordale Scar

Approaching Gordale Scar

Gordale Scar

Gordale Scar

Over the last 1.5 million years, Malham has been covered by three great sheets of ice. Gordale Scar was most likely formed by melting water creating a cavern that then collapsed. Each time the glaciers melted the water and moving rocks scoured away the rocks, leaving the gorge that we see today. Gordale Scar was painted by J M W Turner and has been the subject of an 1818 sonnet by William Wordsworth.

Retrace your steps back to the road and right to the layby passed about 50 metres earlier. This time turn right over the bridge over Gordale Beck into the 'layby' and head towards the wooden kissing gate a few metres away.

Kissing gate and path leaving the layby

Kissing gate and path leaving the layby

Once through the kissing gate, walk away from the wall on the path following the footpath sign for 'Malham Cove 1 mile'. The path heads to a wall corner, then by the left-hand side of a wall to reach a wooden kissing gate, through which head diagonally up across the next field towards the stone steps and gate in the corner of the field.

Climb the steps and turn left through the gate alongside the wall and on to pass through a wooden gate at a wall junction. Keep on beside the wall and head along this gravelled path along the right-hand side of the wall then across a field, eventually passing by a telegraph pole before pulling in alongside another wall. Continue up to and pass through the gate and turn right onto the road.

From the road, turn immediately left over a stile on the opposite wall. Head away from the wall, over a small rise and then continue ahead in the same direction. After a couple of hundred metres, the path gently climbs onto Sheriff Hill and pulls in beside a wall corner and along the right-hand side of the wall. From the sign on the wall corner, keep on towards the limestone pavement on top of Malham Cove following the sign 'Malham Cove ¼ mile'.

Looking down onto the limestone pavement above Malham Cove

Looking down onto the limestone pavement above Malham Cove

The path drops down towards the top of the cove. As you approach the cove, pass through either of the two gates to get onto the pavement and then head directly away from the wall following the Malham 1 ¼ mile sign across the limestone pavement. If you feel you will struggle walking across the limestone pavement, walking is a little easier to the right. The left-hand side is unfenced and there is a big drop, so stay well away from the edge.

Heading across the limestone pavement above Malham Cove

Heading across the limestone pavement above Malham Cove

This walk was voted the third best in Britain in ITV's Britain's Favourite Walks. If you want to try another one, not too far away, check out the Ingleton Waterfalls Trail.

View from above Malham Cove towards Malham

View from above Malham Cove towards Malham

The limestone pavement has been formed by the movement of glaciers over time. The blocks of limestone themselves are called clints and the gaps or fissures in between them grikes. The underlying flora is generally ferns in the grikes along with any other lime-loving flowers that take hold. For film buffs, a scene from the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I film was filmed here where Harry and Hermione set up a magical tent.

Once across the limestone pavement, you reach a wall. Turn left down the side of the wall where a wooden kissing gate is reached after a few yards. Pass through this and turn left to head down the man-made steps. Pass through a wooden gate and on downwards as the steps get steeper to reach another gate.

Pass through the gate. The route back to Malham is the right-hand fork, but a short detour can be made by taking the left-hand fork to the base of Malham cove. Head down along this path as it pulls in alongside the water and through a wooden gate head along the rocky ground to the base of the cove.

The water emerging from the base of Malham Cove comes from Smelt Mill Sinks, ¾ mile northwest of the cove. After exploring, turn around and head back over the rocky ground to pass back through the gate.

Close-up of Malham Cove

Close-up of Malham Cove

Malham Cove

Malham Cove

Continue straight ahead on the gravel path by the side of the water. When you get a little further away from the cove, you can turn around and appreciate its sheer size - over 80 metres high and 300 metres wide and was once the site of a waterfall higher than Niagara Falls! With the very heavy rainfall we had in December 2015, Malham Cove briefly became the tallest unbroken waterfall in England again, a record held by its not-too-distant neighbour Hardraw Force up in Wensleydale.

Keep on along the now-flagged path to pass through a wooden gate and continue along the path. Bird watchers are frequent visitors here with their binoculars trained on the top of the cove, which has been home to peregrine falcons since 1993. Green woodpeckers, redstarts and cliff-nesting house martins can also be seen from time to time.

The path then climbs to pass through a kissing gate into the National Trust's Malham Cove fields and continues climbing towards the road. Pass through the next gate and down to and through a second gate that brings you out onto the road.

Turn left onto the road towards Malham, where you initially pass by a campsite on your left. Keep on along the road, to eventually pass the Buck Inn and not long after that turn right back into the National Park Centre car park.

Check out our Malham Cove video on this page, which shows a few short diversions that can be made at the end of the walk for somewhere to eat and drink.

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MALHAM WEATHER

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