Gordale Scar, Malham Tarn and Malham Cove: Circular Walk

A great circular walk from Malham village, taking in Janet's Cave / Foss, Gordale Scar, Malham Tarn, the limestone pavement at the top of Malham Cove and the cove itself before finishing back at the car. Consistently interesting and varied scenery.
Please note that there is a scramble up steep water worn rock in Goredale. Some people might find this challenging.

Technical sheet
No. 2001568
A Malham walk posted on 22/04/19 by Alwayswiththehills. Update : 26/04/21
Calculated time Calculated time: 4h20[?]
Distance Distance : 8.13mi
Vertical gain Vertical gain : 702ft
Vertical drop Vertical drop : 699ft
Highest point Highest point : 1286ft
Lowest point Lowest point : 633ft
Moderate Difficulty : Moderate
Back to starting point Back to starting point : Yes
Walking Walking
Area Area : Yorkshire Dales
Location Location : Malham
Starting point Starting point : N 54.057728° / W 2.154743°
Download : -
5 on Gordale Scar Looking back up to Limestone Paving from valley below Malham Cove Yorkshire Dales scenery. A patchwork of fields.


(D) From the parking, walk into the village passing the National Park centre (toilets here if needed), Malham Methodist Chapel and the Old Barn Café. Then, on the right side of the road, you will see the Malham Smithy. Cross the narrow stone bridge. Turn immediately right and follow the Pennine Way also marked Janet's Foss. The good path is made from york stone slabs and soon brings you to a gate.

(1) Turn left at the gate and leave the Pennine Way, following the finger post past a barn and along a continuation of the good path with Gordale Beck on your right. You will soon enter woods with some crags, a cave on the left and then Janet's Foss (waterfall) and cave. The path climbs up here over a few rocky steps to lead to the road. Cross the road, turn right and walk along passing a small bridge before coming to a gate on the left into the Gordale Scar Campsite.

(2) Walk on the good track through the campsite and into Gordale, soon the valley narrows with steep cliffs on either side. Gordale Scar is one of Yorkshire's major climbing sites and you may well see climbers here. Follow the path up through the gorge; there is a section where you will have to scramble steeply on rocky steps with the water of the beck splashing beside you. Take care, the limestone is polished smooth by the passing of feet and the action of water; if damp, wet boot soles can be very slippery. Test each foot and handhold. It is possible to ascend at the left although this is usually wet. The easiest way is straight up the rocks in the middle as shown in the photo. (Do not go right into the circular hole next to the man in the middle, rather from where he is, step left across the rock and then up and right to the top man), Choose your route according to your ability and conditions underfoot, if it is too wet turn back and take the alternative route (see useful information below) up to the tarn.

At the top of the scramble take the path diagonally on the left and up more easily to the top of gorge. Turn around and admire the view back down, Then take the stony path which slants up leftwards to a wall.

(3) Cross the wall and follow the good path, which veers away from the line of the gorge top. The path is grassy and provides good walking. It brings you to towards a dry stone wall with a road on the other side. Follow the path with the wall on your left to a corner where a stone stile leads you up and over.

(4) After crossing the wall take the good track North, heading towards a rocky scar on the skyline (Great Close Scar). The track soon leads to a small pond on the right (which is part of Great Close Mire) and a gate. Turn left before the gate and follow the path with the wall and trees on your right. This area can be muddy after wet weather. Keep to the line of the wall until a small copse of trees on your right where you join up with another path from the left. Then, turn right and walk to a metal gate and entry to the Malham Tarn Estate.

(5) Go through the gate and walk on until you can admire the views of the tarn. Retrace your steps back to the gate, go through it and then take the Pennine Way on your right towards another dry stone wall which has a copse of trees on the other side. Go past this and follow the path over the grass to the dam and outlet at the southern edge of the lake.

(6) From the dam, follow the path south towards Water Sinks car park and Henside Road. Skirt the car park on the right and turn right at the road. Go over the bridge and turn almost immediately left at a finger post for the Pennine Way and Malham.
Where the path splits take the left-hand path (Pennine Way / Malham), this takes you past the water sinks for Malham Beck and into a shallow gorge.

(7) Take a sharp left and walk down the continuation of the narrow gorge, soon this will lead to a view where the limestone pavement is in front of you.

(8) There is a prominent finger post pointing in two directions. At the finger post, turn right and step up onto the limestone pavement. Take care as a few blocks (Clints) are wobbly and the cracks (Grykes) are just the right size to twist or break an ankle should you slip a foot into one. Take the time to walk to the front and admire the view across to the left, directly below you is the steepest part of the cove so be careful it is along the way down. Cross the limestone pavement to a place where the path turns left onto some well-maintained steps.

(9) Go through another kissing gate and take the good steps down to the bottom of the cove. As you near the bottom, the view of the sheer cliff face will come into view. Like Gordale this is also a major rock climbing venue although climbers avoid the crag during the nesting season in spring as it is home to Peregrine Falcons. (There is often a viewing area set up at the bottom of the cove with scopes so that visitors can spot the birds)

(10) From the cove bottom, turn right follow the path south back towards Malham, it soon joins the road where there is a path beside the road but after the campsite. You will have to walk along the roadside.

(11) Just past Town Head (National Trust Barn), there is a path on the left crossing the beck and going into Malham village if you want to look around but the best way to get back to your car is to take the track on the opposite side of the road (right) through Hill Top Farm and follow the lane south until it comes out beside the National Park parking area. Return to your car, in whichever car park you used.

Waypoints :
D/A : mi 0 - alt. 643ft - Car park
1 : mi 0.47 - alt. 636ft - Gate
2 : mi 1.6 - alt. 764ft - Gate to Gordale Scar Campsite - Gordale Scar Campsite
3 : mi 2.2 - alt. 1148ft - Wall
4 : mi 3.24 - alt. 1263ft - Street Gate
5 : mi 4.1 - alt. 1257ft - Gate
6 : mi 4.99 - alt. 1240ft
7 : mi 6.02 - alt. 1194ft - Junction with Dales High Way
8 : mi 6.62 - alt. 925ft - Fingerpost
9 : mi 6.76 - alt. 1010ft - Gate
10 : mi 6.96 - alt. 804ft
11 : mi 7.62 - alt. 686ft
D/A : mi 8.12 - alt. 643ft

Useful Information

Good parking by the side of the road on the way into Malham £2 voluntary donation in the milk churn beside the road, or alternatively in the National Park car park or in the field opposite (both £5 per day). On a good sunny bank holiday, Malham will be packed with visitors so head out early or choose a less busy time.

The navigation is easy as all paths are well signposted. Much of the walk is on good ground with well-managed paths; e.g. the start to Janet's Foss. The scramble at Gordale is the most technical challenge, I recommend stout footwear such as walking boots or good approach shoes. After a rain, it can be muddy in places so again boots would be preferable.

If taking your dog please keep it on a lead as there are many fields with sheep and cows.
Most dogs will not manage the scramble in Goredale but we did see one couple pulling and pushing their dog up the rocks. That looked like an accident waiting to happen.

If the scramble puts you off then it is possible to take a path on the left (Dales High Way route) just before point 2. It ascends through fields to a road on Shorkley Hill. Turn right and follow the side of the road up to point 4, then follow the route as described.

From Gordale track back to Gordale Bridge, just before the campsite, and take the good, well marked path to Malham Cove.

In lambing time please do not touch the lambs, even if you think one has been abandoned.

If you are planning to stay in the area for a few days or have a short holiday I can highly recommend the holiday cottage at Hill Top Farm; Neil and Leigh who are the owners are both very friendly and helpful. They also run bunk house accommodation. https://hilltopmalham.co.uk/

Visorando and this author cannot be held responsible in the case of accidents or problems occuring on this walk.

Opinions and comments


Global average : 4.44/5
Number of opinions : 6
Description quality : 4.17/5
Routemap quality : 4.5/5
Walk interest : 4.67/5

on Thu 16 Sep 2021 17:39:43 CEST

Global average : 4.67 / 5

Date of walk : 20/08/21
Description quality : Very good
Easiness to follow the route : Good
Walk interest : Very good

Excellent walk but the ‘scramble’ at Gordale Scar is more like a rock climb, especially after rain and would not recommend for anyone with limited mobility. The recommended left hand side of the Scar was a torrent of water when we went up so we had to climb up the more difficult middle of the Scar. The vast majority of walkers on the day we did the walk were turning back at the Scar and using the alternative route to the Tarn. However, once past the Scar the climb is easier with some steps, and the scenery for the rest of the walk is outstanding.

on Wed 18 Aug 2021 22:09:45 CEST

Global average : 4.33 / 5

Date of walk : 18/08/21
Description quality : Good
Easiness to follow the route : Very good
Walk interest : Good

The scramble at Gordale Scar was too hard for my eight year old as his arms and legs were too short to get across so we had to turn back and find an alternate route to The Tarn as we didn't want to walk on the road. If this happens best thing to do is turn back to the ice cream van where you can pick up a gentle footpath to above Malham Cove then signposted to The Tarn.

on Mon 21 Sep 2020 12:49:45 CEST

Global average : 5 / 5

Date of walk : 20/09/20
Description quality : Very good
Easiness to follow the route : Very good
Walk interest : Very good

Terrific Walk - very diverse scenery - Woodland, Open Moor Land and Rocky. Challenging in places but not to difficult for my group of Three (all 60+ so anyone thinking about this walk don't let your age be a barrier, also many family groups out with young children). Gordale Scar Malham Cove and Malham Tarn are perfect examples of the beauty nature creates.

on Wed 15 Jul 2020 20:37:52 CEST

Thank you for your comment, it is much appreciated; it is feedback which helps improve the descriptions.

I have amended the text to make it clearer that the easier route is on the left side of the beck. Your photograph is of the most popular way up the middle of the beck.

I have also added a small paragraph in useful information which provides the alternative route for those who do not wish to tackle the scramble.

Kind regards

on Wed 15 Jul 2020 15:32:30 CEST

Global average : 3.33 / 5

Date of walk : 11/07/20
Description quality : Disappointing
Easiness to follow the route : Good
Walk interest : Good

the paragraph (2) does not do the difficulty of the Scramble!!! over Gordale Scar justice. as we are past our best in age, when we got to this SCRAMBLE we found it should have been described as a rock climb after the rocking path approach, I have a picture of 5 young people finding it difficult, having to help each other to reach the top. so we had to find another way to get round which was to the left. part of the way to Malham Cove.

on Sat 31 Aug 2019 19:09:30 CEST

Global average : 5 / 5

Date of walk : 31/08/19
Description quality : Very good
Easiness to follow the route : Very good
Walk interest : Very good

Really nice walk and a variety of views, however it is worth mentioning that the climb up Gordale Scar is a bit scary if you are not used to that sort of thing however if you take your time and are careful it is manageable, rest of the walk no problems at all

on Mon 20 May 2019 19:33:02 CEST

Thanks for the feedback.

Yes I did mention dogs because of lambing but you are right; most dogs will not manage the scramble in Goredale and the alternative route you mention is a good one.

I'll amend the instructions as you suggest.


on Mon 20 May 2019 10:23:35 CEST

Global average : 4.33 / 5

Date of walk : 14/05/19
Description quality : Good
Easiness to follow the route : Good
Walk interest : Very good

Super walk, Excellent directions however Gordale Scar is not suitable for Dogs

Comment at the end of the main page states "If taking your dog please keep it on a lead as there are many fields with sheep and cows."

Suggest you look up Julia Bradburys walks with a view (On Youtube )and turn around at Gordale Scar back to the refreshment Caravan where there is a route signposted to Malham Cove . Malham Cove has a spectacular view

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