The Malham Cove Walk is one of the best walks in England. This is by no means an exaggeration. The Malham Cove Walk, which explores Malham Cove, Malham Tarn, Gordale Scar and Janet’s Foss, is a truly thrilling walking trail. In this guide, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about the extraordinary Malham Cove Walk in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
We hope you find this guide helpful. For more information about the attractions near Malham Cove, read our guides about Malham Tarn, Gordale Scar and Janet’s Foss (coming soon).
Table of Contents
Malham Cove Walk Overview
The star attraction of the Malham Cove Walk, is, of course, Malham Cove – an 80-metre high amphitheatre-shaped limestone cliff wall. But, there are many other spectacular natural attractions surrounding Malham Cove. Thankfully, these can all be reached by doing the incredible Malham Cove Walk.
Technically speaking, it’s an extension of the Yorkshire Dales National Park’s Malham Landscape Trail. On its own, the Malham Landscape Trail includes visiting Malham Cove and the two Malham waterfalls – Gordale Scar Waterfall (Gordale Falls) and Janet’s Foss. The Malham Cove Walk discussed in this guide, goes one step further, and visits the amazing Malham Tarn – a wildlife-rich glacial lake.
Malham Cove is located near the small village of Malham in North Yorkshire in the Yorkshire Dales. Indeed, it’s from Malham, that you’ll complete the Malham Cove Walk.
Without further ado, let’s look at some trail specs and a map of this route, which is certainly one of the best walks in the UK, let alone Malham.
FYI – this walk is also known as the Malham Circular Walk, Malham Cove Circular Walk, Gordale Scar and Malham Cove Walk (i.e. the Malham Cove and Gordale Scar Walk), the Extended Malham Landscape Trail and the Malham Cove Hike.
Malham Cove Walk Stats
- Type: Loop
- Distance: 15km
- Time: 4–6 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 360m
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Trailhead/Parking: Malham Visitor Centre Car Park
FYI – personally, we did the Malham Cove Walk in a clockwise direction. This is so we could explore the popular Malham Cove first before it got really busy. But, if you plan on scrambling/climbing through Gordale Scar, it’s advised that you do the Malham Cove Walk in an anti-clockwise direction. Although not impossible to scramble down Gordale Scar, it’s much safer and easier to scramble up. We’ll talk more about scrambling at Gordale Scar here.
Malham Cove Walk Route (Map)
Here’s a map of the Malham Cove walking route. Press on the image below to access a map with GPS-guided directions. Otherwise, here’s an ordnance survey map.
Malham Cove Walk: Route Description, Instructions and Photos
In the trail description below, we’ll talk about the highlights of the Malham Cove Walk, whilst briefly detailing directions. Of course, simply follow the GPS-guided map linked above for actual trail navigation.
Anyway, as mentioned, your Malham Cove walking adventure will begin in Malham. Let’s look at your options for parking.
Malham Cove Car Park: Malham Cove Visitor Centre
Most people park at the pay and display car park next to the Yorkshire Dales National Park Centre in Malham. So, that’s where most people start the walk from. Paying £5 will give you parking access for more than two hours, which is what you’ll need timewise to complete the Malham Cove Walk. Given the popularity of visiting Malham Cove, there is sometimes overflow parking on the surrounding farms, operated by the farm owners, which will cost roughly the same.
If you arrive early enough, it’s also possible to find street-side parking on Chapel Gate. This is the road leading to the national park’s visitor centre and the village of Malham. It’s expected that you pay £1 using the honesty box system. Of course, these spaces fill quickly, but it’s the cheapest parking option.
FYI – the Malham Cove postcode for the visitor centre car park is BD23 4DA.
Walking From Malham to Malham Cove
From Malham, you have two options for reaching Malham Cove. You can follow Cove Road, passing through the village of Malham, with Malham Beck on your right-hand side. After passing Malham Riverside Campsite, you’ll join a trail, that’ll lead you to Malham Cove.
Alternatively, you can follow Finkle Street briefly, passing the village green, before turning left to join a walking trail much sooner. The trail then continues through farmland, before leading through Cove Pasture. Beck and I followed this particular route that heads towards Malham Cove. Personally, we enjoyed the opportunity to explore the open farmland and countryside earlier on in the walk.
Soon enough, the two trails converge at the calm Malcolm Beck stream. Waiting just further ahead is the mesmerising limestone cliff walls of Malham Cove. Take your time to explore the magnificent cliff face!
Read more: Malham Cove – Everything You Need to Know About Visiting
Malham Limestone Pavement
After gawking at the incredible rock formation, you’ll then walk to the top of the cove to explore the fascinating limestone pavement. To do so, you’ll cross over Malham Beck and walk up a winding set of steps known as the Malham Cove steps.
At the top of the steps, you’ll find the amazing 300-metre wide Malham Cove limestone pavement. Certainly, it’s one of the largest and finest examples of limestone pavement in the UK. This uneven rock platform was actually a filming location for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which was released in 2010! Indeed, Malham Cove became even more popular after the release of the film.
From the limestone pavement, you’ll also enjoy views towards the village of Malham!
Malham Cove to Malham Tarn
After scoping out the limestone pavement, you’ll join a trail heading in a northerly direction. Along this path, you’ll explore more of the typical Yorkshire Dales limestone landscape. After approx. 2km, you’ll cross Henside Road near the Watersinks Car Park, joining the Pennine Way. You’ll soon arrive at the calm waters of Malham Tarn, which is also known as the National Trust Malham Tarn Estate.
Malham Tarn is the largest natural lake in North Yorkshire, whilst being just one of the only two natural lakes in the Yorkshire Dales. Interestingly, it’s the highest lake in England and one of only eight upland alkaline lakes in Europe. Given the low pH of this glacial lake, there’s rich wildlife and birdlife at the tarn. So much so, that it’s been given National Nature Reserve status. It’s also in a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation.
To the east of Malham Tarn is the impressive Great Close Scar. It’s yet another impressive limestone landscape en route!
Read more: Malham Tarn (coming soon)
Malham Tarn to Street Gate Junction
After walking along Malham Tarn, you’ll join a trail heading southeast towards the kissing gate at Street Gate. After negotiating the fence, you’ll turn right, briefly heading south before heading southeast once more towards the epic Gordale Scar.
Street Gate Junction to Gordale Scar
Alongside Malham Cove, Gordale Scar is one of the most mind-blowing limestone landscapes in the Yorkshire Dales. Basically, Gordale Scar is a limestone ravine (gorge). Its intimidating walls rise over 100 metres! Cascading through Gordale Scar is a hidden waterfall. To find this waterfall, you’ll need to head down steep rocky terrain. Even if you’re not intending to scramble down and out of Gordale Scar, you’ll need to descend deep into the gorge to see the waterfall.
Read more: Gordale Scar (coming soon)
Gordale Scar Waterfall (Gordale Falls)
Gordale Scar Waterfall (AKA Gordale Falls) is an exceptional waterfall that you’ll find after some effort climbing down. Certainly, this waterfall is one of the best in the Yorkshire Dales. Finding Gordale Scar Waterfall is particularly exhilarating and fun.
Once you’re at the base of Gordale Scar Waterfall, you have two options. You can either scramble down the rocks to continue or simply follow another trail to leave the gorge. Let’s talk about these two options below.
Scrambling Through Gordale Scar
Indeed, it’s possible to scramble down the rocks by the side of the falls to exit Gordale Scar. Although, this option is reserved for experienced hikers with a bit of know-how and practice under the belt. As mentioned, it’s much easier and safer to scramble up the rocks. So, if you plan on scrambling through Gordale Scar, it’s best to do this circular walk in an anti-clockwise direction instead.
Avoiding Scrambling Through Gordale Scar
If you want to avoid the scramble, you can follow a more straightforward trail to continue the Malham Cove Walk. Instead, you’ll re-ascend Gordale Scar, before picking up a trail that takes you through New Close Knotts. This trail descends the western face of Gordale Scar. Along the way, you’ll enjoy some of the finest views of Malham, that you’d otherwise miss by scrambling through Gordale Scar. Personally speaking, it’s one of my favourite viewpoints in the Yorkshire Dales. This is certainly one solid reason to avoid scrambling.
Eventually, you’ll join a trail, passing near the Gordale Campsite, which leads to Hawthorns Lane. You’ll soon cross Gordale Bridge and briefly follow Gordale Lane. This lane will guide you towards the charming Janet’s Foss.
Gordale Scar to Janet’s Foss
Janet’s Foss is the second waterfall that you’ll see during the Malham Cove Walk. The peaceful plunge waterfall is only small; but, it’s absolutely delightful. The waterfall is formed by Gordale Beck at the point where the stream enters the lovely Wedber Wood. In the warmer months, you’ll find wild swimmers taking a dip in the small natural pool.
From Janet’s Foss, you’ll continue along the Riverside Path, which is a charming woodland trail that follows alongside Gordale Beck. The trail eventually leads you back towards Malham village.
Read more: Janet’s Foss (coming soon)
Other Malham Cove Walks and Walks in Malham
When it comes to walking in Malham, we think the Malham Cove Walk described in this guide is the best trail option for exploring Malham Cove and the surrounding area. Of course, there are other walking routes to choose from. Below, you’ll find the three other most popular route options.
- Short Malham Cove Walk: the easiest and quickest way to access Malham Cove is by simply doing the short approx. 2km walk from the car park. Some people will then simply return to Malham from there. Others will additionally climb the stairs to enjoy the limestone pavement. From the top of the cove, they’ll then descend the stairs and return to Malham.
- Malham Cove Circular Walk (AKA Malham Cove Short Circular Walk): this walk simply involves visiting Malham Cove, the limestone pavement and Janet’s Foss, without visiting Gordale Scar or Malham Tarn.
- Malham Landscape Trail: this walk is the same as the Malham Cove Circular Walk described above, but with an out and back extension via Gordale Scar Waterfall. Just so you know, this route doesn’t involve scrambling through Gordale Scar, nor will you visit Malham Tarn.
Now you know all about your walking options for seeing Malham Cove and its surrounding natural wonders. To help plan your trip, we’re going dive into the logistics, providing some practical tips for visiting along the way.
How to Get to Malham Cove (Directions)
The easiest and quickest way to get to Malham is to drive there yourself. As mentioned, you’ll park at either the Malham Park Visitor Centre Car Park or find street-side parking at Chapel Gate. If you don’t have your own set of wheels, we recommend hiring a car using Rentalcars.com. You’ll find a wide variety of cars on Rental Cars, which are very easy to book online.
It’s also possible to use public transport to get to Malham. From Skipton, you can take a bus, which alights at the bus stop out the front of the Buck Inn. We recommend using Google Maps to plan your journey.
Although, personally, we don’t recommend using public transport to get to Malham, as it may be a slow and tedious journey, depending on where you’re travelling from. Also, services can be quite limited, particularly during the week. Certainly, it’s best to drive to Malham yourself.
Where to Stay in Malham
Given Malham is only a small village, accommodation options are limited. Essentially, it’s all about quality, rather than quantity, when it comes to accommodation options in Malham. We’ve handpicked the best budget, mid-range and luxury options to suit all needs.
- Budget – YHA Malham: this is by far the best budget option. For the shoestring traveller, YHA Malham offers cheap dorm rooms. But, they also offer affordable private rooms. YHA Malham features a nice garden, an on-site shop, a self-catering kitchen and laundry facilities.
- Mid-range – The Buck Inn: not to be confused with The Buck Inn in Buckden, The Buck Inn in Malham is a great accommodation option for those looking for a slightly cheaper mid-range stay. Despite the lower rate, you’ll enjoy a very luxurious stay. Guests rave about its comfort, fantastic location and the friendliness of the staff.
- Mid-range – The Lister Arms: this quintessential 18th Century country inn is the most popular accommodation option in Malham. The Lister Arms offers a stylish yet comfortable and cosy stay, whilst it’s got a great reputation for its hearty English meals.
- Luxury – Beck Hall Malham: this is one of the most highly rated and popular hotel options. Beck Hall Malham is conveniently located, so you’ll only be a short walk from the incredible Malham Cove. Beck Hall Malham is a charming dog-friendly hotel with a well-renowned garden bistro restaurant. With 21 rooms available, we’re hoping there’s space available at Beck Hall Malham when you plan to visit.
If you’d prefer to camp, then there are two excellent Malham campsites. You’ve got the Malham Riverside Campsite, which is conveniently located, just a stone’s throw away from Malham Cove. Another option is the Gordale Scar Campsite. It’s located near the opening of Gordale Scar, which is yet another stellar camping location in Malham.
Facilities and Amenities
During the Malham Cove Walk, you won’t find much in the way of facilities or amenities. During busier periods, you might find an ice cream van at the Watersinks Car Park. Otherwise, again, during peak season, there’s sometimes a food van near the entrance of Gordale Scar, serving basic refreshments. Otherwise, you’ll find everything you need in the small village of Malham. There are toilets at the Malham Park Visitor Centre Car Park.
Other Places to Visit in the Yorkshire Dales
If you want to see other superb natural attractions in Yorkshire, then you’ll have to see more of the stunning Yorkshire Dales National Park. Below, we’ve listed some of the other best places to visit and walks to do in the Dales (guides coming soon).
- Aysgarth Falls: explore the truly sublime Lower, Middle and Upper Aysgarth Falls.
- Cauldron Falls (West Burton Falls): a lesser-known waterfall that’s nearby Aysgarth Falls.
- Hardraw Force: one of the most famous waterfalls in Yorkshire after featuring in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves.
- Ilkley Moor: a famous moorland in west Yorkshire.
- Simon’s Seat and Bolton Abbey Waterfall: explore the epic rocky outcrop at Simon’s Seat and the underrated Bolton Abbey Waterfall in the Valley of Desolation.
- Ingleton Waterfalls Trail: of course, there are many waterfalls to see along the Ingleton Falls Trail.
- Cautley Spout: England’s highest waterfall above ground, can be seen on a walk around Howgill Fell.
- Brimham Moor: an outstanding National Trust attraction, that’s best enjoyed on a short circular walk through the moorland.
- Burnsall to Grassington Walk: this classic walk explores two gorgeous towns in the Dales, whilst taking in all of the breathtaking nature in between (including seeing Linton Falls).
- Conistone Pie and Dib Circular: a lovely circular walk taking in the limestone landscape surrounding the small town of Conistone.
- Muker Meadows Circular Walk: you’ll explore many waterfalls on this walk, including the brilliant upper and lower East Gill Force.
- Settle Circular Walk: from nearby Settle, you’ll visit Catrigg Force, Attermire Scar and Scalebar Force.
Below, you’ll find the most frequently asked questions about the Malham Cove Walk.
How Long Is the Malham Cove Walk?
The Malham Cove walk time for the main walk described in this guide is around 4–6 hours, totalling approx. 15km.
How Long Is the Walk to Malham Cove From the Car Park?
It’s around 2km one-way, taking roughly 25–40 minutes.
How Difficult Is the Malham Cove Walk?
The main walk described in this guide is considered a moderate-difficulty walk, whilst it’s considered hard if you choose to scramble through Gordale Scar.
Do You Need Hiking Boots For Malham Cove?
Yes, we recommend hiking boots. That’s because limestone pavement can be slippery in wet conditions.
Is Malham Cove Dog Friendly?
Yes, you can bring your pooch!
Is There a Malham Cove Waterfall?
Not usually these days. Only when there has been heavy rainfall, a temporary waterfall can flow over the lip of Malham Cove. Although, back in the day (we’re talking during the Ice Age), a river used to flow down the valley above the cove, which would have plunged over the lip of the cove, creating a likely spectacular waterfall.
What to Wear and Take
These are our five hiking gear essentials for the Malham Cove Walk.
- Merrell Moab Mid Gore-Tex Hiking Boots: these hiking boots are super comfortable and lightweight.
- The North Face Venture Jacket: a fantastic windproof/waterproof jacket.
- Osprey Skarab 30L Day Backpack: a great backpack for hiking, which has plenty of space to store your gear.
- The North Face TKA Glacier Fleece Jacket: an excellent warmth:weight ratio fleece jacket that’ll help keep you warm.
- Columbia Convertible Trousers: a value for money pair of water-resistant convertible trousers.
For a longer hiking gear list, read our 66 Travel Items You Must Travel With. For a list of everything else you’d need for travelling, read our Packing Checklist.
Bonus Tips For The Malham Cove Walk
- Get there early: Malham Cove is a very popular place to visit. Indeed, in summer, during school holidays and on the weekend, it can get really busy. We highly recommend visiting early in the morning or late in the afternoon. That way, you’ll avoid the crowds and enjoy a quieter walk.
- Make a weekend out of it: Malham is such a charming village in the Yorkshire Dales. You should definitely stay for the weekend!
- Download Malham Cove walks’ GPX files: by accessing the links to maps in this guide, you’ll be able to then download the relevant GPX files to help with trail navigation.
- Extra activities: what about things to do in Malham after doing one of the walks discussed in this guide? We recommend heading to one of the country pubs for a refreshing pint!
- Explore other nearby national parks: don’t just stop at the Yorkshire Dales. Head to the captivating Lake District (guides coming soon) or North York Moors National Park.
Please leave us a comment below, we’d love to hear from you.
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