I finally crossed a huge item off my Yorkshire bucket list a few weeks ago, and visited the Yorkshire Dales National Park! With beautiful scenery and great opportunities for hiking, the Dales were at the top of my list and definitely didn’t disappoint. While the National Park is really big, I knew I wanted to visit the tiny village (a 2-pub type of town) of Malham for it’s nearby attractions: Janet’s Foss, Gordale Scar, Malham Cove, and Malham Tarn.
The village of Malham itself is really small. There are two pubs (I can’t recommend the Buck Inn enough, really spacious with great food!), a few shops and cafes, lots of holiday cottages/accommodation, and that was about it. But it’s an excellent base for hiking—and there is plenty to see in the area!
Of the Dales, Malhamdale is meant to be one of the most beautiful (I’ll need to do more research on this to decide if it’s true!). Travel writer and fellow Midwesterner Bill Bryson, author of the best-selling travel book Notes From A Small Island (an author who makes me laugh out loud until I cry), used to live in Kirkby Malham in Malhamdale. He said about Malhamdale: “I won’t know for sure if Malhamdale is the finest place there is until I have died and seen heaven (assuming they let me at least have a glance), but until that day comes, it will certainly do.”
Malhamdale is certainly beautiful. The four main attractions can all be visited comfortably in a day hike—it took us about 4-5 hours to see them all, and that was with me stopping all the time to take photos (sorry not sorry). We did a (mostly) circular path, starting outside the Buck Inn in Malham and going to Janet’s Foss, Gordale Scar, Malham Cove, and Malham Tarn, then heading back to the village of Malham (via Malham Cove again).
One of the most exciting things of the whole trip was seeing so much SNOW! It snowed like crazy this weekend in the Dales. As a Minnesotan who is accustomed to lots of snow anytime from October-May and who has never experienced a snowfall in England, it was very exciting for me!
Janet’s Foss is a pretty waterfall in a clearing surrounded by trees. It’s supposedly named after Jennet, a fairy queen who used to live in the cave behind the waterfall.
The woodland walk to see the waterfall was absolutely magical! I felt like I was in Lord of the Rings (hello Lothlorien!), walking past so many trees and rocks covered with bright green moss, with the stream quietly flowing next to me.
It’s pretty easy to get to Janet’s Foss from Malham. Starting from the Buck Inn, cross the bridge and turn right, following the stream along until you see signposts for Janet’s Foss. It’s about 1 mile from the village.
Gordale Scar is a limestone ravine, which narrows sharply from the open area at the start of the footpath to a rock climber’s dream. Gordale Scar also has a small waterfall of its own! The craggy rocks give the area a sense of wonder, even when it was raining/snowing so hard I gave up trying to take pictures. The rocks are fun for clambering, and I’m sure it’s incredibly picturesque in nice weather. This place will definitely make you feel small.
Gordale Scar is well signposted from the Janet’s Foss path—turn right on the road, and you can’t miss the entrance to the field/footpath for the ravine (on your left hand side, following the road).
Malham Cove is probably Malham’s most striking feature, with it’s rocky pavement. 260 feet above the ground is this limestone cliff, which was formed by a waterfall at the end of the last Ice Age. It was even featured in the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 movie as one of Harry and Hermione’s camping spots!
The rocks (and the spaces inbetween) are endlessly fascinating.
The views of Malham and the area from Malham Cove are breathtaking. To reach Malham Cove from Gordale Scar, retrace your steps along the footpath back to the road, and then keep right on the road until you see a signpost for Malham Cove. Follow it up and across the fields, cross the road and continue in the same direction, and you’ll see it in the distance.
Malham Tarn is 1 mile north of Malham Cove, on a well-marked path—the word “tarn” comes from the Old Norse word tjörn, which means pond. At 1,237 feet above sea level, it is the highest freshwater lake in England! The lake itself was quite pretty, but is known more for its geology, birdwatching, and flora and fauna. The area is owned and operated by the National Trust.
It’s a rocky climb from Malham Cove to the lake—there’s a particularly steep rock staircase about halfway through. Besides the rocks (and the dead sheep I saw), the walk is well worth it, even if Malham Tarn isn’t all that exciting.
There is a set of steps leading down to the valley at one end of Malham Cove, from where it’s about half a mile on a paved, easy footpath following the stream back to the village of Malham.
Bus #75 on Saturdays (#210 and #211 Monday-Friday service) runs from nearby Skipton, which has a train station, to Malham. There is only one departure time on Saturday (9:45am) to Malham, and only one return time (4:30pm). It’s enough time to see everything around Malham.
If you’re visiting the area, I highly recommend hiking to see Malham’s big four attractions: Janet’s Foss, Gordale Scar, Malham Cove, and Malham Tarn. This was my first trip to the Yorkshire Dales, and I absolutely know I’ll be back—hopefully in better weather!
Have you ever been on a great hike, in a national park or anywhere else? Let me know in the comments!