Malham Limestone.

Start. Malham.

Route. Malham - Mires Barn - New Laithe - Janet's Foss Wood - Janet's Foss - Gordale Bridge - Gordale Scar - Gordale Bridge - New Close Knotts - Malham Rakes (fell road) - Malham Tarn - Water Sinks - Waterlows - Malham Cove - Malham.

Notes. There’s something magical about snow on limestone, there's also something magical about the landscape around the small village of Malham, some of the most spectacular limestone scenery in the Dales can be found rising to the north of the village. The immense cliffs and gently curving crescent of Malham Cove, the threatening overhanging scarps of Gordale Scar, all rising from a landscape of dry stone walls and ancient settlements, dry river beds scar the high dales and streams dance in the valley, today I had it all, sun, snow and exquisite scenery.

My day started outside Malham Smithy, behind this quaint limestone building a clapper-bridge spans Malham Beck, I crossed this before turning right, on a well trod path I headed south, at Mires Barn the path swung east passing through fields with views to the snow covered high limestone country to the north of the village. After passing two more field barns I entered Janet's Foss Wood, or is it Little Gordale Wood, or maybe Stone Bank Wood, take your pick either way it's a delight to walk through. Moss covered limestone boulders, low cliffs and a whispering stream guided me to Janet's Foss, folk law tells us a small cave behind the fall is home to Janet Queen of the Fairies. Maybe it was the amount of water thundering over the fall, or maybe because it was early morning and fairies are late risers, there was no sign of the resident, my luck was out, it was also out when I reached Gordale Scar a short walk further up the path. With 330ft cliffs rising on two sides and a water filled ravine blocking the head of the scar, the only way forward is to scale the waterfall, in summer this is quite easy, today with water thundering out of the high valley and the chock stone that allows easy access swathed in ice I decided to opt for a safer route.

I hastily re-traced my steps to Gordale Bridge, to be greeted by a finger-post inviting me to Malham Cove, I followed this path. At the first gate I stepped into the next field, ascending through what looked like a ancient settlement, at the next boundary wall a narrow gate allowed access to the steep slopes of New Close Knotts, I ascended to reach high limestone pastures with stunning views over Malhamdale and down into the frightening rift of Gordale Scar. On snow covered paths I wandered on through some stunning limestone scenery, the path cut through limestone pavements and scars to eventually reach the fell road near Malham Tarn. The tarn marked my lunch stop, after a quick brew it was time to descend one of the Dales many dry stream beds. On way marked paths I headed south passing Water Sinks before descending a dry river bed, this once raging watercourse guided me under limestone cliffs, skirted long dead waterfalls to reach the mother of them all, Malham Cove, a waterfall that once rivaled Niagara fuelled by glacial meltwater plunged over the cliffs here, an arc of 260ft high limestone walls plunging to the low dale. The views from the edge of the cliff are stunning, unfortunately the limestone blocks across the top of the cove were to slippery to walk across, I was forced to carefully pick my way to the north-west corner where a slippery path descended into the dale far below, a quick visit to the base of the cliff followed before following the main path back to Malham.

view route map.


Early morning at Malham.

The golden light of a cold winters morning across Kirkby Moor above Malham.

Approaching Janet's Foss.

Small by Dales standards, only a 14ft drop, still quite spectacular, once used by local farmers as a sheep dip and as we know home to Janet Queen of the Fairies.

New Close Knotts guards the entrance to Gordale Scar.

Towering above me, dripping with water the massive cliffs of Gordale Scar.

At this point Gordale Beck plunges from a high valley, the path ascends the chock stone between the to falls, or it would if I could reach it, the boulders in the stream bed are extremely slippery, the stone looks quite icy, not wanting wet feet or a bruised ego this early in the walk I decided to retreat, find a safer route.

Looking to the entrance of Gordale Scar, today it's also my exit.

The dark depths of Gordale Scar, a final look back before beating a retreat, I'll guarantee by the end of the day I'll wish I'd given it a go.

On the lower slopes of New Close Knotts looking to Great Knott and Cross Field Knotts.

Lynchets stand out in the wonderful winter conditions, these ancient field systems cover vast tracts of land around Malham.

Stunning views from the ascent of New Close Knotts, on the horizon Pendle Hill.

Looking down on Gordale Scar, well this is a view you wouldn't have seen if I'd of ascended the waterfall.

An icy wonderland above Gordale.

Who needs summer when winter brings scenes like this one, the view over Malham Lings.

On a blistering cold day views to the sunlit slopes of Fountains Fell.

Soaking up the views over Malham Tarn.

Water Sinks, as it's name suggests this stream follows the route most Dales streams inevitably take, the subterranean one, to emerge at Aire Head south of Malham.

Spectacular views from the lip of a dry waterfall, honed out of the rock by glacial melt water this was once a raging river that plunged over Malham Cove, oh how we live in quiet times.

Standing in the dry valley seen in the photo above, looking to Dean Moor Hill and the dry waterfall I was standing above.

Spectacular views from the limestone pavements above Malham Cove.

The extraordinary landscape above Malham Cove.

Described by old Wainwright as "a colossus of limestone rising heavenwards", an apt description I think.

You have to take a few steps back to appreciate it's incomprehensible size, well, rather a lot of steps actually.

Field systems above Malham.

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