Most walkers enjoy Malham Tarn by completing its full circuit. Much better (although involving a little more effort) is to include a short climb to the summit of Great Close Hill followed by a walk through the lovely limestone scenery to the north.

Park at the free car park on the southern end of Malham Tarn, three miles from the hectic centre of the village. It is a peaceful spot with an interesting information board.

Take the path leading away from the road and after 400m arrive at the waters of Malham Tarn. There are really only two proper lakes in the Dales, this and Semer Water. Most bodies of water disappear through the limestone to the caverns below but in this case a retreating glacier has gouged the rock to a depth including leaving a non-porous layer of slate.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Malham Tarn from near the field centre

Turn right and follow a path a few metres from the lake which heads for the corner of woodland. Soon after turn left on a good track, through a gate and close to the shores of the lake. It is a lovely spot, a magnet for wading birds and other wildlife. Before arriving at a gate leading in to the woods on the northern side of the tarn, turn right and pick your way up the grassy, faint path near the wall.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Walk map from route at Malham Tarn

After a steady climb of 150 feet and at the high point of the col, turn right and continue the less steep summit to the summit of Great Close Hill. Here the views over the tarn are excellent with the added bonus on the summit of an old hill fort (although to me it looks just like a wind shelter).

Return along the faint path and turn right (east) to continue along the Monks Road to Middle House Farm. After the gate before the farm take the left fork heading slightly uphill.

Read more: Unusual dry valleys and a ruined medieval village on this walk with a difference

On meeting a bigger track turn left, continue straight rather than following the main track which bends right and up in to limestone country. The first part of this track is pockmarked with cattle hooves but after the gate the route is not, but less easy to follow. For the next three quarters of a mile a faint track passes through some lovely limestone pavements. There is no need to be concerned about missing the path as it roughly picks its way through the scars of rock and heads directly north west towards a deep valley and hillside opposite.

As the route starts to drop towards the deep valley the path (more obvious now) turns west (to the left) and contours downhill to the corner of a wall. Here it joins the Pennine Way. The path is more obvious now.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Malham Tarn on the Pennine Way

Keep the wall to your right (use it as a handrail) as it heads south for three quarters of a mile before entering a lovely little valley through a gate. Entering the woods, turn left on a tarmac road leading initially gradually uphill to the large National Trust offices of the Malham Tarn estate.

Continue on the road after the building downhill through the woods to a stile and gate. On leaving the woods at the side of Malham Tarn join your outbound route and return, pleasantly, aong side the tarn back to your car.

Walk facts

Distance: Roughly seven miles.

Height to climb: 210m (650 feet).

Start: SD 894658. There is a large car park at the south end of the tarn.

Difficulty: Medium. The section through the limestone is on a rough path.

Refreshments: Malham is three miles away along the road but busy and parking difficult for a quick drink.

Be prepared: The route description and sketch map only provide a guide to the walk. You must take out and be able to read a map (O/S Explorer 2) and in cloudy/misty conditions a compass. You must also wear the correct clothing and footwear for the outdoors. Whilst every effort is made to provide accurate information, walkers head out at their own risk.

Please observe the Countryside Code and park sensibly.

  • Jonathan Smith runs Where2walk, a walking company based in the Yorkshire Dales. He has published three books on walking in the Dales, The Yorkshire 3 Peaks, The Dales 30 mountains and Walks without Stiles. All these books (and more) are available direct from the Where2walk website. Book a navigation (map and compass skills) training day near Settle (next date September 16). All dates and details are on, which also features hundreds of walks across Yorkshire and beyond, from easy strolls to harder climbs.