A short walk, a steep climb and a careful exploration of the limestone pavement makes any visit to Malham Cove thoroughly enjoyable.

In winter you can avoid the crowds as well. I always continue over the top of Malham Cove to wander through the shattered boulders on the less popular east side.

There is a large National Park car park on the southern fringes of the village with a good visitor centre. Walk past the centre and into this pretty stone village, with a small stream running through its centre. Do not cross the pack horse bridge, keep left and carry on through the village.

After a quarter of a mile the buildings start to thin and there is a small kissing gate on the right, leave the road here and join the path continuing north, parallel to the road. This soon joins the main path and veers right into open fields. Ahead is the spectacular cliffs of Malham Cove.

Darlington and Stockton Times: A classic view of Malham Cove

Malham Cove is 260 feet high and formed during the Ice Age when a waterfall plunged from the top of the cliffs. Today it is the home of peregrine falcons, small owls and often rock climbers.

The path heads directly to the foot of the cliffs. Just before arriving, a path heads uphill to the left, but it is worth carrying on through a small gate and picking your way carefully to the base of the cliff (the rocks are often slippery here).

The water that used to fall from the cliffs above now emerges from a small cave at its foot. The entrance cave is just part of a huge unexplored network of caves in the limestone bedrock.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Malham Cove walk map

Return through the gate and turn uphill on a steep path that rises on the west side of the cove. It is a good pull but stop and admire the views as you climb, it is worth the effort.

Emerging at the top of the cove through a small gate are the rock pavements that adorn the land above the cliffs. The limestone pavement is a series of clints and grikes (blocks and the narrow fissures between them) and it is possible to wander over them (keeping well away from the edge on your right!) making sure you don’t drop anything (you will never retrieve anything from the grikes).

The views south over Malham are some of the best in the Dales and it is a great place to spend some time. Cross the pavement to the other side (east) of the cove either via the rock or 20 metres to the north (left) a narrow path picks its way between the stones.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Limestone pavement near Malham Cove

On reaching the east side of the pavement at a gully where the river used to flow and create the old waterfall, pass through a stile and climb for a few metres on a good path. The path then flattens and bends in a south easterly direction and after nearly half a mile meets a quiet road.

There is a path opposite if you wish to extend the walk to Janet’s Foss (waterfall) and the impressive cliffs of Gordale Scar, alternatively turn right and follow the road back in to the village of Malham.

Walk facts:

Distance: Roughly three miles.

Height to climb: 150m (490 feet).

Start: SD 900626. A large car park on entering Malham.

Difficulty: Easy/medium. The limestone can be slippery to walk on and it is a steep climb to the top of the cove but the walk is short and straightforward.

Refreshments: The Listers Arms, Beck Hall and the Buck Inn are good pubs and there is also a cafes in the village.

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 OL2) 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 or a bespoke day for a private group. The first available day for 2024 is March 23.  New “Dales 30 Weekenders” in Hawes and Sedbergh. Where2walk.co.uk also features hundreds of walks across Yorkshire and beyond, from easy strolls to harder climbs.