Malham

Home of the spectacular Malham Cove, Gordale Scar and the magical Janet's Foss.

Photo of the Buck Inn, Malham

Buck Inn, Malham

Malham is a pretty and highly popular village, with two pubs, a range of cafes and places to stay, including a Youth Hostel. There’s a stream flowing through the village which adds to the idyllic feel. As it’s on the Pennine Way, and is surrounded by stunning scenery, the village is a haven for walkers.

Technically in Airedale – the River Aire starts it’s journey not far away – the village is often referred to as being in Malhamdale.

In brief

  • Pretty village deep in the Yorkshire Dales
  • The lovely Malham Cove, Malham Tarn, Gordale Scar and Janet’s Foss close by
  • Peregrine Falcons live, nest and breed at the Cove
  • Accommodation, and plenty of places to eat in the village
  • A range of walks in the locality
  • Busy all year but especially when the sun shines.

A bit of history

The area has been settled for over a thousand years with the village, then called ‘Malgun’, listed in the Domesday book in 1085. Traces of the Iron age boundaries can still be seen today.

As is to be expected in this area, Malham joined in the nineteenth century industrial revolution, with mills built here and mines developed in addition to the traditional hill farming.

Malham today

Malham village

Malham village

Sheep farming is still a key part of the area, but tourism has grown in importance. Malham is a popular walkers’ destination and is part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

There is a National Park Information Centre in the village, together with 2 pubs and a range of cafes and accommodation. The long-distance path, the Pennine Way, passes through the village, and the dramatic landmarks of Malham Cove and Gordale Scar are close by. Just as close and equally beautiful are Malham Tarn and the atmospheric Janet’s Foss.

The Malham Show Fell Race runs over the nearby 301-metre (988 ft) Cawden as part of the course.

Things to do

Malham Cove

Approach to the Cove at Malham

Malham Cove

Malham Cove, a natural, curving limestone formation and well known beauty spot, is just a short walk from the village.

Originally a large waterfall cascaded over the top of the cliff as a glacier melted above it. The stream that once fell over the cliff top comes from Malham Tarn a mile or so away. However, it now disappears underground before it reaches the cove. It’s a different stream, Malham Beck, which emerges from a cave at the bottom of the cove. Studies have shown that there’s a complex system of caves behind the cliff, which is thought to be around 50,000 years old. The last time water flowed over the top in any kind of volume was back in the early 19th century after some heavy and sustained rainfall.

To the west of the cliff face about 400 stone steps, part of the Pennine Way, are the route to the top of the Cove where you’ll find a wonderful example of a natural limestone pavement and stunning views of the valley.

Not surprisingly, the valley and Cove are a well-known beauty spot with people coming to walk, picnic, admire the scenery and to try and catch sight of the Peregrine Falcons that live here. It’s also popular with climbers who come to hone their skills on the cliff face.

Cove facts
  • The Cove, along with nearby Gordale Scar, was featured in an episode of the BBC TV series Seven Natural Wonders as one of the natural wonders of Yorkshire.
  • The Cove was also featured in the film Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as one of the places Hermione and Harry travel to. The scenes were filmed in November 2009.
  • The limestone pavement and general location of Malham featured in an episode of The Trip starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon which aired on BBC2 on 29 November 2010.

Malham Tarn

Malham Tarn is the highest lake in England at 377 metres above sea level. The stream running out of the southern end dives underground before it reaches Malham Cove and then emerges to form one of the sources of the River Aire. The Tarn is owned by the National Trust and was the inspiration for Charles Kingsley’s novel, ‘The Water Babies’ published in 1863. The Field Studies Council is based at Malham Tarn House.

Gordale Scar

Gordale Scar is a dramatic limestone ravine about a 1 mile from Malham. It has two waterfalls and overhanging limestone cliffs over 100 metres high. The gorge was formed by water from melting glaciers. The stream, Gordale Beck, flows through the scar and continues over Janet’s Foss before joining with Malham Beck to form the River Aire. You can walk up through the gorge but the climb, scrambling over the rocks, is tricky.

Janet’s Foss

Janet's Foss at Gordale, near Malham

Janet’s Foss, near Malham

Janet’s Foss is a small waterfall not far from Gordale Scar. The stream from the gorge, Gordale Beck, flows over a limestone outcrop and drops into a deep pool. The pool was traditionally used for sheep dipping.

The name Janet (sometimes Jennet) is a reference to a fairy queen once though to live in a cave behind the waterfall. Foss is a Nordic word for waterfall. The area has the magical feel of a hidden grotto and there’s a pretty walk alongside the Beck, past rocky outcrops amid the scent of wild garlic, back to Malham village.

Janet’s Foss starred as the fictional Molkham Falls in an independent British film, Waterfall, filmed in 2006.

Parking at Malham

There’s an official, roomy car park at the entrance to the village with a charge of £3.50 (2010) a day. It gets full so you’ll find cars littering the verges approaching the village, and enterprising farmers attracting cars into their fields for a reduced fee.

If you’re lucky there may be a spot in the village itself and you’ll be encouraged to put £1 in the honesty boxes.

Photos around Malham

Photos of Malham and the surrounding area including Malham Cove, Gordale Scar and the beautiful Janet’s Foss.

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