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Ask any walker in the north of England to name their favourite circular routes and there’s no doubt this one would appear in most top fives. It’s easy to see why too.
It starts in Malham – itself a picture postcard village in the Yorkshire Dales with little shops and a few great pubs, then takes in Janet’s Foss, a beautiful waterfall at the end of a glen which, in spring, is lined with wild garlic and its distinctive aroma. The comes England’s Grand Canyon – Gordale Scar – where those with adventure in their bones can scramble up the waterfall to continue the walk, and onto Malham Tarn, itself a tranquil glacial lake. Its waters disappear at its foot before the path continues through the atmospheric and usually dry Watlowes valley before appearing at the top of Malham Cove – the granddaddy of all views of the Dales. It’s 260 feet to the bottom and originally, a waterfall higher than Niagara flowed over the Cove as a glacier retreated. Some 400 steps follow to reach its base, and river emerging from its foot, before returning back to Malham for a well-earned drink. Dramatic and inspiring, the route is one that will whet the senses, especially as you pause to think that the water that sinks at the top of the Cove isn’t what appears at the bottom.
Why? A massive and complex cave system exists in this area and divers have explored more than a mile of those passages with more discoveries waiting to be found. The water at the bottom comes from two miles away – the water at the top emerging south of the village! This is the Dales at its best, and therefore a busy walk too.
But those with the courage venture up Gordale Scar will be rewarded with relative people-free paths until Malham Cove comes into view.
It’s a scramble not for the feint-hearted, but a route is sketched out in the rock with the waterfall on your right.