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Malham Cove and Tarn Loop Walk

· 1 review · Hiking route · United Kingdom
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  • Malham Cove
    Malham Cove
    Photo: Iain Grant, Macs Adventure
m 400 300 200 12 10 8 6 4 2 km

This is a circular walk out of Malham, past the cove and up to the tarn. From here the route loops round, joining the Pennine Way down through Trougate, across the top of Maham Cove and back down into the village itself.


Distance 13 km
3:30 h
252 m
249 m
433 m
192 m

Starting at the village hall, the route leaves Malham via the Cove Road before striking out across classic limestone country to Malham Tarn. Skirting round the east side of the lake the path then circuits Great Close Hill towards Middlehouse Farm before heading back towards Malham Tarn. Joining with the Pennine Way the route arrives at the top of Malham Cove, traversing the large area of limestone pavement at the top, before a steep descent into the cove itself. From here it is a gentle stroll above Malham Beck back into the village and arriving back at the point of departure.


Author’s recommendation

Malham Cove is a unique geomorphological feature in the British Isles, and today’s walk takes you past, over and down the side of it. Britain’s Ice Age Niagara is worth seeing alone. Other highlights are views of Malham Tarn and the extensive areas of limestone pavement, archetypal of the area. Bird lovers keep a look out for Peregrine Falcons which can be seen in the Cove.


Profile picture of Iain Grant
Iain Grant
Update: January 02, 2018
Highest point
433 m
Lowest point
192 m
Best time of year

Track types

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Safety information

The first section of the route is along Cove Road, so take care with traffic and farm vehicles, especially in summer when it can be busy. Some parts of the route are wet and muddy particularly on the higher sections. Care is needed when crossing the area limestone pavement above Malham Cove. Stay away from the edge as there is a long vertical drop. The joints in the rock (grykes) are pronounced and could cause injury if you slipped in. The descent at the side of the cove via the stone steps is steep and the rock is slippery in the wet.


Tips and hints

Malham is a small village and there are limited opportunities to stock up with supplies. There are two pubs, cafes and a Bistro and a couple of small shops selling snacks and souvenirs. There is also a Tourist Information Centre.There are no opportunities for refreshment on this circular route so carry what you require.

Points of Interest:

Malham Cove

This is a natural rock amphitheatre of Carboniferous Limestone, with a vertical cliff face of some 260 feet. At the end of the Ice Age this was Britain’s Niagara Falls. Now the melt water is long gone but in wet weather a small stream sometimes cascades over the face into the cove below. A natural wonder of the Yorkshire Dales.

Limestone Pavement

These are large exposed surfaces of Carboniferous Limestone, which when weathered by the elements resemble a cracked pavement. Chemical solution by rainwater enlarges the joints, known locally as grykes , leaving larger intervening blocks of rock called clints. This is a unique feature of limestone landscapes and a rarity in Britain.

Strip field system

In Medieval times under the open field system, each manor or village had several fields divided into narrow strips of land. The strips were cultivated by peasant families and examples of these vertical rows or strips and can be seen on the outskirts of Malham.



Malham Village Hall and Bridge. (196 m)
OS Grid
SD 90077 62847
54.061479, -2.153087
54°03'41.3"N 2°09'11.1"W
30U 555432 5990693
Show on Map


Malham Village Hall and Bridge.

Turn-by-turn directions

0.00 km – Standing with your back to the village hall and facing the bridge, TURN LEFT and continue STRAIGHT ON along Cove Road for about 1 km. The tarmac road climbs gradually with splendid views of Malham Cove to the right.

1.10 km – At the signpost for Dean Moor TURN RIGHT, through the gap in the stone wall and continue STRAIGHT ON across the fields for approx 1.50 kms. The prominent grassy path passes Malham Cove on the right and crosses several stiles and stone walls.

2.50 km – Arriving at a wooden stile over a stone wall, by the end of a wire fence, TURN LEFT over the wall. Continue STRAIGHT ON up the hill.

2.90 km – At the path crossroads and signpost, TURN RIGHT towards Malham Tarn and continue STRAIGHT ON joining the Pennine Way for a short section.

3.60 km – On reaching the tarmac road, TURN RIGHT and cross the bridge, then TURN LEFT at the car park. Follow the path signed Malham Tarn. Continue STRAIGHT ON the prominent path keeping the tarn to your left and aim for a small wood with a stone wall. BEAR LEFT around the wood and continue STRAIGHT ON to a wooden gate.

4.50 km - Go through the gate, signed National Trust Malham Tarn Estate, and continue STRAIGHT ON , up the gravel track towards the crags ahead and skirting the tarn on the left.

5.20 km – Just before the cattle grid in the stone wall, BEAR RIGHT up the hill, signposted to Middlehouse, past a circular stone wall. Continue STRAIGHT ON following the grassy track across several fields, aiming towards the farm ahead.

6.50 km – Just before the farm, BEAR RIGHT over a stile signposted to Street Gate and continue STRAIGHT ON along the gravel track for approx 1.4 kms, now heading away from the farm.

7.90 km – At the cattle grid in the road, TURN RIGHT passing a wood on the right. BEAR LEFT up towards the wood on the left and continue STRAIGHT ON across the tarmac road.

9.20 km – At the path crossroads, continue STRAIGHT ON, signposted to Malham Cove.

9.60 km – Cross the wooden ladder stile and continue STRAIGHT ON, passing to the right of some small ponds. The path can be very muddy here in places, so take care.

10.3 km – At a small stile continue STRAIGHT ON, descending into a small narrow limestone valley.

10.8 km – Cross the wooden ladder stile and TURN RIGHT, down the grassy path towards the limestone pavement above the cove. Continue STRAIGHT ON, with care, over the rocky limestone pavement to the other side.

11.3 km – On crossing the pavement, BEAR LEFT down the step steps at the side of the cove. Take care on this section as they can be slippery in wet weather,

11.6 km – At the foot of the steps, BEAR RIGHT, away from the cove and follow the gravel and flag stone path.

11.8 km – At the small stone bridge TURN LEFT over the stream, then contuinue STRAIGHT ON up the hill with the river now down on the right. Follow this prominent path for about 1 km.

12.7 km – Arriving at some buildings, TURN RIGHT down a narrow gravel track, crossing the stream by the old stone clapper bridge.

12.8 km – At the tarmac road TURN LEFT and continue STRAIGHT ON towards the village.

13.0 km – Arriving back at the village hall, you have reached the end of your walk.















all notes on protected areas


OS Grid
SD 90077 62847
54.061479, -2.153087
54°03'41.3"N 2°09'11.1"W
30U 555432 5990693
Arrival by train, car, foot or bike


Sturdy boots or walking shoes are recommended as the terrain is rough and muddy in places. Walking poles may be an advantage on the descent by Malham Cove if preferred. The weather is changeable in the Dales so waterproofs should be carried especially as the moorland sections are fairly exposed.


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Sue Millward
August 17, 2021 · Community
Despite rain and wind this was a brilliant walk. The cove was an incredible piece of history to see. The Tarn was covered in mist so didn’t get to see much there!
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Photos from others

13 km
3:30 h
252 m
249 m
Highest point
433 m
Lowest point
192 m
Circular route Scenic Geological highlights Flora and fauna


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