One of Yorkshire’s most beautiful spots, Malham Cove is an absolute favourite on many a walkers or travellers bucket list.
Situated up in the north of England, this dramatic landscape feature which sits within the Yorkshire Dales National Park and is nearest to the village of Malham (hence the name!), is arguably one of the most striking landscape features in the country.
A 70m high, gently curving cliff of white limestone, it’s impossible not to be impressed by this vast landscape, which sits among the green rolling hills and valleys of this wild countryside area.
Being able to walk up to the bottom of the cliff, as well as along the top of it, also makes this a really fun landscape to interact with and Malham Cove walks scoot off in every direction.
So here, to bring you my full guide to visiting this glorious part of the UK, are my tips when it comes to visiting, hiking and snapping Malham Cove…
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Why Visit Malham Cove?
One of the first topics I want to cover is why you should visit Malham Cove – a reasonable question to ask at the beginning of an article about visiting this natural spectacle!
Well the first reason to visit Malham Cove is because it’s incredibly impressive – a huge soaring cliff, curved into a natural amphitheatre shape that juts into the air out of the valley below, there’s no question this is one of the most striking landscapes in this part of the UK.
Another reason to visit Malham Cove is take in the beautiful views and scenery of the Yorkshire Dales National Park – having Malham Cove as your final destination will allow you to drive through this gorgeous part of England, passing cute traditional villages and skinny dry-stone wall-lined roads as you go.
You should also visit Malham Cove to enjoy some of the beautiful walks that take-in this formation, so that you’re getting the experience of this glorious part of the UK on foot too!
A rambler’s paradise, there are so many great trails either ending or beginning at the cove that you should absolutely aim to get your stomp on around it!
We’ll cover walking later on in this article, but if you are keen to camp or enjoy some long multi-day walks (or both) to experience a bit of remote beauty in Yorkshire, then Malham Cove, which lies near the village of Malham, also has lots of good options for accommodation (including camping), as well as some cute guesthouses, cafes and pubs.
As such, Malham Cove makes a great stop on a longer outdoorsy nature excursion into this part of northern England – in fact, it’s one of my top things to do in Yorkshire.
And finally, you should visit Malham Cove to tick it off your bucket list, especially if you’re from the UK – not seeing this place at least once in your life is kinda criminal if you’re into active, outdoorsy, nature stuff!
Climb to the top of the Cove to see the amazing limestone pattern and the epic views for miles across the Dales landscape.
Where is Malham Cove?
So now we get to the question of where Malham Cove is.
Unsurprisingly, give the name, Malham Cove is located very near the village of the same name – in fact there’s a road that leads from the heart of the village to the Cove that’s just 300m – so yes, when I say it’s close to Malham I mean it.
This road is well-paved and easy for vehicles and walkers to manoeuvre, including families with prams and young children. Without wanting to give too much away, it’s called Cove Road!
The road then becomes a flat and accessible surfaced path that runs across fields to the bottom of the cove.
A further short walk on a more rocky path then takes you to the very base of the cove and the emergence of a river.
But hold on, where is Malham I hear you cry?
Well Malham is situated in the English county of West Yorkshire.
The nearest large town is Skipton, but just enter Malham into your Google Maps and you’ll be able to find it!
Many visitors travel here from the nearest big city of Leeds, but York and Bradford are also close possibilities.
How to Get to Malham Cove?
Getting to Malham is certainly easiest using private transport and I thoroughly recommend hiring a vehicle if you want to experience the best of the Yorkshire Dales.
Check out Thrifty Car Hire if you’re looking to rent a vehicle from any major destination in England i.e. Leeds.
If you’re happy to travel to Leeds on public transport first (to save a bit of money) and rent a vehicle from there, then I highly recommend Trainline, which you can use to book both trains across the UK, as well as National Express coaches.
If you can’t drive, then there is a local bus service that will get you to Malham from Skipton and Gargrave – 2 towns nearby, which can also be accessed on buses / trains from Leeds.
Learn more here.
Whether you catch the bus to Malham, or you park there (there’s lots of paid parking, although it can get busy at peak times- see the next section of this article), you can then walk to the Cove as I’ve outlined above.
Otherwise, if you’re not into driving, walking or getting public transport, you can also enjoy a wonderful day trip to the Yorkshire Dales, that includes a stop at Malham Cove where everything is arranged for you.
Simple and stress-free, taking a day trip to Malham will take the hard work out of planning and just leave you to enjoy the day – great for solo travellers or those with a busy work schedule!
You also get a guide with a day trip, so will learn a lot more about the area and visit more of the Yorkshire Dales National Park too – so it’s great for geology, history or travel bluffs!
When to Visit?
There’s no question in my mind that the best time to visit Malham, the Cove and the Yorkshire Dales in general, is during the warmer months in the UK – namely May through September.
You can certainly visit this wonderful area at any time of the year, but need to be prepared for cold, wind and rain!
Even in the summer months, the heavens can open at any time of year and when I visited Malham Cove in peak summer (July), it was a cold, grey and wet day!
Welcome to Yorkshire!
I definitely suggest hedging your bets however and visiting in the summer to at least try and get some good weather!
However, I’d strongly consider whether you can visit outside of the weekend, because it gets really busy with families at this time and, when it’s crowded at Malham Cove, it’s definitely less fun!
Other school holiday times are also likely to be busy, so you may want to avoid these as well if you can.
Malham Cove: Best Walks
So now we come to my favourite part, the Malham Cove walks.
In my view these are the best reason to visit Malham Cove – you get an amazing natural spectacle, stunning views and an epic stomp all combined – dreamy as far as I’m concerned!
In this section, I’m just going to deal with shorts walks around the cove and in the next section, I’ll touch on longer walks.
As usual, I’m going to outline some ideas here, but you can find all the details, plus information about more walks by using the free AllTrails app.
I’m not sponsored by this app, I just think it’s fantastic for us keen ramblers and always recommend it to everyone.
It pays to know that in Malham most walks are incredibly well-signed, so even if you don’t have phone signal and therefore can’t follow the map live, getting lost shouldn’t be a problem if you stick to the well-trodden paths and signage.
And don’t forget, Maps.me is a great offline map resource app too.
#1 Malham – Cove – Malham
The first and most popular short walk is literally from the village to the cove and back.
This is along an accessible path and so is very popular with families or those who are less mobile, but still want to see the Cove.
This walk leads you along a fairly flat trail from the village to the bottom of the cliff-face, from where you can walk right up to it.
For those who are a bit more fit and confident however, you can also climb up to the top of the Cove from here and admire the incredible and wide-reaching views (depending on the weather) before descending back the way you came.
#2 Malham Landscape Trail
Taking in the main features of Malham limestone scenery, this 8km walk along easy paths, with a few stiles and a few steps, is a great way to see the best of this area in an easy and accessible way – including Janet’s Foss, Gordale Scar and Malham Cove.
FYI: Janet’s Foss is a lovely waterfall you certainly should try and see if you are in the area and Gordale Scar is an impressive rock gorge situated in the Malham area too.
When it comes to longer walks around Malham Cove, you’ve generally got 2 options – either to start from or finish at the Cove, as it’s likely you’ll have parked in Malham and therefore this needs to be the point you return to.
In my opinion, I think Malham Cove makes a great finale, and so I would leave it to the end if possible.
In this vein, I’m suggesting the following longer walks…
#1 Malham Tarn via Gordale Scar
A 12.2 km loop challenging loop trail, this walk follows a mix of road and footpaths and passes by Janet’s Foss, Gordale Scar as well as Malham Tarn and Malham Cove.
As I‘ve said before, this is a great way to take in the many stunning natural features of this part of Yorkshire – not just Malham Cove, but also the waterfall of Janet’s Foss and the gorge of Gordale Scar, as well as the lake of Malham Tarn too.
Steep climbs and descents characterise this route – the most challenging of which is scrambling up Gordale Scar itself.
This should not be attempted in acclimate weather, after periods of heavy rainfall or when icy.
Please take heed!
#2 Malham Cove and Gordale Scar
One of the longest day walks in the area, this guy is a 13km loop trail, which although long is not that difficult.
Starting and ending in Malham, you head towards Kirby Fell on this route, looping back and across to Cove Road to avoid Malham Tarn and instead head straight to the Cove.
From here you take a detour out to the Scar and the Foss, before looping back to the village.
#3 Malham Circular Walk
A decent 10.6km loop trail, this circular walk comes highly recommend thank to its accessible nature and makes a great introduction to the area for newbies.
Taking in the waterfall at Janet’s Foss, as well as Gordale Scar and Malham Tarn and the Cove, this is a great walk to do if you want to see all the big hits in the area, but avoid having to scale Gordale Scar itself and instead take the safer route around the edge of it on a well-marked trail.
#4 Malham Tarn and Cove
This walk does what it says on the tin, which is hit the attractions of Malham Cove and Malham Tarn, but misses out Janet’s Foss and Gordale Scar.
It’s therefore a good option if you’ve been to the area and seen these attractions before, but still want a good hike because at 11km, it’s still a decent route!
#5 Janet’s Foss, Gordale Scar, Malham Cove
This 7.6km loop trail is one of the most accessible longer walk options and is great for running as well as walking and bird watching.
Starting in the village of Malham, it takes you to the waterfall at Janet’s Foss, the wonderful gorge of Gordale Scar and ends at the mighty Malham Cove.
You miss out the Tarn on this one, which is why it’s shorter, but I’d still allow about 2.5 hours.
Things to Know Before You Go
One of the most important things to know when you visit Malham Cove is that safety is paramount.
This includes not drinking alcohol if you’re driving back anywhere after your adventure, as well as ensuring you’re walking safely along the top of Cove, which has no barriers or protection measures.
The cliff edge is very high and dangerous, so although getting close to the edge may proving tempting when trying to get that epic shot, it’s simply not worth it.
Strong winds and the serious issue of erosion, which undermines the stability of the cliff face here, are real factors to consider.
You’ll also want to bear in mind the weather and make sure you pack accordingly – see my top 5 recommended items below.
In the winter months, it can be freezing, wet and windy here, so waterproofs and warm layers are a must.
In summer, it can be seriously hot and there’s little shade protection, so do ensure you bring sunscreen, as well as a cap or other sunhat with you.
I’d also bring plenty of snacks and water, as there are no facilities at the Cove or in the Yorkshire Dales besides the sporadic villages you’ll come across.
However, things can be expensive to buy here, so I’d advise coming prepared with all that you need.
Ditto, toilets – go before you leave home or at the public toilets in Malham!
Public toilets can be found in the public parking lot in Malham, which is paid parking and can be settled out there and then at the relevant machines – card and cash accepted.
Also in this area is the Malham National Park Centre, which has lots of useful info about the area and is well worth paying a visit.
5 Essential Packing Items
And now, here’s my list of the top 5 packing essentials you shouldn’t head to Malham Cove without.
#1 A Good Camera
No doubt you’re going to be snapping like crazy in this amazing landscape and need to ensure you have a good camera to do the place justice.
I love my Sony A6000, which is light, compact and great for travel.
#2 Decent Walking Shoes
No point coming this far and not being able to enjoy a walk to and around Malham Cove.
Get prepared therefore and ensure you have a decent pair of walking shoes – these cross-trainers from New Balance are ideal (and totally stylish) for the job.
#3 Light Waterproof Jacket
Whatever the time of year, you have to remember this is England after all, a country in which the heavens can open at any point!
Don’t get caught out there and ensure you have a good lightweight and waterproof jacket with you.
This North Face one is perfect.
#4 Compact Hiking Day Pack
I never go on any day trip without a sturdy backpack to ensure I’ve got room to hike with everything I need and that the weight is equally distributed across my back and shoulders.
This super featherweight Kompressor from Marmot is my go-to, because it folds down to nothing and is water-resistant.
#5 Portable Power Bank
There’s no denying power can be an issue on day trips, when constant photo taking, map reading and information sourcing can wear down your phone battery fast.
My solution: Come armed with a fully charged Anker power bank, so you can fire up your phone, camera or other devices whenever you and wherever you need.
Want to Enjoy Longer in the Area?
It’s totally understandable that you may want to stay longer in the Yorkshire Dales region and Malham can make a great stop on a longer tour of the area as I’ve outlined.
This may include a long walking trip, such as the Pennine Way, where Sections 7 & 8 touch on Malham as the trail heads from Gargrave to Horton-in-Ribbersdale.
The Dales Highway also passes very near the Malham and can be used to build the Cove into a longer hiking itinerary.
Otherwise, you may just to want to stay in Malham to enjoy more of the Yorkshire Dales in a more leisurely way and to soak up the beautiful rural landscapes of this area without having to rush back to the city.
The nearby Ingleton Waterfall Trail is another great option for hiking fans!
Where to Stay in Malham?
If you are looking to stay in Malham on a budget, then there are several good campsites around, which makes excellent bases for hikers or budget travellers.
The 2 closest and best are:
If you can’t be bothered to bring all your camping gear, but still want to stay in the area on a budget, then the excellent YHA hostel in Malham is a great choice.
I’ve stayed there as a student, when a group of us were hiking in the Dales, and thought it was clean comfortable and totally up to scratch. Check out the best rates here.
There are also a number of rental properties in Malham, which are great for families, larger groups or those looking for a bit more comfort.
I love the website VRBO, which caters brilliantly for those looking for glamping, cottage and home rental options in Yorkshire, the UK and beyond.
Check out this great cottage option, just 15 mins walk south of Malham, which offers a beautiful spot for 2, or this top-rated barn conversion for up to 10 people in a 17th century farmhouse near Malham Tarn – ideal for group walking holidays or retreats!
Amenities in Malham
Malham is a lovely little village with a couple of pubs and cafes and is well worth stopping off in, even if you don’t stay the night.
If you need to stock on any basic supplies or get a good pint, then this village can definitely sort you out too!
There’s a post office, a church and a cute souvenir shop in true English style!
The Buck Inn does good drinks as well as food and is closest to the centre of the village, otherwise The Lister Arms is slightly further away.
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I really hope you enjoyed my guide to visiting Malham Cove in Yorkshire and found the information useful.
Have you been to this amazing natural landscape?
Do you have any extra info to help a fellow traveller out?
Then please drop it into the comments box below…