Malham Cove is an imposing natural amphitheatre of limestone. A well-known beauty spot, it comprises an 80 metre high curved limestone cliff at the head of a valley, with a fine area of uneven limestone pavement at the top. The pavement can be accessed on the left-hand side of the cliff face by about four-hundred irregular stone steps. The valley was formed at the end of the last ice age when the ground was frozen. This meant that meltwater from the melting ice sheet formed a large river flowing over the Cove to form a huge waterfall. When the climate warmed around 12,000 years ago the ground thawed and the river in the valley disappeared underground leaving the valley dry as we see it today.
Since 1993a pair of Peregrine Falcons have been nesting on the face of the Cove. Visitors can take advantage of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and RSPB’s special view point to watch these wonderful birds. The viewpoint is open every Saturday to Wednesday (closed Thursday and Friday) from 7 April to 31 July 2012. On these days wardens will be present from 10.30am until 4.30pm.
Gordale Scar is an equally impressive limestone ravine 1 mile or 1.5 km NE of Malham, it contains two waterfalls and has overhanging limestone cliffs over 100 metres high. The gorge was formed by water from melting glaciers. The stream flowing through the scar is Gordale Beck, which on leaving the gorge flows over Janet’s Foss before joining with Malham Beck two miles downstream to form the River Aire.
Janet’s Foss is a small waterfall just a short walk from Gordale Scar. It carries Gordale Beck over a limestone outcrop topped by tufa into a deep pool below. The pool was traditionally used for sheep dipping, an event which took on a carnival air with many of the villagers making it a social occasion, gathering with friends to eat and drink.
The name Janet (sometimes Jennet) is thought to be a folk tale reference to a fairy queen who lives in the cave at the rear of the fall. According to records it was actually inhabited by smelt workers from the copper mines at nearby Pikedaw. Foss is a Nordic word for waterfall, and is sometimes used for the word ‘force’.
Malham Village is a pretty dales village, with drystone walls and traditional field barns, and Malham Beck running through its centre. The word means ‘hollows’ probably referring to the area at the base of the Cove. There is a National Park Information Centre and a large car park. The long-distance path the Pennine Way passes through the village, which is close to the natural landmarks of Malham Cove, Gordale Scar, Janet’s Foss and Malham Tarn.
Skipton (8 miles south) boasts a well preserved Norman Castle and boat trips along the Leeds and Liverpool Canal can be taken from here. Browse among the stalls in the bustling street market operating each Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.