Malham’s Triple Crown: Janet’s Foss, Gordale Scar & Malham Cove

Janet's Foss

I recently cycled the Way of the Roses cycle route from Morecambe to Bridlington. It was a spectacular ride, one of the best. Click here if you’d like to find out more.


However, this article is not about that ride but about my brief overnight stop off in the delightful village of Malham. Having heard fantastic things about both the area and its YHA hostel, I deliberately cycled a shorter distance on day 1 of my bike ride so that I could spend a bit of time exploring Malham – and boy did it live up to the hype.

I rolled up to the front door of YHA Malham at about 2pm on a soggy afternoon having cycled about 45 miles from Morecambe. Check in wasn’t until 5pm so I threw on some non-cycling clothes and locked my bike and panniers up, although it didn’t feel particularly necessary.

Happy to be off the saddle, I set off in search of the three jewels on Malham’s crown; the reason for me choosing to stop here for the night.

Malham is a small village with two pubs and a little shop where, when I asked the shopkeeper what time it closed, he looked at me as if I’d asked him for an Apple Genius appointment and said, “Whenever people stop coming in I suppose.” Which considering the village currently has a population of 238 is probably quite a difficult thing to gauge. Both the shop and this exchange were charming either way.

Anyway, back to those jewels. I crossed a bridge taking me away from the hustle and bustle of Malham and a sign informed me that I was very briefly walking on the Pennine Way. I’ve since done some research and decided I must come back and do the other 266.5 miles that I missed, it looks incredible.

The Pennine Way
The Pennine Way

This was to be an easy, but action packed 5-mile stroll with plenty of great views to take in along the way. I had a spring in my step despite the 45 miles already cycled as I approached Malham’s first jewel; Janet’s Foss.

The word ‘Foss’ was familiar to me as the Icelandic word for waterfall and like many sites of interest in Iceland, this pretty little woodland waterfall is accompanied by its very own folktale. The ‘Janet’ (or Jennet) in question is said to be a fairy queen who lives in a cave behind the falls.

Sitting by the falls on a sunny afternoon is quite magical and it’s not hard to imagine how these tales were cooked up.

Janet's Foss
Janet’s Foss

Onwards to jewel number two; Gordale Scar. Sounding like something out of Lord of the Rings and not looking too dissimilar, Gordale Scar is a sight to behold even from a distance, but it becomes more dramatic and wildly impressive the closer you get.

A harsh gorge created by glacial movement 1.5 million years ago, Gordale Scar is said to be one of the most painted natural landmarks in the UK. There is currently a painting of it from 1814 by James Ward in the Tate Britain. This was further proven as I approached the gorge and saw a lady sitting in front of an easel putting her somewhat abstract interpretation of the scar down on canvas.

Gordale Scar
Gordale Scar

The third, final and possibly most impressive of these crown jewels is Malham Cove. An easy walk and a short upward climb will take you to the upper level of what was once upon a time a waterfall bigger than Niagara Falls. No longer flowing, at over 80 metres tall and 300 metres wide, Malham Cove is a favourite destination for rock climbing and bouldering.
After standing on the naturally formed pavement above Malham Cove, a further trail leads you down to the foot of the ‘falls’ which is where you can really get an idea of the magnificent scale of what you’ve just been standing on.

Malham Cove
Malham Cove

A night in YHA Malham will rarely cost more than £15. I went in the off-season and paid £7 as a member.

It is a modern, well-equipped hostel and they offer dinner and breakfast for a nominal sum. After a delicious plate of spaghetti bolognese I popped over to the Lister Arms for a couple of pints in front of the fireplace. Perfect.

Thanks for reading this post, I'm glad you found me. Just a heads up, if you make a booking or purchase through a link on this site, I'll occasionally get a small commission which goes towards site upkeep.

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