If you’ve seen Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1), it’s likely you’re no stranger to the stunning limestone pavement of Malham Cove. Although it’s located only a stone’s throw from the village of Malham, we took the train to Settle and hiked from there, notching up 25km (or 43,446 steps, according to Laurence’s iPhone) on our round-trip route . . .
Upon arrival, an ominous mist hung over the dales – not quite the weather we (or the notoriously unreliable weather forecast) had in mind! Undeterred, we made our way through the town and up Castle Hill to join the Pennine Bridleway. After accidentally detouring into Langcliffe, a small village a kilometre or so north of Settle, we had to walk up a hideously steep slalom-esque road to rejoin our original route. On the up side, the clouds lifted as we approached Jubilee Cave, presenting us with an opportune moment to fuel up!
Continuing along the Pennine Bridleway, the landscape plateaued, with fields of buttercups giving way to distant hills shrouded in mist. We passed a herd of cows with calves – utterly adorable, but I was rather glad a substantial stone wall was between us, since cows, calves and humans in close proximity is rarely a recipe for success!
When we reached Langscar Gate, we veered north towards Malham Tarn, making our way over Dean Moor Hill, through a field of cows and past a field of horses before arriving at the shoreline of the tarn in time for lunch. Malham Tarn is a National Nature Reserve, surrounded by woodland on the northern side and home to an assortment of wildlife, including oystercatchers, tufted ducks and teal. It’s also England’s highest lake, at 377 metres above sea level – but with a designated car park nearby, it’s probably also one of England’s most accessible lakes.
With grey clouds looming on the horizon, we decided not to do a circuit of Malham Tarn on this occasion (but if you have the time and the weather is nice I’d highly recommend it), instead following the Pennine Way towards Malham Cove. As we passed through Ing Scar, thunder echoed in the distance – prompting us to up our pace and overtake a few other walkers!
Upon rounding the corner, the edge of the majestic limestone pavement came into view. Approaching the edge, we were rewarded with one of Yorkshire’s finest views – as far as I’m concerned, in any case. The limestone boulders framed a patchwork of fields and interlacing stone walls, whilst the ribbon-like Malham Beck meandered across the horizon.
As we were picking our way across the limestone pavement, the heavens opened – the picturesque gullies between the limestone slaps became treacherous and the rocks rapidly became slippery, so we slowly made our way away from the edge and took the path down to the bottom of the cove. Once at the bottom, we could see several people perching on the cliffs, whilst others were sheltering under trees.
Since the rain showed no sign of stopping, we then continued along the footpath which ran alongside Malham Beck until we reached the outskirts of Malham. After a quick map-check in a barn-turned-museum, we headed back up into the hills along a single track country lane before joining a footpath which led us through a field of buttercups (with a lone sheep in it) and past Butterlands Barn.
As we ascended, we saw adorable lambs . . . and slugs like we’d never seen before! I’m really not a fan of homeless snails, and found the size of them (minimum 8cm long!) quite repulsive! Soon after, we joined Dales High Way (which at this point follows the same route as the Pennine Bridleway) which runs in the dale to the north of Rye Loaf Hill. After passing Stockdale Farm and a multitude of manure-bearing tractors, we made our way down Stockdale Lane, pleased to be nearing the outskirts of Settle and – at last! – some final rays of sunshine.
We then followed High Hill Lane into Upper Settle, spotting some highland cows (not entirely sure, but they were very furry!) and a pheasant en route. Once in Settle, we detoured via The Shambles fish & chips shop for a cone of chips (highly recommended!) before catching a train home. Having first encountered this area of the Yorkshire Dales on my Gold Duke of Edinburgh expedition, it has since stolen my heart with its timeless beauty, come rain or shine. Although I’ll be leaving Leeds soon, it’s not really goodbye – rather, until we meet again.