YORKSHIRE boasts many a fine walk, but this is one of the very best.

My brother, Will, has just moved back to God's Own Country and what better way to spend day one in the Broad Acres than with a walk in the Dales.

This circular stroll is breathtaking almost from start to finish, taking in the typical Dales village of Malham, the picturesque Janet's Foss waterfall, the rugged cut of Gordale Scar, the bleak loneliness of Malham Tarn and the spectacular, unrivalled beauty of Malham Cove.

Welcome to Yorkshire!

The spring Saturday of our visit had brought thousands to Malham, and we helped ourselves to the last space in the Yorkshire Dales National Park Centre car park.

The chances are you won't find yourselves alone for long on this walk, and it was no different for us as we picked our way through the throng en route to Janet's Foss.

The waterfall is shrouded by Wedber Wood, carpeted by (and alive with the aroma of) wild garlic, but it can easily be found by following Gordale Beck through the trees.

The Janet of Janet's Foss was, folk tales would have you believe, a fairy queen who lived in a cave behind the cascade of water.

The beck tumbles over a limestone outcrop into a pool below and although historically used for sheep dipping, the only thing being dipped these days is the odd toe.

We are not kept waiting long for the second highlight of the walk, Gordale Scar. Stepping into the wide camping field off Gordale Lane, there is little indication of what awaits.

As the path meanders on, the sides of the gorge get steeper and the way ahead narrows until you are met by the impressive sight of the Scar and its flowing waters.

Here walkers have a choice to make - there is a short, exhilarating scramble up the face of the Scar or a retracing of steps back to Gordale Bridge for a less challenging alternative route.

After much deliberating (is it too wet? why is no-one else going this way?), we opt for the scramble. It's fair to say the climb looks more difficult than it is and there are plenty of hand and foot holds.

The rewards are certainly worth the effort. The rarity of seclusion on this busy walk is accompanied by a superb view back down Gordale Scar, while above you is the stunning upper waterfall gushing through a gap in the limestone.

Emerging from the valley, the landscape is quintessential Yorkshire Dales - lush green turf underfoot punctured by pieces of limestone.

A few flakes of snow en route to Malham Tarn are a reminder of a slow start to spring, but the weather has improved again by the time our route joins the Pennine Way close to the waters.

Malham Cove itself is afforded an impressive build up by Watlowes, a dry valley that boasts some incredible dry-stone walling feats.

The limestone pavement atop Malham Cove is like nothing else on earth and you won't be alone in just standing and staring, marvelling at the patchwork of clints and grykes.

Although the temptation is to direct all your attention to the floor, don't forget to look up and drink in the panorama, the views stretching for miles across the Dales.

Eventually you will be forced to drag yourself away from the summit, but one more treat lies in store. The view at the bottom.

The naked eye can pick out the adrenaline-seekers scaling the sheer face of the Cove, while the RSPB are often on hand with telescopes trained on the peregrine falcons that have nested here for the last 20 years.

The end of the walk delivers you back into the heart of Malham village and, for us, the White Rose hospitality of the Buck Inn.

Welcome to Yorkshire, Will.


* Leave National Park car park and turn left towards centre of village. Cross road and take path to right of the blacksmith's workshop, crossing Malham Beck (1).

* Turn right along path and go straight ahead through gate. Follow clear path to another gate and bear left past barn. Continue on left side of field and pass through gate into woodland next to Gordale Beck. Continue ahead to reach Janet's Foss waterfall (2).

* Climb steps to left of waterfall to reach a road. Turn right and after about 100 yards go through a gate on left into campsite field. Follow path through middle of site, heading into steep sided gorge.

* At Gordale Scar waterfall (3), take great care as you climb up the centre of the rocks, using the many natural hand and foot holds. After the initial climb, follow steep path to left hand side up valley to meet a wide grassy path. Go through gate and continue ahead to a road. Walk on to crossroads.

(Alternative route: retrace steps from Gordale Scar back to road and near where you emerged from Janet's Foss, go through gate into field on right. Continue ahead across fields following signs for Malham Cove until you reach a road. Turn right and follow it for a mile and a half to rejoin main route at a crossroads)

* As road turns left, continue ahead for half a mile. Look out for Pennine Way fingerpost just before Malham Tarn (4), follow it left onto grassy path that skirts the southern edge of tarn to reach an outflow point. The route turns left to run parallel to stream to rejoin road. Turn right, cross stream and go through gate on left, signed Pennine Way (5).

* Continue ahead to meet a wall. Keep wall on left, ignoring stile and path on left. As path enters dry valley, follow around to right (6), before sharp left turn through gate into Watlowes. Keep wall on left and follow path for half a mile to reach Malham Cove (7).

* Follow limestone pavement around to right and descend through gate, still following Pennine Way signs, to reach foot of Malham Cove. A clear path takes you away from Malham Cove, through gates, to reach road.

* Turn left and walk half a mile back into Malham village.


Distance: seven miles.

Parking: Yorkshire Dales National Park car park on left as you enter Malham.

Refreshments: Pubs, cafes and shops in Malham, plus mobile cafe near Gordale Scar.

Maps: Ordnance Survey Explorer OL2 Yorkshire Dales (South and West).