WITH the hordes that usually flock to Malham now departed this is a great time of the year to head to one if the most spectacular and continually interesting walks in the Dales. This walk takes in all the major sites but can be shortened by missing Malham Tarn (see the map).

Leave the car park in Malham and head in to the centre.

Join the Pennine Way at the road bridge and follow the path south on the east side of the small river. Leave the Pennine Way after a gate and take the obvious path east. After half a mile the path enters a hidden dell of picturesque woodland and continues for another 200 metres to Janet’s Foss (look out for a ‘coin tree’ in the woods). Foss is a nordic word for waterfall. The waterfall itself is small but the legend great - apparently Janet the fairy lives behind the waterfall but you will need to ask the youngsters as only they can see the fairy! It is an idyllic spot.

Climb the steps beside the waterfall and walk along the road east for 100 metres to a gate on your left. This leads to Gordale Scar on an excellent and easy path, in summer making a very pleasant camp site.

After half a mile you will turn a corner and in front the memorable site of Gordale Scar.

The Scar is a huge gorge with towering limestone hemming it in on all sides; it is in fact a relic of the ice age when a cavern collapsed as the glacier retreated.

A public right of way does lead directly up the waterfall but is only suitable for fools or climbers, sensible folk will return to the gate. At the road turn right towards Malham but almost immediately a footpath to your right climbs steeply west through open country.

When the path meets a quiet road in half a mile turn right and continue the climb on to the higher plateau of Malham. Follow the road (great views and at this time of the year very little traffic) for one mile where it bends sharply left.

Carry on along a farm track towards Middle House Farm but when confronted with a large hill in front of you leave the main track and take the left fork to Malham Tarn. On reaching the tarn turn left and follow it round to its outflow and follow this to a car park. This south east section of Malham Tarn shows its best side, it a wonderfully peaceful spot.

Cross the road at the car park on the west side of the river and follow this for 200 metres to a point where the river simply disappears.

This remarkable spot is called Water Sinks and the entire river drops underground and appears many miles further south and not as commonly thought at the foot of Malham Cove.

You are back on the Pennine Way so follow this south through the dry gorge and limestone rock till it emerges on the world famous limestone pavement perched above Malham Cove.

The views hear are very good on a clear day but keep your eyes to your feet as you cross to the west side of the pavement and avoid those grykes! A steep stone staircase leads down to the foot of the cove and from here it is a simple one mile walk to the centre of Malham.

Fact File:

Distance: Roughly 8.5 miles. Height to Climb: 460m (1,500 feet)

Start: SD 900627. Park at the large National Park visitor centre car park.

Difficulty: Medium. The paths are generally good but the gorge south of Water Sinks can be a little rocky.

Refreshments: Malham has two excellent pubs and a couple of cafes.

Be Prepared: The route description and sketch map only provide a guide to the walk. You must take out and be able to read a map (O/S Explorer OL2) and in cloudy/misty conditions a compass.