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Contemplating the universe! Astrophotography by Ben Bush

Malham – special qualities

In the Yorkshire Dales National Park, the interaction of people with nature has produced a landscape of remarkable beauty and distinctive character that is loved and cherished by the nation. The area’s unique landscape character is created by the particular combination of many elements: the managed moorland, pastures and valley grasslands; small woodlands; dispersed villages and farmsteads; the local building materials; strong field patterns; and drystone walls and field barns. This is what makes it such a special place. This has led to us recognising the ten special qualities of the National Park.

Malham is famed for its stunning limestone scenery and with some of the best-known natural wonders in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, including Malham Cove and Gordale scar.

Some of the best examples of classic limestone scenery in the UK can be found in the Yorkshire Dales. With its scars such as those at Gordale and Attermire which isn’t far away close to Settle and limestone pavements such as those at Great Asby Scar which is further away in Orton.

The soaring limestone ‘amphitheatre’ of Malham Cove can be found a short walk along good paths from Malham village. The top is reached by 400 stone steps up the Cove’s left-hand side – count them as you climb!

A curious lunar landscape of limestone pavement awaits, a pattern of clints (blocks) and grikes (fissures). For the makers of Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows: Part 1; it made the perfect setting for a location shoot.

Hemmed in by towering cliffs is the dramatic gorge of Gordale Scar. A waterfall emerges through a hole in the rock at its deepest point. Gordale Scar, is a towering gorge that has wowed visitors, writers and artists for hundreds of years!

There are dozens of spectacular waterfalls in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. At Malham, you can find wonderful examples of this such as the beautiful Janet’s Foss. Janet’s Foss is a gladed woodland waterfall and pool. Janet, the Queen of the Fairies, is said to live in the cave behind the falls.

If you fancy an underground adventure visit for more information.

The Yorkshire Dales has some of the most spectacular peaks in England, and the famous Yorkshire Three Peaks of WhernsideIngleborough and Pen-y-Ghent are amongst the highest in the county, providing an inspiring challenge to walkers from around the world. The Three Peaks are within driving distance of Malham if you felt like taking on more of a challenge! You can walk the individual Peaks or find less strenuous walks in Ribblesdale as well as seeing the iconic Ribblesdale Viaduct and Dent Head Viaduct. The Three Peaks can be found in Ribblesdale, the closest peak from Malham being Pen-y-Ghent, which is approximately an hour’s drive away. 

Livestock farming in the Yorkshire Dales is still deeply interwoven into local life in Malham. Particularly sheep farming and a strong tradition of upland cattle rearing. 

The Dales has been a farming landscape for thousands of years. As you look across the valley you will see the distinctive pattern of earthwork lynchets – terraces for growing crops – as well as a patchwork of drystone walls and nineteenth-century field barns.

Livestock sales and agricultural shows play an important part in the lives of the local people in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It’s a chance for isolated farming families to get together and share their news, knowledge and experiences as well as show off their stock and produce. 

Today, the competition is as fierce as ever. Top show winners mean more sales of stock bred from their lines and bring their own satisfaction after all the hard work on the farm.

No summer visit to the Yorkshire Dales is complete without taking in a traditional agricultural show or village gala such as Malham show.

Over a quarter of England’s flower-rich upland hay meadows and pastures are here – outstanding examples can be found at Lower Winskill Farm near Malham – and keep an eye out for nationally important populations of birds like curlew, lapwing, and black grouse.  The limestone pastures at Lower Winskill are home to a number of different orchids including the delightfully scented Fragrant Orchid, as well as rare wildflowers such as Ladies Mantle, Spring Cinquefoil and Grass of Parnassus.

You will also find glorious hay meadows in the close by Dale of Littondale. The best time to visit is in early June.

Use the iNaturalist app to identify and log your findings whilst also contributing to scientific research!

Around 42% of the area of the National Park is moorland, which is internationally important for wildlife, and plant species and the carbon they store as peat.

Yorkshire is the home of cycling thanks to the 2014 Tour de France ‘Grand Depart’ and Le Tour de Yorkshire. The Dales offers some of the best cycling in the country – from gentle routes in the valleys to challenging climbs over the moorland that separates them. Find out routes and more about cycling in the Yorkshire Dales on our Cycle the Dales website here.

The stunning dark sky of the Yorkshire Dales National Park is one of its very special qualities, and each year we support a special festival to celebrate it. The Dark Sky Festival is all about discovering, learning and enjoying the galaxies and stars you don’t normally get to see.  See our Dark Sky events page to find out dates and events near you.