This week the United Kingdom announced it would not allow travelers from the United States. Meanwhile, the European Union is now allowing other EU countries to travel amongst themselves. However, they are not allowing US visitors. This is due to the soaring number of coronavirus cases in the US and a not-so-subtle indictment of the way we in the US have mishandled the pandemic. Since Americans can’t travel to the UK, I thought I’d bring the UK to us.
Location: Yorkshire Dales – Settle to Malham and back
Time of year visited: February
While I haven’t hiked much in the UK, this is one that I did a few years back in Lancaster, England. Specifically, it was from Settle to Malham, and back, taking in all of the nice geographic features near Malham, such as Malham Cove, Janet’s Foss, and the Gordale Scar.
After flying all of Friday night from the states, I arrived in Manchester on Saturday morning and took the train to Leeds where I dropped my suitcase and hopped on another train. I took this train from Leeds to the little town of Settle in North Yorkshire, where I promptly bought a map in the station. I stopped in a small store that sold rock climbing equipment and asked where to find the footpath to Malham.
The path climbs up and out of Settle heading east through Langcliffe CP (Civil Parish) through rolling, rocky hills. Just outside of Settle the byway crosses a north-south footpath that, according to the map, leads to some caves. I didn’t take the time to check them out.
Hiking across the Dales you see many grazing farm animals and beautiful old stone fences. You can’t help but feel you are hiking across someone’s farmland and, I guess, you are. But in the UK hikers have legal right of way on these paths and byways. In the states I would have one eye open for an angry farmer with a shotgun.
About 6 to 6 1/2 miles from Settle the pathway splits, with Penine Way heading north toward the Malham Tarn (small lake), and Watlowes heading southeast towards Malham. Here you pass through a small and scenic depression calls Ing Scar, complete with sheep grazing on the little cliffside.
Shortly after Ing Scar, the path leads to the top of Malham Cove where a glacier melt once carved deep channels through the limestone pavement before cascading over the 80m drop to the cove below. Apparently, the waterfall still occurs breifly once in a great while.
Malham is a small village with a few shops and inns. I stayed at The Buck Inn where I enjoyed dinner by the fire, a comfortable room and a traditional English breakfast.
The Buck Inn also had a hikers bar with traditional Yorkshire beers. I enjoyed a few of those as well, my favorite being Old Peculiar, by Theakston.
On Sunday morning I took Pennine Way south out of town and after only about 1/4 mile another footpath tees into Pennine Way near an old stone barn that I believe is called Mires Barn. I took this path which runs northeast initially and it led me to Janet’s Foss, a small waterfall and scenic creek in a moss-covered depression. There is also a small cave next to the waterfall.
The footpath roughly follows the creek, called Gordale Beck, into the Gordale Scar. You can follow the path and beck into the scar and the multi-colored limestone cliffs rise up around you.
Inside the scar, Gordale Beck has a series of small waterfalls and many hikers follow the path up these falls, which takes a bit of slippery scrambling. The falls were closed to climbing when I was there due to nesting birds.
I backtracked out of Gordale Scar and went off-trail and across field to circle around to the top of the falls. The newly fallen snow made the rocks extremely slippery.
I found a road and followed it back to The Buck Inn where I had a lunch of crisps and an Old Peculiar before heading back towards the Settle train station. I would have liked to check out the Malham Tarn but had to catch the last train which was still about a 5 1/2 to 6 mile walk away.
I walked north out of town on Cove Road towards to the bridleway, which lies south of the path I had come to town on, and is a shorter route back to Settle.
Reaching the trail I could see the snow was beginning to pile up. As I traveled West through the Dales the snow fell harder and visibility was very low at times. Where there was no stone fence to follow, it became challenging to keep sight of the trail.
I met a couple from Manchester who were doing the same hike that I was but had decided to turn back. They said they had lost the trail and it was getting worse ahead. I told them that I had a map and compass and that Settle lies directly west so I could get them there even if we had to go off-trail. They cast their lots in with mine and we hiked together towards Settle.
After a few minutes of trying to hike due west across the thick grasses and rough terrain, I told them it would be easier to walk back to the last gate we had passed through and pick the trail back up. We did this and by carefully watching our way, were able to stay on the trail. The remainder of the hike was very wet and white, but it was greatly enjoyable chatting with the couple.
If you’re looking to get a taste of the English country side, this is a lovely hike that is relatively easy to moderate. It can be done as a long day hike or an overnight trip. If I ever get back to the area I will do it again and check out more of the Dales, including Malham Tarn.