Malham Cove is a spectacular 80 metre high limestone cliff and is one of the most popular natural features to be found in the Yorkshire Dales.
The cove was formed thousands of years ago by a large Ice Age river that once flowed down the (now dry) valley above the cove. It then plunged over the lip of the cove in what would have been the most spectacular waterfall in the country. Only after severe amounts of rain, such as after Storm Desmond in 2015, does Malham Cove temporarily turn back in to a waterfall.
The reason why the valley and the cove are now dry is because the streams that once flowed down over it have long since gone underground due to limestone erosion. It was once thought that Malham Beck, which emerges at the foot of the cove, orignated from Water Sinks where the outflow of Malham Tarn disappears underground. However, an experiment using dyes found that the stream at Water Sinks doesn’t appear again above ground until Aire Heads some way south of Malham Cove.
Malham Cove is very popular with rock climbers and it is a rare day, in summer or winter, that climbers cannot be seen hanging from the rock face. Since 1993 the cliff has also been a breeding sight for peregrine falcons and at certain times of the year the RSPB set up a viewing point and information stand below the cove.
While the sheer height of Malham Cove is perhaps its most impressive feature it is also famous for its limestone pavement above. While care needs to be taken to negotiate its clints and grikes a walk across the limestone pavevment is not to be missed.
With care the lip of the cove can be explored in a few places. Anyone brave enough to visit the edge will be rewarded with a spectacular, not to mention dizzying view down into Malhamdale.
Malham Cove holds a special place in my heart as it was the final highlight of my first proper walk in the Yorkshire Dales back in 2004. The route I followed via Janet’s Foss, Gordale Scar and Malham Tarn is without doubt one of the finest walks the Yorkshire Dales has to offer.