Grizedales & Malham Cove

Walk Summary

A walk from Malham on to Kirkby Fell, Rye Loaf Hill and Grizedales returning via Watlowes and Malham Cove.

Distance: 8.0 miles
Total ascent: 1900ft
Walk Rating: ****
Parking: Car park, Malham
Route: Download Route [GPX]

Photo Gallery

Walk Report

To start off it should be noted that this wasn't the walk I was hoping to do this day. I'd planned to drive up past Malham to park at Street Gate and head east along Mastiles Lane before cutting up to Proctor High Mark and then on to Parsons Pulpit. Unfortunately my car had other ideas. Just half a mile out of Malham my fan belt came off and I lost power steering.

Managing to get the car into the car park at Malham I had two options. One, ring recovery straight away and wait for them to collect me, or two, devise another walk and ring them when I'd finished. Not wanting to waste my day off by being towed back to the garage I did the latter after hastily improvising this route.

"Topped by a trig point and shelter the summit of Rye Loaf Hill offered fantastic views in all directions with the Three Peaks well seen."

Setting off on the enclosed lane at the back of the car park I soon took a left turn on to Long Lane followed shortly by another left turn on to a lane passing a number of field barns. After crossing a beck I left the lane to cross some pastures. In the second pasture I made a brief detour up to the right to visit a nice waterfall on an unnamed stream.

Climbing up on a slippery and muddy path below Pikedaw Hill I passed through another couple of gates before veering off from the path to take a look at Low Grit. The latter is a substantial jumble of dark, almost black, gritstone boulders on the eastern flank of Kirkby Fell.

My next objective was the summit of Kirkby Fell itself. Continuing on to the southern end of Low Grit I then turned west to reach a wall. Handily finding a broken section I clambered over, crossed some moist ground and made my way to the top of the fell just in time for the sun to finally break through the cloud.

After taking a few photos of the summit area and admiring the view back down in to Malhamdale I continued west to reach another wall. Climbing carefully over I then followed the wall to my left along a faint quad track until I was directly south of the summit of Rye Loaf Hill. A very steep pull on grass brought me to one of the neatest summits in the Yorkshire Dales.

Topped by a trig point and shelter the summit of Rye Loaf Hill offered fantastic views in all directions with the Three Peaks well seen. Also impressive was the full length view of the valley of Stockdale. It was also however very windy and several times my hat was almost blown off my head whilst I tried to take photos.

From Rye Loaf Hill I descended north-east for a steep drop down into, and climb out of, the upper reaches of Stockdale Beck. On the other side of the beck I reached a wall, following this to the right I came to a gate which led me to another gate on the Pennine Bridleway. Rather than immediately turning right on this I made a further detour, this time to the summit of Grizedales, the highest of the three 500m+ summits on the walk.

The summit of Grizedales is unmarked by cairn or trig point but is an obvious grassy mound set back from a modest limestone edge. If anything the view of the Three Peaks was even better than it was on Rye Loaf Hill. Returning to the Pennine Bridleway I soon turned left alongside a wall to pass the restored Nappa Cross to descend gradually towards the road at Langscar Gate.

Crossing straight over the road I climbed over a stile into a pasture containing some Belted Galloways to drop down into Watlowes, the magnificent dry limestone valley above Malham Cove. Taking care on the slippery rocks on the path I continued down the valley to reach the top of the Cove. Here with a phone signal I finally rang for the recovery.

Given an estimated two hours before a breakdown vehicle could come out to collect me I had plenty of time to explore the top of the Cove. Eventually I descended the long stairway to the foot of the Cove. For the sake of variation from the usual route back into Malham I crossed the splendid little slab bridge over Malham Beck and returned to the village via the pastures of the National Trust's Bombey's Barn and Malham Cove Fields.

Although this wasn't the walk I'd set out to do, any walk in Malhamdale is worth doing and this gave me the chance to revisit a few of my favourite places. The fact that after a drab start the weather turned out glorious (if very windy!) was an added bonus.

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