Janet's Foss and the Gordale Scar

near Malham / Yorkshire Dales National Park / Craven District, North Yorkshire County, England

Rating: 1.5     Difficulty: 2
The waterfall in the impressive Gordale Scar

TABLE OF CONTENTS



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INTRODUCTION

The Janet's Foss Waterfall as well as the waterfalls within the gorge known as the Gordale Scar were my waterfalling excuses to see this geological oddity in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. The Gordale Scar was a giant limestone gorge closing in on the Gordale Beck where there were a pair of small waterfalls tumbling over tufa-like formations (a characteristic of the jagged limestone formations here). The cliffs, which seemingly enclosed upon the waterfalls themselves were said to be over 100m high, and it was speculated that this scar was the result of either a cavern collapse or melting glaciers. When I inspected the upper waterfall in the scar, I thought there was a pothole or natural arch that the beck fell through. But upon closer examination, it turned out to be nothing more than a bright rock that gave me the illusion that there was a natural arch up there.

Meanwhile, the Janet's Foss waterfall was a small and tranquil falls (maybe 15-20ft high) spilling into a peaceful cove. It was only a short distance downstream on the Gordale Beck from the alternate car park on the narrow single-track road (Gordale Lane) leading to the Gordale Scar campground roughly 4 miles northeast of Malham. It only took me about 10-15 minutes to walk to and check out this waterfall before returning back to where I parked the car. Then, I continued for a few minutes into and past the Gordale Scar campground, where a path continued further into the imposing depths of the limestone cliffs. And after rounding a bend, that was when I saw the waterfall hidden in this cove dwarfed by the towering and overhanging cliffs. I really felt like the cliffs or the rocks could give at any minute and fall into this gloomy gorge.

The Janet's Foss Waterfall I saw some kids from the nearby campsite who managed to climb up the waterfalls as they were undoubtedly going to do the much longer 7-mile loop walk taking in this Gordale Scar, the Malham Tarn, and the Malham Cove. I decided not to do the dicey scrambling though they definitely demonstrated to me that it was quite doable with a great deal of caution, especially given how low the Gordale Beck was flowing. When I had my fill of this waterfall, I then headed back to the car, where I could have called it an end to the excursion, but I actually spent a bit more time walking towards the Malham Cove, which was another mile away to the northwest.

The hike to the Malham Cove (going in the opposite direction of the longer 7-mile loop hike) passed through extensive sheep pastures as it hugged sheep walls while providing views in the direction of the village of Malham and its surrounding farmlands. After crossing over the Malham Rakes Road (another single-lane road leaving from Malham), I then entered another area of sheep pastures full of grass and sheep dung before finally getting to the wrinkly cliffs atop the Malham Cove. It took me about 35 minutes to get from the car to this point. I had to be careful given the uneven nature of the wrinkly limestone surface atop the cliffs, especially when some of the gaps between the limestone had some non-trivial drop offs that could be hazardous if I wasn't careful and fell in. I also had to be careful not to get too close to the cliff edges as I peered over and down towards the base of the Malham Cove, where the Malham Beck is said to continue its journey towards the town of Malham further to the south and eventually joining with the Gordale Beck to form the River Aire.

After having my fill of this side excursion (which I'm not counting towards the overall difficulty of this hike since it wasn't necessary to see the waterfalls), I then headed back down the hill towards my parked car. Overall, the entire excursion took about 2 hours and 15 minutes, but the last hour or so was for the Malham Cove (which would have made the difficulty more like a 3 had I included that side excursion in the difficulty rating as well). I didn't have time to continue another mile or so towards the Malham Tarn to complete the longer hike that has been said to be perhaps the best Yorkshire Dales day hike given the quantity of sights and their variety.

Note that the excursion would have taken even much longer still had I began from the official pay and display car park just to the south of the town of Malham (see directions below). I got the feeling that the place I parked at only had room for a couple of cars, and the more spacious section across the narrow road was reserved for a refreshment truck. Had I done it the way they want you to do it, this excursion would've added another hour or two to the overall time it took me to do the excursion. Again, the difficulty rating I provided only reflected my own experience at the time, and not what the local authorities wanted me to do.




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PHOTO JOURNAL

About 56 miles to the east of Malham along the A59 road was the beautiful former Viking town of York along the River OuseAbout 56 miles to the east of Malham along the A59 road was the beautiful former Viking town of York along the River Ouse
An optional 2-mile out-and-back side excursion led me from the Gordale Scar to the eccentric Malham Cove where wrinkly limestone cliffs suddenly plunged towards the Malham Beck belowAn optional 2-mile out-and-back side excursion led me from the Gordale Scar to the eccentric Malham Cove where wrinkly limestone cliffs suddenly plunged towards the Malham Beck below
About 90 minutes west of Malham was the town of Kendal, which had the alluring (and free) Kendal Castle, which provided us not only castle ruins but views over the town itselfAbout 90 minutes west of Malham was the town of Kendal, which had the alluring (and free) Kendal Castle, which provided us not only castle ruins but views over the town itself
Roughly 2 hours drive west of Malham was the attractive Windermere Lake, the most famous of the lakes and towns within the Lakes DistrictRoughly 2 hours drive west of Malham was the attractive Windermere Lake, the most famous of the lakes and towns within the Lakes District
At the alternate car park on Gordale Lane looking towards a nearby mountain glowing nicely in the rare morning sunAt the alternate car park on Gordale Lane looking towards a nearby mountain glowing nicely in the rare morning sun

Going past a swinging gate on the short out-and-back walk to Janet's FossGoing past a swinging gate on the short out-and-back walk to Janet's Foss

Looking against the morning sun towards the peaceful Janet's Foss WaterfallLooking against the morning sun towards the peaceful Janet's Foss Waterfall

Looking across the plunge pool of Janet's Foss towards a small cave hidden in the overgrowthLooking across the plunge pool of Janet's Foss towards a small cave hidden in the overgrowth

Closer look at that cave I noticed near Janet's FossCloser look at that cave I noticed near Janet's Foss

The steep trail around Janet's FossThe steep trail around Janet's Foss

Walking along the Gordale Lane towards the Gordale Scar after visiting Janet's FossWalking along the Gordale Lane towards the Gordale Scar after visiting Janet's Foss

Going past the campground fronting Gordale ScarGoing past the campground fronting Gordale Scar

Going further into the gorge as the impressive limestone cliffs started closing in on meGoing further into the gorge as the impressive limestone cliffs started closing in on me

Looking right up at the impressive limestone cliffs of the Gordale ScarLooking right up at the impressive limestone cliffs of the Gordale Scar

My first look at the waterfall in the Gordale Scar just as I rounded the bendMy first look at the waterfall in the Gordale Scar just as I rounded the bend

A closer examination of the lower waterfall in the Gordale ScarA closer examination of the lower waterfall in the Gordale Scar

As I got closer to the waterfall, I started to notice it had even more components to itAs I got closer to the waterfall, I started to notice it had even more components to it

Context of the Gordale Scar waterfall with the cliffs closing inContext of the Gordale Scar waterfall with the cliffs closing in

A group of boys scaling the Gordale Scar waterfallsA group of boys scaling the Gordale Scar waterfalls

After having my fill of the Gordale Scar, it was time to head back towards the parked car beyond this campsiteAfter having my fill of the Gordale Scar, it was time to head back towards the parked car beyond this campsite

Looking back towards the Gordale Scar as the morning light became more prevalent and the shadows were getting smallerLooking back towards the Gordale Scar as the morning light became more prevalent and the shadows were getting smaller

As I was hiking up towards the Malham Cove, I got this glimpse of the single-track Gordale Lane Road flanking some sheep pasturesAs I was hiking up towards the Malham Cove, I got this glimpse of the single-track Gordale Lane Road flanking some sheep pastures

Continuing on the trail to Malham Cove where I followed along these sheep walls amongst fields full of sheep, sheep dung, grass, and rocksContinuing on the trail to Malham Cove where I followed along these sheep walls amongst fields full of sheep, sheep dung, grass, and rocks

Continuing along the trail towards Malham Cove from Gordale LaneContinuing along the trail towards Malham Cove from Gordale Lane

Looking towards the expansive rolling hills and lush valleys of Yorkshire Dales from the Malham Cove TrailLooking towards the expansive rolling hills and lush valleys of Yorkshire Dales from the Malham Cove Trail

Crossing over a single-track road as I continued making my way to the Malham CoveCrossing over a single-track road as I continued making my way to the Malham Cove

Walking amongst even more sheep as I was getting closer to Malham CoveWalking amongst even more sheep as I was getting closer to Malham Cove

Approaching the jumble of rocks and wrinkly limestone surfaces right above the Malham CoveApproaching the jumble of rocks and wrinkly limestone surfaces right above the Malham Cove

The jumbled surface above Malham CoveThe jumbled surface above Malham Cove

Looking out past the Malham Cove towards the pastures downstream of the Malham BeckLooking out past the Malham Cove towards the pastures downstream of the Malham Beck

A sheep wondering what I was doing taking photos of the Malham CoveA sheep wondering what I was doing taking photos of the Malham Cove

A closer examination of the uneven limestone surface above the Malham CoveA closer examination of the uneven limestone surface above the Malham Cove

Looking back in the other direction towards the Malham CoveLooking back in the other direction towards the Malham Cove

Interesting cliffs around the Malham Cove areaInteresting cliffs around the Malham Cove area

Walking in the sheep pastures meant trying to avoid the plethora of sheep dungWalking in the sheep pastures meant trying to avoid the plethora of sheep dung

View of the pastures and moors as I was headed back downhill towards Gordale LaneView of the pastures and moors as I was headed back downhill towards Gordale Lane

Finally back at the Gordale LaneFinally back at the Gordale Lane


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


Sweep of the peaceful cove containing the falls while still sheltered from the morning sun


Focused on the waterfalls tumbling beneath the impressive Gordale Scar.


Multiple sweeps of the waterfall at Gordale Scar before ending with some kids showing how to do the non-trivial climb up the waterfalls to proceed further up the scar


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

I think the fastest way to get to Malham (the nearest town to the Gordale Scar) from Kendal would be to take the A6 motorway south just past the M6 interchange to the A65 (6 miles), then continue on the A65 for another 32 miles towards the hamlet of Coniston Cold (becoming the A59 road along the way), where I'd then turn left onto the narrow Carseylands Hill Road. Continuing north for about 5.2 miles on this road, it will pass through a couple of towns (Airton and Kirkby Malham) before eventually reaching the public car park at the south end of the town of Malham. This drive would take about 90 minutes.

It turned out that the GPS led me in a more direct route but it involved driving more single-lane roads than what I described above so it wasn't any faster. It had me go the familiar A6 then A65 roads before turning left onto the B6480 road at Giggleswick before taking the single-lane B6479 road east towards Malham.

Once I was at Malham, I continued driving on the single-lane Finkle Street due east, which eventually became the single-lane Gordale Lane. I parked the car just under 4 miles east of Cove Road (the main road through Malham) alongside the Gordale Lane just a few minutes walk from the Janet's Foss Waterfall. Again, I'm not sure if parking there was legal, but it certainly saved me a lot of time and money, and I'd imagine given the limited parking available, under busier times, this parking spot might be hard to get without a very early start.

As for some geographical context, Kendal was 87 miles (over 2 hours drive) west of York, 73 miles (90 minutes drive) north of Manchester, 236 miles (4.5 hours drive) north of Bath, and 271 miles (over 5 hours drive or 3-4 hours by train) northwest of London.




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ITINERARIES

For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.




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MAP OF THE FALLS



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TRIP REPORTS

For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




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TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES





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NEARBY WATERFALLS




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