About Janet’s Foss and the Gordale Scar
The Gordale Scar Waterfalls and Janet’s Foss Waterfall were my waterfalling excuses to experience these contrasting features of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
The Gordale Scar was a giant limestone gorge closing in on the Gordale Beck where a pair of small waterfalls tumbled over tufa-like formations (a characteristic of the jagged limestone formations here).
Contrasting the drama of the geological oddity of the Gordale Scar, the Janet’s Foss Waterfall was a quaint (maybe 15-20ft high) waterfall spilling into a peaceful cove.
I combined these two waterfalling excursions onto this page because they were both easily accessible from near the Gordale Scar campground by Malham.
In addition to the waterfalls here, I also extended my visit by exploring the Malham Cove, which was another geological oddities involving a sheer cliff with some strange bedrock formations above it.
Experiencing Janet’s Foss
To access the Janet’s Foss Waterfall, I started from a pullout near the Gordale Scar campground roughly 4 miles northeast of Malham.
After a brief walk along the narrow stone-wall-flanked road, I then went past a gate, which led me into a forested setting.
Barely a few minutes of walking later, I found myself looking at the quaint waterfall and its plunge pool while enjoying the peacefulness of this little spot.
Around the plunge pool, I noticed a small cave that I found interesting though I didn’t bother crawling inside.
Once I had my fill of the Janet’s Foss, then I returned back the way I came and continued on towards the Gordale Scar Campground.
This part of the excursion only took me around 10-15 minutes.
Experiencing the Gordale Scar and its waterfalls
From the Gordale Scar Campground, I continued walking for a few minutes onto a path that went further into the imposing depths of the limestone cliffs towering over me.
After rounding a bend, that was when I saw the waterfalls hidden within the Gordale Scar, where the towering and overhanging cliffs made the waterfalls look small.
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.
I saw some kids from the nearby campsite who managed to climb up these waterfalls within the Gordale Scar.
Apparently, they were 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 up those waterfalls 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.
Nevertheless, when I had my fill of the Gordale Scar Waterfalls, I then headed back to the car, where I could have called it an end to the excursion.
However, I actually spent a bit more time walking towards the Malham Cove, which was another mile away to the northwest.
Experiencing the optional Malham Cove
The hike to the Malham Cove (going in the opposite direction of the longer 7-mile loop hike) passed through extensive sheep pastures while hugging sheep walls.
During the climb up the rolling hills, I enjoyed 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.
Eventually, the trail led me to the wrinkly cliffs atop the Malham Cove.
It took me about 35 minutes to get from the car to this point.
While at the Malham Cove, I had to be careful given the uneven nature of the wrinkly limestone surface atop the cliffs.
I especially had to watch out for some of the gaps between the limestone, which 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.
Down at the base of the cove, I could see the Malham Beck continuing 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, I then headed back down the hill towards my parked car.
Overall, the entire excursion (including this optional out-and-back hike to the Malham Cove) took about 2 hours and 15 minutes.
That said, 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.
By the way, it has been said that this was the best Yorkshire Dales day hike given the quantity of sights and their variety.
Finally, I have to 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.
In any case, 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.
The Gordale Scar and Janet’s Foss reside in Malham in Cumbria County, England. It may be administered by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.
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.
A Direct (but not-so-fast) Route between Kendal and Malham
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.
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.
Besides, 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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