Janet's Foss and the Gordale Scar

Malham / Yorkshire Dales National Park, England, UK (Great Britain)

About Janet’s Foss and the Gordale Scar


Hiking Distance: 1 mile round trip (both waterfalls only)
Suggested Time: 60-75 minutes (both waterfalls only)

Date first visited: 2014-08-19
Date last visited: 2014-08-19

Waterfall Latitude: 54.07261
Waterfall Longitude: -2.13057

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).

Gordale_Scar_046_08182014 - Gordale Scar and a waterfall in its depths
Gordale Scar and a waterfall in its depths

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.

Gordale_Scar_018_08182014 - Janet's Foss waterfall and its plunge pool
Janet’s Foss waterfall and its plunge pool

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.

Gordale_Scar_023_08182014 - Contextual of looking across the plunge pool before Janet's Foss towards some small cave
Contextual of looking across the plunge pool before Janet’s Foss towards some small cave

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.

Gordale_Scar_038_08182014 - Walking into the depths of the Gordale Scar a short distance from the Gordale Scar campground
Walking into the depths of the Gordale Scar a short distance from the Gordale Scar campground

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.

Gordale_Scar_080_08182014 - Looking at some young kids figuring out a way to climb the waterfalls within the Gordale Scar
Looking at some young kids figuring out a way to climb the waterfalls within the Gordale Scar

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.

Gordale_Scar_094_08192014 - Following the trail alongside the stone sheep walls en route to the Malham Cove
Following the trail alongside the stone sheep walls en route to the Malham Cove

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.

Gordale_Scar_118_08192014 - The wrinkled and cracked bedrock atop the cliffs of the Malham Cove
The wrinkled and cracked bedrock atop the cliffs of the Malham Cove

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.

Gordale_Scar_130_08192014 - Sharing the sheer dropoffs of the Malham Cove with this sheep that managed to make it up here with me
Sharing the sheer dropoffs of the Malham Cove with this sheep that managed to make it up here with me

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.

Gordale_Scar_100_08192014 - Looking back across the rolling pastures in the direction of Malham as I was headed back downhill from the Malham Cove
Looking back across the rolling pastures in the direction of Malham as I was headed back downhill from the Malham Cove

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.

Authorities

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.

Gordale_Scar_002_08182014 - At the alternate car park on Gordale Lane looking towards a nearby mountain glowing nicely in the rare morning sun
Gordale_Scar_005_08182014 - Going past a swinging gate on the short out-and-back walk to Janet's Foss
Gordale_Scar_007_08182014 - The short path going into the bush en route to Janet's Foss waterfall
Gordale_Scar_013_08182014 - Frontal look at the attractive and quaint Janet's Foss waterfall
Gordale_Scar_016_08182014 - Looking against the morning sun towards the peaceful Janet's Foss Waterfall
Gordale_Scar_024_08182014 - More zoomed in look at that cave near Janet's Foss
Gordale_Scar_027_08182014 - The steep trail around Janet's Foss
Gordale_Scar_029_08182014 - Context of the Malham Lane Road between the gate for the Janet's Foss waterfall and the Gordale Scar Campground
Gordale_Scar_032_08182014 - Walking along the Gordale Lane towards the Gordale Scar Campground after visiting Janet's Foss
Gordale_Scar_040_08182014 - Looking right up at the impressive limestone cliffs of the Gordale Scar as they loomed larger the further I went on the short trail
Gordale_Scar_041_08182014 - My first look at the waterfall in the Gordale Scar just as I rounded the bend
Gordale_Scar_044_08182014 - A closer examination of the lower waterfall in the Gordale Scar
Gordale_Scar_047_08182014 - As I got closer to the waterfall in the Gordale Scar, I started to notice it had even more components to it
Gordale_Scar_056_08182014 - Looking right at the hidden upper tier and the lower tier of the Gordale Scar waterfall
Gordale_Scar_066_08182014 - Context of the Gordale Scar waterfall with the cliffs closing in
Gordale_Scar_086_08182014 - After having my fill of the Gordale Scar, it was time to head back towards the parked car beyond this campsite
Gordale_Scar_087_08192014 - Looking back towards the Gordale Scar as the morning light became more prevalent and the shadows were getting smaller
Gordale_Scar_089_08192014 - As I was hiking up towards the Malham Cove, I got this glimpse of the single-track Gordale Lane Road flanking some sheep pastures
Gordale_Scar_092_08192014 - Continuing on the trail to Malham Cove where I followed along these sheep walls amongst fields full of sheep, sheep dung, grass, and rocks
Gordale_Scar_097_08192014 - Looking over the context of rolling sheep pastures from the climbing trail leading up to the Malham Cove
Gordale_Scar_102_08192014 - Crossing over a single-track road as I continued making my way to the Malham Cove
Gordale_Scar_107_08192014 - Following what appeared to be faint tyre tracks in the grass full of sheep and cow dung as I continued hiking towards Malham Cove
Gordale_Scar_111_08192014 - Walking amongst even more sheep as I was getting closer to Malham Cove
Gordale_Scar_115_08192014 - Approaching the jumble of rocks and wrinkly limestone surfaces right above the Malham Cove
Gordale_Scar_121_08192014 - Looking over the edge of the cliffs of the Malham Cove
Gordale_Scar_123_08192014 - Looking out past the Malham Cove towards the pastures downstream of the Malham Beck
Gordale_Scar_133_08192014 - Looking back away from the Malham Cove towards the intriguing bedrock formations and backing sheep pastures in the distance
Gordale_Scar_134_08192014 - A closer examination of the uneven limestone surface above the Malham Cove
Gordale_Scar_139_08192014 - Looking back in the other direction towards the Malham Cove as seen from a different angle
Gordale_Scar_144_08192014 - Another look across the Malham Cove towards a streak in the wall, where I suspect could be yet another waterfall had there been more water emerging from the apparent spring
Gordale_Scar_146_08192014 - Interesting cliffs around the Malham Cove area though I didn't explore that particular gorge
Gordale_Scar_147_08192014 - Crossing over another one of the stone stiles to head back towards the parked car near the Gordale Scar Campground
Gordale_Scar_149_08192014 - Walking in the sheep pastures meant trying to avoid the plethora of sheep (and possibly cow) dung
Gordale_Scar_151_08192014 - A black sheep on the trail as I was returning from the Malham Cove
Gordale_Scar_152_08192014 - View of the pastures and moors as I was headed back downhill towards Gordale Lane
Gordale_Scar_154_08192014 - Once again following along the trail skirted by stone walls to keep sheep in their pastures
Gordale_Scar_156_08192014 - Finally back at the Gordale Lane after having visited the Malham Cove

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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.

Gordale_Scar_036_08182014 - The road leading to the Gordale Scar Campground, which was just off the single-lane Malham Lane Road
The road leading to the Gordale Scar Campground, which was just off the single-lane Malham Lane Road

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.

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.

Gordale_Scar_003_08182014 - Context of where I managed to pull over on the Gordale Lane and hike to both the Janet's Foss and the Gordale Scar
Context of where I managed to pull over on the Gordale Lane and hike to both the Janet’s Foss and the Gordale Scar

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.

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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Tagged with: malham, yorkshire dales, national park, cumbria county, england, uk, united kingdom, waterfall, janets foss, craven, gordale beck, malham cove



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Johnny Cheng

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Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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