This short walk around Malham Tarn beneath the looming cliffs of Great Close Scar offers ramblers a chance to experience a variety of habitats, from craggy limestone bluffs, to thick forest, dark peatland and a wildlife-rich upland lake.


At 377 metres above sea level, Malham Tarn is the highest marl (calcium carbonate or lime-rich mud) lake in Britain.

Keep an eye out for wild creatures as you go, including waders and ducks.

Discover more walks in the Yorkshire Dales

The valleys, moors, hills and caverns of the Yorkshire Dales are etched with miles and miles of rolling footpaths – explore this atmospheric limestone landscape with our guide to the national park's best hiking trails.
Village by a river

Malham Tarn walk

3.5 miles/5.6km | 2.5 hours | easy

1. Malham Tarn car park

Park at the Water Sinks Gate car park, the flat expanse of Malham Tarn's surface glimmering to the north. Walk towards the upland lake and veer right as you reach the water's edge. The tarn is home to coots, moorhens and gold crested grebes, along with several species of waders and six species of freshwater fish.

Sunset over Malham Tarn in the Yorkshire Dales
Malham Tarn is home to coots, moorhens and gold crested grebes/Credit: Getty

2. Great Close Scar

Keep the Ha Mire Plantation to your left and make your way north-east towards the towering bulk of Great Close Scar. The limestone cliffs overlook Malham Tarn and are a popular rock-climbing spot.

The footpath broadens to a north-bound gravel track – in the spring and summer months, its verges are dotted with wildflowers.

Malham Tarn House sits in woodland beneath Great Close Scar/Credit: Getty

3. Malham Tarn House

Beyond the scar, bend left into woodland towards Malham Tarn House - a field study centre. Follow the track past a couple of boat houses, looking out for oystercatchers, lapwings and redshanks stepping through the shallows of the lake.

Northern lapwing
Spot lapwings wading along the shores of Malham Tarn/Credit: Getty

4. Tarn Moss

At Home Farm, turn left and keep to the track. To your left is Tarn Moss. You will soon reach a crossroads. Turn left again and complete the cicuit of the lake back to the car park.

All-terrain Tramper wheelchairs are available for hire from the Malham Tarn Visitor Centre.


Malham Tarn map

Malham Tarn walking route and map

Malham Tarn walking route and map


Daniel Graham of COuntryfile magazine on a hike with wet hair and blue coat and hills in background
Daniel GrahamOutdoors editor, BBC Countryfile Magazine

Danny is the outdoors editor of BBC Countryfile Magazine, responsible for commissioning, editing and writing articles that offer ideas and inspiration for exploring the UK countryside.