Malham Tarn archaeology walk

Malham Tarn, Settle, North Yorkshire BD24

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New Middle House Farm - built in distinctive style by Walter Morrison © National Trust/Martin Davies

New Middle House Farm - built in distinctive style by Walter Morrison

You can still see the ancient routes used by the monks to move their sheep © National Trust

You can still see the ancient routes used by the monks to move their sheep

The tarn has been an important source of water since the Mesolithic era © John and Anne Chamberlain

The tarn has been an important source of water since the Mesolithic era

Route overview

Explore this area of ancient limestone pastures, upland hill farms and the beautiful Malham Tarn, and discover archaeological remains in a landscape which has been used by man since the Mesolithic era.

Route details

See this step-by-step route marked on a map

Route map for Malham Tarn archaeology walk, North Yorkshire
  • Directions
  • Route
  • Bus stop
  • Parking
  • Toilet
  • Viewpoint

Start: Street Gate car park, grid ref: SD905657

  1. Pass through the gate and follow the wall on your right along Mastiles Lane to the Roman Camp. The location of this legions temporary marching camp was perfect for marshalling and manoeuvring troops. At the end of a days march the soldiers would dig a ditch with a bank inside and place wooden stakes on top as a palisade.

  2. Turn left, taking the footpath across the north-east corner of the Roman Camp, and follow towards Middle House Farm. After you've crossed Gordale Beck, look to your right - the tops of the fells were full of settlements during the Iron Age.

    Show/HideMiddle House Farm

    New Middle House Farm, with its steeply pitched roofs, is built in the distinctive style of former Malham Moor Estate owner, Walter Morrison. Tarn House was Walter's favourite home and he was a generous benefactor to the local community.

    New Middle House Farm - built in distinctive style by Walter Morrison © National Trust/Martin Davies
  3. From Middle House Farm you can wander up the hill to the left of the farm to look at the 16th-century farmstead of Old Middle House (point 4) or head along the old Monks Road to point 5. Old Middle House, now a derelict 16th-century farmhouse, was a typical early Dales settlement, with lambing crofts and a few closes for hay and sheepfolds. It was built on the site of a much older building which housed shepherds for the Fountains Abbey estate.

  4. Return down the hill, pass through the gate and then follow the path to your right.

  5. Follow the old Monks' Road to Malham Tarn. Much of the land on Malham Moor was used by Fountains Abbey to rear sheep, hence the name Fountains Fell.

    Show/HideOld Monks' Road

    The old Monks' Road follows the edge of the fellside above the wall line down to Arncliffe. Part of an important long distance route for Fountains Abbey, this section connected the sheep pastures on Malham Moor with the grange at Kilnsey, where the sheep would be taken for clipping. The wool was then sold on the continent.

    You can still see the ancient routes used by the monks to move their sheep © National Trust
  6. When you reach the shores of Malham Tarn turn left and then take the left fork onto a grass track which goes beneath Great Close Hill, away from the Tarn.

    Show/HideMalham Tarn

    This permanent source of fresh water has long formed the focus for human activity. Flint artefacts dating from the Mesolithic to the Bronze Age indicate that this area was an important seasonal hunting ground. The tarn has been used as a fishery since medieval times, when the monks of Fountains Abbey stocked it with fish. It's still used today for fishing, although there's now a strict catch and release policy.

    The tarn has been an important source of water since the Mesolithic era © John and Anne Chamberlain
  7. Pause at Great Close Plantation and take a look around you. This was the site of the great cattle fairs of the 18th century. Drovers from Scotland would bring up to 20,000 cattle over the summer to trade here, enabling local farmers to supply nearby towns and cities with meat and dairy produce.

  8. After Great Close Plantation, bear right to join the track and return to Street Gate.

End: Street Gate car park, grid ref: SD905657

  • Trail: Walking
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Distance: 5.5 miles (8.9km)
  • Time: 3 hours to 4 hours
  • OS Map: Explorer OL2 and OL41; Landranger 98
  • Terrain:

    Footpaths are mostly across fields and unmade tracks. One short steep uphill section. Route can be muddy after wet weather. Dogs are welcome on a lead, but please be aware that you'll be walking through areas with sheep and cattle.

  • How to get here:

    By foot: Pennine Way passes nearby

    By bike: Malham Tarn and village lie on Yorkshire Dales Cycle Way (Regional Route 10)

    By bus: Stagecoach/Pennine 210/843, Skipton to Malham; 580/210, Settle to Malham. See Dales Buses for details. National Trust shuttle bus, Settle to Malham, via the Tarn Easter to October. Call 01729 830416 for details

    By train: Settle, 7 miles (11.2km); Skipton; 19 miles (30.6km)

    By road: 4 miles (6.4km) north-west of Malham. Street Gate car park, where this walk starts, is south-east of Malham Tarn. Take Malham Rakes road out of Malham

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