Malham Tarn upland farm circular walk

Watersinks car park, Malham Tarn, Settle, North Yorkshire, BD24

Route details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
Malham Tarn was used as a fishery for the monks of Fountains Abbey © Robin Sutton

Malham Tarn was used as a fishery for the monks of Fountains Abbey

Why not pop in to the exhibition area and learn more about the reserve? © National Trust

Why not pop in to the exhibition area and learn more about the reserve?

Two Great Crested Grebes displaying on Malham Tarn in the spring © John Chamberlain

Two Great Crested Grebes displaying on Malham Tarn in the spring

The smelt mill was used to roast calamine from the Malham mines © National Trust

The smelt mill was used to roast calamine from the Malham mines

Route overview

Discover England's highest lime-rich lake, home to a unique community of rare plants and animals. It is an area of outstanding moorland uplands, with flower-rich hay meadows, varied birdlife and awe-inspiring vistas.

Route details

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

Route map of the Malham Tarn circular walk
  • Directions
  • Route
  • Bus stop
  • Parking
  • Toilet
  • Viewpoint

Start: Watersinks car park, grid ref: SD895658

  1. Join the Pennine Way and head northwards along the grassy path towards Malham Tarn. The Pennine Way continues to the overflow of Malham Tarn before joining the track to Tarn House. Continue along the track with Great Close Scar on your right.

    Show/HideMalham Tarn

    Malham Tarn lies in a natural hollow formed in the boulder clay, overlying a bed of impervious Silurian slate. Surprisingly, the water from the Tarn does not reappear at the base of Malham Cove, but just over two miles downstream at Airehead

    Malham Tarn was used as a fishery for the monks of Fountains Abbey © Robin Sutton
  2. Walk along the shore of the Tarn and pass through a gate at the entrance to the woods and continue to Tarn House. As you pass Tarn House, stop off at the Orchid House and have a look around our brand new exhibition area. From here continue on through the woods.

    Show/HideThe Orchid House

    The Orchid House was a heated Victorian greenhouse, probably used to grow orchids and exotic plants. It has been recently renovated into a small exhibition area, and an education room for us to use with the groups that visit and work with us.

    Why not pop in to the exhibition area and learn more about the reserve? © National Trust
  3. Walk along the track, passing the bird hide on your left. At Sandhill's Cottage, on your left, take the track that leads to the National Nature Reserve and follow the boardwalk through the reserve. Where it joins an unmade track at the other end, turn left to the road.

    Show/HideBird Hide

    Pop into the bird hide to sit and watch the birds. Great crested grebes, tufted duck, pochard, wigeon, teal, goosander and occasionally, hen harrier, are just some of the birds that can be seen at Malham Tarn.

    Two Great Crested Grebes displaying on Malham Tarn in the spring © John Chamberlain
  4. When you reach the road, turn left and walk along the road, taking the left fork after 300m. Continue along the road to the next crossroads. Go over the stile diagonally in front of you to your left and cross the field, heading towards the smelt mill chimney.

    Show/HideSmelt Mill Chimney

    During the 18th century, lead, copper and zinc carbonate were mined on Pike Daw and the crushed metal ore was processed at the smelt mill. A long flue led from the mill to this chimney, where the toxic fumes were exhumed.

    The smelt mill was used to roast calamine from the Malham mines © National Trust
  5. At the chimney, enjoy the views before walking away from the Tarn, heading uphill towards the corner of the field, above the barn. At the corner, follow the wall on your left to the wall in front of you (leading uphill). Go over the stile and continue eastwards until the land begins to descend. You will see a track at the foot of the hill leading to a gate in the wall to your left.

  6. Go through the gate and follow the track across Dean Moor, in a north-easterly direction until you reach the road and car park at Water Sinks.

End: Watersinks car park, grid ref: SD895658

  • Trail: Walking
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Distance: 4.5 miles (7km)
  • Time: 3 hours
  • OS Map: Explorer OL2
  • Terrain:

    Circular walk across fields and unmade tracks, with a short stretch of road walking. The terrain is reasonably flat, but can be muddy after wet weather. Dogs welcome under close control; must be kept on leads at certain times of the year.

  • How to get here:

    By foot: 6 miles (9.6km) of the Pennine Way runs through the estate

    By bike: The Yorkshire Dales Cycleway runs through Malham village and by Malham Tarn

    By bus: from Skipton: 210/211 and 883/884 (passing close Skipton , w/e, to Malham village only); from Settle: 580/210 (to Malham village only). Also, National Trust shuttle bus service (890), Settle-Malham Tarn, Easter-Oct, w/e only

    By train: Settle station 7 miles (11.3km) away and Skipton station 19 miles (30.6km) away

    By car: close to the A65 and Settle; 4 miles (6.4km) north-west of Malham. Follow signs from Malham

  • Facilities:

    Nearest facilities are in Malham Tarn village 2 miles (3.5km), including: toilets, tea-rooms and pubs

  • Contact us