Malham Tarn family cycle trail
Watersinks car park, Malham Tarn, Settle, North Yorkshire BD24Route details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
For a fun family day out, explore the beauty of Malham Tarn by bike. It is surrounded by some of Britain’s finest limestone scenery and there’s also an opportunity for budding young wildlife detectives to spot the Tarn’s varied birdlife from the bird hide.
- Bus stop
Start: Watersinks car park, grid ref: SD893658
From Watersinks car park follow the bridleway sign, which points towards Waterhouses, across a rolling grassland track. This track follows the Pennine Way. On joining the gravel track go through the gate, following the track alongside Malham Tarn towards the woodland and Tarn House.
Malham Tarn is a beautiful lime-rich upland lake with a wide variety of habitats, home to a range of nationally scarce species, such as round-leaved sundew.
At Tarn House (Field Study Centre) follow the track to the right, round the back of the house and through the narrow limestone cutting. Continue until you reach the bird hide on your left. This is great spot for a break and to observe the birdlife of Malham Tarn.
The hide is an excellent vantage point to watch great crested grebes, little grebes, tufted ducks, pochard, widgeon, teal and goosander. You may also be lucky enough to spot the occasional hen harrier hunting over Tarn Moss.
Turn left at the first left fork on to Pot Hole Lane and follow this lane along the edge of the National Nature Reserve until you reach the gate. Go through the gate and turn left on to the road.
The reserve is made up of three different wetland habitats; the lime-rich open water of the tarn; a flourishing fenland of sedges and other lime-loving plants; and a raised bog with sphagnum moss, heather and bog rosemary. Access to the National Nature Reserve is by permit only and can be obtained from the estate office at Waterhouses.
Follow the road for a short distance and take the first left turn, sign posted to Malham. Continue along the road for approximately 0.5 miles (0.8km) until you reach the crossroads. You will see the smelt chimney, diagonally off to your left, from the cross roads.
Lead, copper and zinc carbonate were mined on Pike Daw during the 18th century. The crushed metal ore was processed at the smelt mill on Malham Moor. Here the long pipe led from the smelt mill to the chimney, where the toxic fumes were exhumed.
Go straight on at the crossroads, following the sign to Malham for approximately 1 mile (1.6km). You will then see a bridleway sign on your left pointing to Watersinks (0.75 miles (1.2km)).
In 1857, Walter Morrison, (1836-1921), a successful businessman, philanthropist and MP, inherited Malham Tarn Estate when he was only 21. He became a legend within his own lifetime and entertained many famous visitors, including Charles Darwin, Charles Kingsley and John Ruskin.
Follow the bridleway back towards Watersinks car park, where you can savour the stunning panoramic view of Malham Tarn, with Fountains Fell in the background.
End: Watersinks car park, grid ref: SD893658
- Trail: Cycling
- Grade: Easy
- Distance: 4.5 miles (7.2km)
- Time: 30 minutes
- OS Map: Landranger 98, Explorer OL2
Height gain: 318ft (97m). Generally gentle grass and gravel paths with some moderate slopes and some narrow-walled lanes. Grass tracks can be muddy after wet weather. This is a great family-friendly route, with just one small incline that may require younger children to push their bikes. The weather can be very changeable, so its important to come prepared. Bring along sensible, warm and waterproof clothing and an OS map to assist with route finding.
- How to get here:
By bike: near Sustrans NCN route 68 and Yorkshire Dales Cycle Way (regional Route 10)
By bus: National Trust shuttle bus from Settle to Malham Tarn weekends and Bank Holidays Easter to Oct. Includes space for up to 3 bikes
By train: Settle 7 miles (11.2km). Settle to Carlisle line
By car: close to A65 and Settle; 4 miles (6.4km) north-west of Malham. Follow signs from Malham. Park at Watersinks car park (National Trust SD893658) south of Malham Tarn
- Nearest facilities are in Malham Tarn village: including toilets, tea-rooms and pubs
- Telephone: 01729 830416
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/malham-tarn-estate/