Malham Tarn family cycle trail

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

Route details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
 © Classlane Media

Two great crested grebes displaying on Malham Tarn in the spring © John Chamberlain

Two great crested grebes displaying on Malham Tarn in the spring

Early summer's morning at Malham Tarn National Nature Reserve © Robin Sutton

Early summer's morning at Malham Tarn National Nature Reserve

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

Malham Tarn Estate was inherited by the 21 year old Walter Morrison in 1857 © National Trust/ Martin Davies

Malham Tarn Estate was inherited by the 21 year old Walter Morrison in 1857

Route overview

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.

Route details

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

Route map for Malham Tarn family cycle trail, North Yorkshire
  • Directions
  • Route
  • Bus stop
  • Parking
  • Toilet
  • Viewpoint

Start: Watersinks car park, grid ref: SD893658

  1. 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.

    Show/HideMalham Tarn

    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.

     © Classlane Media
  2. 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.

    Show/HideBird hide

    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.

    Two great crested grebes displaying on Malham Tarn in the spring © John Chamberlain
  3. 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.

    Show/HideNational Nature Reserve

    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.

    Early summer's morning at Malham Tarn National Nature Reserve © Robin Sutton
  4. 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.

    Show/HideSmelt chimney

    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.

    The smelt mill was used to roast calamine from the Malham mines © National Trust
  5. 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)).

    Show/HideWalter Morrison

    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.

  6. 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.

    Malham Tarn Estate was inherited by the 21 year old Walter Morrison in 1857 © National Trust/ Martin Davies

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
  • Terrain:

    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

     

  • Facilities:

    • Nearest facilities are in Malham Tarn village: including toilets, tea-rooms and pubs

  • Contact us