Malham tarn walk

4 images of malham tarn walk paths and landscapes

I bet you’ve heard of Malham cove but have you heard of Malham tarn? This Malham tarn walk is so much quieter than Malham cove walks. We did both in the same weekend and the tarn is so much quieter and is still a lovely short family walk. Find loads of family walks here.

Where is Malham Tarn?

Malham tarn is in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It’s a glacial lake near Malham village. You can get to it from the top of Malham cove as part of a much longer walk but for families, there are plenty of short walks nearby.

Malham is known for some of the best limestone scenery and it’s not hard to see why it is such a popular area. Malham Tarn is much quieter but it is still a very special place to explore.

dry stone wall with lake behind
Stunning views over the stone wall

Where to park for this Malham Tarn walk

This walk starts in Water sinks car park. There are no facilities, only an ice cream van on our visit but I can’t guarantee that it will be there on your visit. The car park is free and there is plenty of on-road parking too.

The walk

Start and finish – Water sinks car park
Approximate duration

Distance – 3.5 miles
Accessibility – This is a fairly flat walk, with uneven ground in places. This walk is suitable for pushchairs.
Public toilets – There are no public toilets on this walk

Other Facilities – none

The route

This walk is great for families including those taking a pushchair. An off-road one definitely makes it easy but I’m sure most pushchairs would manage this walk.

Cars in a country car park

There is a map of the 2 possible walks in the car park. We chose the easy walk. There is moderate walk which is a circuit of malham tarn. This circular walk is at 4.5 miles with significant parts of the walk being along roads so with young children we chose the alternative route.

This walk is possible with an off-road walking buggy but if you can manage with a baby or toddler carrier, it will be easier.

Start with the car park behind you and the road on your left. Cross the fields towards the tarn along the grassy path which is part of the Pennine way.

Field with a path through it
people walking towards a lake

You’ll soon reach the shores of Malham Tarn. Keep the tarn on your left and follow the grassy track around the tarn.

field with woods in the background
limestone wal at back of fir=eld

Pass through the wooden gate which is signposted Malham tarn estate on the stone wall and continue following the obvious path around the tarn. At this point, the path will become a gravel track. You’ll also be able to see the sheer walls of rock that the Malham tarn area is known for.

people walking through a gate next to a national trust sign
path curving through a field

You’ll reach another gate, this time with a cattle grid and with a footpath marker for the Pennine way. There is a smaller gate to the side without a cattle grid to cross.

path towards a gate into the woods

Go through the gate and continue to follow the path. The path will start to go uphill at this point, through woodlands with the tarn still on your left.

path through woods

Follow the path until you reach Malham Tarn house. You can get a great view of the tarn from here. The path continues around the back of Tarn house by Orchid house where you’ll see a large spider sculpture on top of the building in the corner of the walls and lots of information boards about the buildings.

Building on the edge of a wood

The path then goes a short distance, around the buildings and back to the tarn. Then you are walking down a narrow road (access for tarn house) which starts to go more downhill. Part way down there are steps on your left to a viewing area with a bench and picnic area. You’ll also spot a wooden rabbit sculpture on the wall here and this is the start of a trail with a few of these beautifully carved animal sculptures. We spotted a rabbit, a fish, a heron, an owl and an eagle.

wooden heron sculpture in the woods
down hill path through woods

Just after the eagle (on your right) is a gate on the left. This is the exit from the Malham Tarn moss boardwalk. The boardwalk is narrow so it makes sense that it is one-way.

building in the woods
path with woods on one side and a field on the other

To find the entrance, keep following the track past the cottages until you get to a fork in the road.

Fork in the path

Take the track to the left which is signposted with a National Trust poster that states the boardwalk is 400m this way.

Red post box in a country wall

Access to the boardwalk is on your left, through a gate. The boardwalk is an easy circular route and such a beautiful place to walk.

Gate in dry stone wall

Once on the boardwalk, there is only one path to follow most of the time. Where there are options, there will be a National Trust sign advising if it is one way.

National trust board with map and photos

After the bridge, the boardwalk splits in two. We decided to bear right (which brought us back to the eagle sculpture). You will weave through beautiful woodland here back to the main track. boards can be slippy in wet weather

kids running on a board walk

The boardwalk is approximately a mile walk and the area is rich with wildlife. We were lucky enough to see a Lizard run off the path in front of us but we didn’t see the Exmoor ponies.

Board walk through a field

Once you exit the boardwalk through the gate, you turn right and retrace your steps back past the tarn house around the train to the car park.

More Yorkshire dales walks

Find loads more Yorkshire Dales walks including full route details of the beautiful waterfalls of Janet’s foss walk and many more in North Yorkshire here – Kids Walks in the Yorkshire Dales

The Himalayan gardens and sculpture park is not far away and is well worth a visit.

One of my favourite National Trusts is Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Gardens. Well worth a visit.

If you want to cross over the boarder into the North West, I can recommend this walk – Kirkby Stephen Riverside walk.

Four different countryside scenes and text across the middle that reads Family walks North West - Facebook group

Join the Family walks North West Facebook group to be part of a community sharing the best walks for families across the region. Click here.

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Where to next?

Don’t forget to pack your Nature walk scavenger hunt free printable. Perfect for keeping kids happy on a walk.

Find loads of things to do on a walk with kids here.

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