Jonathan Smith runs Where2walk, a walking company in the Yorkshire Dales. Jonathan has written his own book, the Dales 30 which details the highest mountains in the Dales. He also runs one-day navigation courses for beginners and intermediates. Join his Learn a Skill, Climb a Hill weekends in the Dales. To find out more details on any of the above visit his website,

MALHAM is an extremely busy village (more so than ever this year) so I would suggest heading up to the car park at Malham Tarn and enjoy the peace and tranquillity of this beautiful body of water. Include the easy climb of Great Close Hill for both the views and a perfect picnic spot.

Start the walk from the car park at the south end of Malham Tarn, walk 300 metres to the south (away from the tarn) to visit Water Sinks. Here a lively stream disappears down in to the ground, only to appear much further down the valley, beyond Malham Cove. It is a worthwhile detour, return back to the car park. The walk proper heads directly towards the outflow of Malham Tarn, arriving five minutes later. At 378 metres Malham Tarn is the highest marl (calcium carbonate/lime rich mud) lake in England. It may have been larger in the past with geologists believing the original lake included Tarn Moss to the west.

Turn right and follow the shores of the tarn to a wall where you can go no further. Keep the wall on your left hand side (acting as a handrail) as it turns away from the tarn. After 200m arrive at an obvious track and a gate leading in to National Trust land. Follow the track back towards the tarn, following the shoreline until it meets a wooded area. Here there are some choices. You can either follow the path in to the woods and complete the full circuit of the tarn or turn right before the woods and climb Great Close Hill. If the weather is fine you should climb the hill even if you then complete the full circuit of the tarn.

To climb Great Close Hill take the path to the right before the woods and when you arrive at the highest point turn right (south) and then take the unmarked path to the summit of Great Close Hill. It is a 300 foot climb, a bit of an effort, but the rewards are rich indeed. Not only is the 360 degree view one of the best in the Yorkshire Dales (particularly over the tarn) but there are the remains of what is probably an iron age burial site/sacred mound. From either return to the woods or for a shorter walk follow the faint path south that drops towards small copse. From here the track south passes through a gate. Turn right after the gate and follow the wall back to the shores of Malham Tarn and the start. Alternatively return to the shore side and enter the woods of the Malham Tarn estate. In the centre of the woods is a fine building, part of it leased to the Field Studies Centre. Originally a hunting lodge it was added to in both Georgian and Victorian times to make up today’s impressive building. Carry on through the woods until you reach a path heading south on to some duck boards and an area of wonderful wetland walking. Here is the domain of lapwings, oyster catchers, curlews and other wetland birds. On emerging from the nature reserve join one of the quiet (ish) roads which will complete the west and southern part of the circuit. You cannot lose your way, whenever you come to any road junction just turn left.

Fact box:

Distance: Great Close Hill (3 miles), Circuit of Malham Tarn (5.5 miles)

Height to Climb: Circuit of Malham Tarn 70m (230 feet), Great Close Hill add 300 feet.

Start: SD 894658. National Park car park (free).

Difficulty: Easy, Great Close Hill is a climb but well worth it in good weather.

Refreshments: Bring your own! Malham is two miles but often very busy.

Be Prepared:The route description and sketch map only provide a guide to the walk. You must take out and be able to read a map (O/S Explorer OL2) and in cloudy/misty conditions a compass. You must also wear the correct clothing and footwear for the outdoors. Whilst every effort is made to provide accurate information, walkers head out at their own risk. Please observe the Countryside Code and park sensibly.