Highlights of the Southern Yorkshire Dales

Malham Cove in the Southern Yorkshire Dales National Park England UK popular visitor attraction

The wildly beautiful Southern Yorkshire Dales are epitomised by their rolling limestone scenery and agricultural land criss-crossed with dry stone walls. Pretty villages and quaint market towns are home to cosy pubs serving local ales and Yorkshire’s finest fare. They have long attracted both walkers and sightseers who appreciate the beauty and tranquillity of the landscape. There are many things to see and do; here are a few of our favourites.

OUR TOP 6 PLACES TO WALK IN the Southern Yorkshire Dales

You can walk to the featured locations on our self-guided walking holidays in the Southern Yorkshire Dales and - once we are able to operate our usual Guided Walking programme again - also on our Guided Walking holidays. These are just a few of the cracking routes available though, and there are many other options to explore as well.

Skip down to discover each walk

1. Malham Cove  2. Gordale Scar  3. Gaping Gill
4. Ribblehead Viaduct  5. The Three Peaks  6. Catrigg Force Waterfall

1. Malham Cove

It may be hard to imagine today but the sheer, curving limestone cliff that is Malham Cove once had a glacial meltwater waterfall thundering over the top of it. This dramatic geological feature has drawn visitors to it for centuries, dwarfing them as they gaze up at its 70m face. Some climb it, others photograph it and all are impressed by its presence.

The top of Malham Cove is covered by limestone pavement – a relatively scare habitat of limestone criss-crossed with cracks – many large enough to easily accommodate a foot so care is needed. The views across Malhamdale are a sight to behold.

Today the area is a haven for wildlife – Peregrine Falcons have been nesting here each summer for over 25 years. There is an RSPB viewpoint where it’s possible to watch the falcons through a telescope as they fly to and from their nest (open April to July).

2. Gordale Scar


The ‘scar’ is actually a gorge – formed when the roof of a water-cut cavern collapsed. Two waterfalls flow down the scar with a rocky path next to them taking walkers upwards. After rainfall, the waterfall volume quickly increases, making them even more spectacular. If the flow is too fierce, the route becomes slippery and dangerous so an alternative needs to be used. 

The steep climb up through the narrowing gorge requires some scrambling over rough terrain. Climb accomplished, the path then leads on to Malham Moor where it joins the Pennine Way at Malham Tarn – England’s highest lake. The whole area is a feast for the eyes with a varied landscape largely defined by limestone. 

3. Gaping Gill

Britain’s largest cavern also has one of the most spectacular entrances; the landscape suddenly gives way to a dark, yawning hole which plunges to a depth of 100m. There are no fences so great care has to be taken. It is said that the cavern is large enough to accommodate York Minster! 

The waters of Fell Beck pour over the cave’s perimeter rim of rock to create Britain’s largest unbroken waterfall. It is possible to be lowered down into the cave to view it from the bottom but there is generally a wait of 2-3 hours due to the popularity of the activity and the limit to the numbers of people who can be transported at a time. 

4. Ribblehead Viaduct

Located in a valley bottom (the Batty Moss) in an area of open moorland and agricultural land, the Ribblehead Viaduct is visible for miles around. This impressive 24-arch stone structure carries the railway line which takes trains from Settle to Carlisle. Its construction was a major feat of Victorian engineering although it cost the lives of many labourers. 

The viaduct creates a photogenic centre-piece while walking on parts of the Pennine Way and the Ribble Way amongst the Yorkshire Dales’ Three Peaks. 

5. The Three Peaks 


The famous ‘Three Peaks’ of the Yorkshire Dales are Pen-y-ghent (694m), Ingleborough (723m) and Whernside (736m). While many choose to trek all three peaks on a 25-mile route in under 12 hours in the Dales’ version of the Three Peaks Challenge, these hills can also be tackled separately at a more sedate pace on a number of walks in the area. 

These notable peaks dominate the landscape and can be seen for miles around. From the top of Ingleborough on a clear day it’s possible to see the coast at Morecambe Bay some 23 miles away. The Yorkshire Dales spread out in their full glory for miles around. 

6. Catrigg Force Waterfall

Hidden away in a deep, wooded gorge above the village of Stainforth gush the falls of Catrigg Force. The two cascades are in a secluded spot so all you can hear are the sounds of nature. The main fall drops 6 metres into the pool below having been squeezed by the narrow rocky channel above. It is said that the spot was a favourite place to visit for the composer Sir Edward Elgar. 

There is a bit of ascent to reach the falls but the path is good. Having enjoyed the sight and sound of the falls you can continue to the higher moorland fells and on to the market town of Settle. 

Accommodation – Newfield Hall

Our grand 19th century country house is set in extensive grounds with magnificent views of the Yorkshire Dales. Facilities include a heated indoor swimming pool, an activity room with a range of books and board games, a bar, two lounges, a putting green and mini golf. Stay in the main house or in the tastefully converted coach house. Newfield Hall underwent extensive refurbishment in early 2019 with all bedrooms redecorated, a new bar and refurbishment of all public areas.

Ways to See the South Yorkshire Dales

Guided Walking Holidays
Three Peaks Challenge
Self-Guided Walking
Dales Way Guided Trail
Solos Holidays
Family Holidays