Aside from being a gruelling challenge by bike, Malham Cove is famous in its own right for its distinctive geological formation (more on that below). It gets loads of visitors each year, so if you’re here in peak season, expect more traffic on the roads than you’d expect to find in the less known nooks of the Dales.
Yet it’s one of the best known climbs in the Dales and it’s a real challenge. There are two routes you can take around the Cove, the harder one turns left out of Malham village and that’s the route we write about here.
In terms of gradients, you’re looking at an average that sits around 6.5%, but this takes into account the easier first and last half kilometres. Remove them and you’re looking at more like 1.5km at 10-11% average gradient. It’s steep!
All metrics in this article are approximate.
Malham Cove highlights
A really testing climb in a nationally famous beauty spot.
As you pass the Buck Inn in Malham, the gradients are quite gentle and offer a warm up ahead of the proper climb. You reach a 14% sign and it’s here that the gradient really kicks in. You leave the last of Malham village behind and feel the burn as you wind up on this narrow road, flanked by stone walls.
A bit further up you get views over to the sheer limestone wall of Malham Cove, but you’ll probably be more focused on pushing the pedals. There’s a brief respite and then the road pitches up again. The road twists its way upwards with some gruellingly steep corners, and you wonder how long 1.5km (the steep bit) can possibly take!
When the cattle grid comes into sight, you’re nearly there. From this point, the gradients ease and the last half kilometre or so is blissfully easy compared to what you’ve just done.
Malham village is well supplied with tea rooms and there area also two cafés.
We based ourselves in Hawes. You can find out about where we stayed in our ultimate guide to cycling the Yorkshire Dales.
Read our tips for cycling in the Yorkshire Dales before you set out.
From Malham village there are two road to the top, near Malham Tarn. This write up is about Cove Road, which is the left hand route. This is the more famous and probably the harder climb of the two.
Into your geology? Malham Cove is 70 metre high and made from white limestone. It was created by the action of water and ice over millions of years. As glaciers ground their way over the surface, they tore off pieces of rock from the face of the Cove and carried them away. As the glaciers melted, water poured over the cliff and further eroded it. All this has led to the spectacular curved cliff you see today.
Don’t miss our main guide to the Yorkshire Dales, which has links to all our rides and information on where to stay, when to visit and bike hire. You can find links to more of our route guides in the Articles section below. Happy riding!
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