Best Assured, Natural Landmarks

Who doesn’t love a vote? People passionately pressing a button or scribbling a cross in a box, hoping their first choice will reign supreme. Well in the absence of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest and with no major political election on the horizon, Welcome to Yorkshire once again rose to the challenge with the online WTY World Cup of Yorkshire. First, it was Iconic Buildings (congratulations to The Piece Hall), but then followed the vote for Yorkshire’s favourite Natural Landmarks. With a nation experiencing some lifting of lockdown, looking forward to unlocking the latches and being let loose once again, it was a hard-fought battle amongst first-class locations to find the final winner.    

Add these to your must-visit list for when the time is right … but in the meantime …

Malham Cove came out on top in the WTY World Cup of Yorkshire – Natural Landmarks. Nestled in the southern base of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, the village of Malham was mentioned in the Domesday book as 'Malgun', and has been a settlement for at least a thousand years. Traces of Iron age boundaries are still visible today and a century ago it was a place for industrious mills and deep mines. Today it’s more about hill farming and tourism. The cove is an impressive curved shaped cliff formation of limestone rock, with the vertical face of the cove reaching 260 feet high. At the top of the cliff is a spectacularly large area of deeply eroded limestone pavement, with a fascinating pattern rarely seen in England (more on this later!). The towering majesty of Malham Cove predominantly looks out across Malham village. Attracting visitors for centuries, it’s a great and natural amphitheatre for climbers with mid-grade routes. The area is also popular in all seasons with walkers and the cove is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), so special care must be taken when visiting.

Check out Malham Essentials


Aysgarth Falls was a fabulous finalist in the WTY World Cup of Yorkshire – Natural Landmarks competition. This impressive landmark comprises a gorge through which the River Ure rapidly flows over a series of stepped waterfalls consisting of horizontal layers of hard limestone and thin bands of soft shale. The rugged rocks are part of the Yoredale geological series that were laid down on the sea floor over 300 million years ago and the falls are a product of the Ice Age. Rich in wildlife, the River Ure is home to the rare white-clawed crayfish, a vast variety of interesting insect life including mayflies and stoneflies and on warm summer evenings brown trout may be seen in the quieter sections of the river, leaping into the air to catch flies. Many bird species are also frequently spotted at the river, with the dark brown dipper and its white breast sometimes seen 'bobbing' at the water’s edge or diving under for food, plus pied and grey wagtails can be seen and sometimes a colourful kingfisher. Footpaths through woodland and wild flowers often offer a glimpse of squirrels and deer. This spectacular setting is protected as part of the Aysgarth Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

An impressive beauty spot it has inspired many visitors over the years including leading English art critic John Ruskin, celebrated artist J.M.W. Turner and poet William Wordsworth, who all visited and were bowled over by the falls outstanding beauty.

Kevin Costner can be seen wading through the water at Aysgarth Falls in the BAFTA-winning film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, although unfortunately this cannot be guaranteed to be happening during any future visits.

Check out Aysgarth Falls Tourist Information Centre


Stunning semi-finalists …

Cow and Calf

Overlooking the picturesque spa town of Ilkley, high on the moor, are the outstanding Cow and Calf rocks. A large formation of outcrop boulders, also known as Hangingstone Rocks. Made of millstone grit, a variety of sandstone, one is large and there’s a smaller one sitting close to it, just like a cow and a calf.

According to local legend, the Calf was split from the Cow when the giant Rombald was escaping an enemy and stamped on the rock as he leapt across the valley. It’s rumoured the enemy was his angry wife and she dropped the stones held in her skirt to form the local rock formation The Skirtful of Stones. Legend also has it that there was once a Bull, but it was quarried for stone during the spa town boom in the 19th century that Ilkley was part of, but there appears to be no evidence of the Bull’s existence.

Of course, it’s a much more peaceful setting now, with pretty pathways, masses of moorland, stunning views, a popular pub and a café.

The rocks are a great place to explore and climb, if experienced, and the moor is ideal for walking, hiking, pony trekking and picnicking.

Hollywood greats Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette filmed emotional pivotal scenes from the heart-wrenching film Miss You Already at this dramatic location and the BBC TV series Gunpowder was also shot there.

Check out Ilkley Essentials


Limestone Pavements … at … Malham Cove

Climb the steps to the top of Malham Cove (the winner of the WTY World Cup of Yorkshire Natural Landmarks) and you'll be rewarded with vast limestone pavement. Once a glacier, this natural wonder was created as the water melted and is a location favoured by many photographers for its dramatic look in a stunning setting.

Formed through rainwater percolating through the soil and becoming acidic, this gradually dissolved the limestone surface. Beneath the soil, rainwater picked out the joints in the stone and eroded them over time, gradually widening the cracks by dissolving the rock, creating deep fissures, known as grykes.

If it looks familiar it may be because it featured in the film Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part I, as Harry & Hermione set up camp in a tent on the limestone rocks. It’s no surprise as this is a pretty magical place with amazing views of the valley below. The Pavement was also used as a location in the 1992 film of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights starring Juliette Binoche and Ralph Fiennes.

After all this exploring, enjoy a tasty tipple, delicious dining and even an overnight stay in the village of Malham at The Lister Arms (voted Yorkshire’s favourite pub in 2019)  or Beck Hall (super dog friendly).


This article was originally written for This Is Y magazine digital edition – June 2020. To view the full magazine, click here.