Camper Van Trip To Heaven On Earth According To Bill Bryson

We’ve all heard of Bill Bryson and his world wide travel adventures so when this travel god declares a place to be the finest place there is until he has died and seen heaven, I think we should get our map out and put a big circle in red felt tip around this heaven on earth.

‘I don’t know for sure that Malhamdale is the finest place there is until I have died and gone to heaven, but until that day comes, it will certainly do.’

‘I don’t know for sure that Malhamdale is the finest place there is until I have died and seen heaven, but until that day comes, it will certainly do.’  Bill Bryson
Malcolm Cove in the background

‘I want to camp there!’ I hear you say! Luckily camping is available at Malham, campsite details further below.

Gordale Scar Campsite
Campsite at Gordale Scar, Malham

So where is this heavenly location that Mr Bryson so fondly talks of?

Malhamdale. It lies in the southern part of the beautiful Yorkshire Dales. Only 11 miles from Skipton, the gateway to the dales. The whole of the Yorkshire Dales offer stunning roads and scenery for a camper van road trip. Best of all there is an amazing campsite too. So what makes Malhamdale so spectacular?

It’s a feast for your eyes, the following locations (all within easy walking distance of each other) should all be on your list:

Malham Cove is a large curved limestone formation with a huge limestone pavement above the cove. You might recognise it from the film Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows (part 1).

Gordale Scar is a limestone ravine containing two waterfalls. It has spectacular overhanging limestone cliffs over 100 metres high. There is a right of way up the gorge, the most challenging part of the climb is up the waterfall (I’d highly recommend the route).

Gordale Scar
Gordale Scar. Photo by Ben Robbins. Source Wiki Commons

Janets Foss is a small waterfall flowing over a limestone outcrop in to a deep pool below. Perfect for wild swimming if you’re brave enough!

Janets Foss
Janets Foss, only five minutes walk from the campsite.

Malham Tarn is a glacial lake at an altitude of 377 metres above tea level. A great spot to wild camp for the night.


Where to stay in your camper van in Malham?

There is a wonderful campsite located a stones throw from Gordale Scar. It’s location is absolutely stunning. You can park your camper next to the river with a dramatic view of the entrance to Gordale Scar. The campsite is VERY basic but fantastic. It scores 10 out of 10 for location but possibly only 1 out of 10 for it’s toilet facilities. But you can quickly forgive the poor facilities because the location is so spectacular. Access is through a farm yard, be prepared to witness hoarding on a momentous scale. Every disposable bbq that has burnt its contents on this site has ben carefully collected, stacked and hoarded for some future unknown purpose.

Payment is made to the farmer who lives in the caravan. Last time I stopped he charged me £4 for me and my VW camper. I got the distinct impression that that the price reflects, the size of the vehicle, the number of people, how polite you are and the mood of Mr Eccentric. This just adds to the charm of the place. There are no pitches and it’s a free for all. If you’re about to ask if theres electric hook up then the site probably isn’t for you.

I did have the entire campsite to myself on a recent out of season weekend trip in September. However, it can be very busy in the summer with Duke of Edinburgh groups using the site.

Camping at Gordale Scar
Camping at Gordale Scar

The campsite is only a few minutes walk away from the waterfall at Gordale Scar. The path on the right hand side of the photograph above tales you to the waterfall at Gordale Scar.

Walks in Malham

Malham Walking Route Map

For a printable version of the map above visit: www.malhamdale.com

I’d highly recommend the red walk (Walk 1). It takes you along the top of Malham Cove, on to Gordale Scar and the back to Malham passing Janets Foss. Any of the walks will be rewarding as the whole area is a beautiful walking oasis.

View from above Gordale Scar
View from above Gordale Scar looking at the campsite

There are two pubs in the centre of Malham within seconds walking distance from one another:

The Buck Inn – www.thebuckmalham.co.uk

The Lister Arms – www.listerarms.co.uk

There’s also a lovely little tearoom and a tiny shop if you need any supplies. The campsite is about a mile from the centre of Malham (a twenty minute walk).

You could easily spend a weekend or longer camping in Malhamdale. There’s plenty of walks to keep you entertained or if the sun comes out to play and it’s warm enough a swim at Janets Foss is refreshing.

Head to www.malhamdale.com for full details of walking routes.


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