Country & Coast: Lofty peaks and sandy edges show Yorkshire at its best

Malham Cove, one of Yorkshire's finest views
Malham Cove, one of Yorkshire's finest views
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THE BEST time to see Malham Cove is around lunchtime on a glorious day when the sun is shining directly onto the 260ft high horseshoe of cliffs.

The limestone then dazzles bone-white and if the sky above the top of the Cove is deep blue there isn’t a more striking scene in Yorkshire.

To enjoy it does require some modest effort, though. To make the most of the experience you need walking boots to really get up close and personal with the Cove and stand beneath the precipice close to the point where Malham Beck bubbles out into daylight.

Showing it to friends from Scotland on Saturday, I was struck not just by their gasps of wonder but a remark that although they had seen photos of Malham Cove taken from well back towards the road nothing had prepared them for the thrill of being right there in the little natural amphitheatre at the bottom, which got me thinking about other great places to be that require a walk to enjoy.

There have been recent lists published of Yorkshire’s finest views, but most of the candidates, like the panorama seen from the top of Sutton Bank, can be experienced from the comfort of a car or a coach.

So where are Yorkshire’s most dramatic locations for foot-sloggers? Where are the most exciting places to be?

Along with the Cove I’d say the tip of Spurn Point has to be a strong candidate for the number one spot.

Standing at the farthermost edge of the county, looking northwards at the great hook of sand which sweeps up to join the Holderness coast, and south to watch ships entering and leaving the Humber, certainly is an exhilarating and fascinating experience.

To the north it’s hard not to include on my list the top of vertiginous Bempton Cliffs, especially in the spring and the summer when an incredible quarter of a million seabirds are to be seen whizzing to and from their nests on the chalk ledges, or walking onto the three-quarter-mile long black reef of Filey Brigg.

On the other side of the county, there is no more electrifying place to be than the summit of Whernside, Yorkshire’s highest mountain.

While it’s undoubtedly the least shapely of the Three Peaks, what Whernside loses in landscape appeal is more than compensated for by the astonishing view eastwards over Ribblehead and its iconic viaduct to the table-top of Ingleborough and the reclining lion of Penyghent.

To my list I would add strolling along the road which threads through the plunging chalk valley of Millington Dale in the Yorkshire Wolds, and is thankfully off-limits to rubbernecking coach passengers, although that could well be a scene from the South Downs or the Chilterns.

For the most quintessential Yorkshire experience of all though - won only by a very hard slog - you need to stand beside the huge stone monument of Stoodley Pike soaring high above Calderdale and look north over the drystone walled grid that covers the South Pennines.