Gordale Scar

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Gordale Scar

Turner visited Gordale Scar twice during his 1808 and 1816 visits to the Malham area. It rained on both occasions. The summer in 1816 was one of the wettest on meteorological record due to climatic disturbance cause by a volcanic eruption the previous year in the Philippines. Turner, however, was never happier than when contending with the elements, and sketched enthusiastically throughout.

The 100m deep limestone chasm of Gordale was first popularised by Thomas Gray whose account of his visit in 1769 became the basis of response for visitors for at least the next forty years: 'The rock on the left rises perpendicular with stubbed yew trees and shrubs, starting from its side to the height of at least 300 feet; but those are not the things: it is that to the right under which you stand to see the fall, the forms the principal horror of the place. From its very base it begins to slope forwards over you in one black and solid mass without any crevice in its surface and overshadows half the area below with its dreadful canopy... I stayed here (not without shuddering) a quarter of an hour, and thought my trouble richly paid, for the impression will last for life..'  It can be no coincidence that Turner situated himself exactly under Gray's overhang.

Dogs accepted

Turner's Viewpoint

In 1808 Turner sketched on exceptionally large sheets of paper, in fact some of the largest sheets that he ever attempted to use out of doors. We can only assume that conditions were settled and still for this to have been at all possible, and that Turner was clearly determined to enjoy the conditions at his leisure. In most of these he worked in pencil, but at Gordale he decided to set up his easel and to paint in colours direct onto his sheet. The result is the largest plein air study on paper that Turner ever attempted, and one of his liveliest, 'Gordale Scar' (Tate Gallery, Finberg number: CLIV 0).

In 1816, Turner returned to sketch at Gordale and made a series of sketches exploring the approach and entry to the gorge, right up to the foot of the waterfall, (Gordale Scar, 'Yorkshire 2' sketchbook, Tate Gallery, Finberg number: CXLV 160a-169 and Gordale Scar: The Waterfalls, 'Yorkshire 5' sketchbook, Tate Gallery, Finberg number: CXLVIII 30a), as well as including the pretty waterfall of Janet's Foss, a little distance below Gordale, in a sketch of the approaches (Entrance to Gordale, with Janet's Foss Lower Right, 'Yorkshire 2' sketchbook, Tate Gallery, Finberg number: CXLV 163a).

Discover The Landscape

Turner's viewpoints are easy to locate and very much unchanged. Janet's Foss (south) and Gordale Scar (north) can be accessed via short walks on footpaths from the tea van at Gordale Bridge.

Water in Turner's Yorkshire

Download our themed leaflet and let the rivers and waterfalls guide you around Turner's Yorkshire as water literally flows through many of his sketches and paintings.


Turner's paintings and sketches around Malham are interpreted through two geocaches hidden in secret locations near his viewpoints. Geocaching is a form of treasure hunting using Global Positioning System (GPS) devices and Ordnance Survey maps to locate carefully concealed caches. Find out all about it here.

The Venue


Gordale Scar, near Malham, North Yorkshire, BD23 4DN

Map reference: SD913635 (Tea Van)

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Directions to Gordale Scar:

Turn off the A65 at Gargrave and continue through the villages of Airton and Kirkby Malham to Malham. Malham National Park Centre is found as you enter the village of Malham from the south.

There is limited parking at the Scar and you may be better parking in the car park in Malham and walking on the footpath from the village to Janet's Foss and beyond to Gordale Scar.