The Lister Arms Malham

Renowned pies - and sublime skies
February 9, 2023

I have been assured in the past that it is the actual law that after a good walk – you should always end up in a good pub. I’m definitely not one to risk getting involved with lawyers – so have made a point of sticking rigidly to that maxim.

And so it is that after a walk on a February Thursday, beneath skies that Constable might have painted, my mate and I are marching with purpose towards The Lister Arms in Malham – after enjoying (yet again) what has to be one of the most amazing circular routes in the North? (At this point: please feel free to challenge – because if you have a route with a pub or eatery that’s as good – we want to know. We’ll be there.)

The Approach To Gordale Scar

I’ll spare you a step-by-step retelling of our route, because people far superior to me at extolling the majesty of the natural world – and this incredible part of Malhamdale in particular – got there first: Harry and Hermione, JMW Turner, Bill Bryson, Bernie Clifton and his Comedy Ostrich. And Clare Balding.

However…if you are considering heading to this bit of ‘glacial’ North Yorkshire soon, I must just flag-up Janet’s (or possibly Jennet’s/Jennett’s?) Foss – an exquisite woodland waterfall that sees Gordale Beck tumble into a natural pool used in the past by local shepherds to dip sheep. Janet is still very much the Queen of the Fairies and they/them live in a cave behind the fall.

A short diversion to Gordale Scar and a landscape that wouldn’t look out of place in the Hindu Kush is a must. This is one of a number of spots on the route to deploy the flask of Strawberry Coffee and homemade flapjack, while wondering at the forces that must have been involved to push and pull this particular section of The Craven Fault.

Climbing out of the bottom of the Dale, the path heads ultimately for the Limestone Pavement and wonderous viewpoint on top of Malham Cove. If you’re of a certain age, this other-worldly place will forever be connected with the Wingardium Leviosa-ing of Hogwarts alumni, while if you’re a bit older…it might be the spot you first saw a Peregrine Falcon. Either way…you should be speechless (again) as you pick out the Heseltine family’s Belties managing the upland grazing in a sustainable and picture-postcard way, while shafts of sunlight fall on distant Pendle Hill (reminding you that it was on that particular hump of Lancastrian Grit, that it all kicked off for The Quakers).

Looking Back On Malham Cove

Look down from the almost 80 metre high amphitheatre on to the village in the distance that is your ultimate destination – and it might just be the first time during your expedition that you think less about carboniferous limestone – and more about what your first pint of Hetton Pale Ale is going to taste like, from one of the two excellent pubs in the village.

Moving it on: You’ve descended the 400 plus steps with renewed vigour and you follow the infant River Aire as she heads perhaps to a big night out in Leeds. It’s 4.30pm, the winter dusk is approaching – and feeling utterly fulfilled and energised – there’s only one thing for it: The Lister Arms.

Steeped in history (some of it slightly dubious), this magnificent coaching inn sits in an elevated position on Malham’s village green. If you’ve had a day in the fells, then the walk to the front door can feel a bit like an out-of-body experience. On this darkening February night the inn’s warmth and welcome is radiating out across the Dale – and it’s not because of sub-standard insulation.

Although we’re ‘early’ – food is served all day and the heat from the log fire instantly sets the scene – along with a local chap and his retired border collie who are already imbibing the atmosphere.

Dry Logs On The Left

Other beverages are available, but for us it’s 2 pints of golden Hetton, expertly brewed by the Dark Horse Brewery, just over the hill in Wharfedale.

I always feel there’s something inherently wrong with deciding what you’re going to eat before you arrive at your destination – and so I’ve been supressing the thought of The Lister’s ‘Renowned’ Steak and Ale Pie for at least the last half-mile of the walk…but it’s no good. Resistance appears to be futile.

The Lister Arms quite rightly has a superb reputation for its hospitality. For eating, there is a choice of the welcoming bar area – or the more formal, but equally inviting restaurant. We opt for the bar, in sight of the gleaming hand-pulled, real-ale pumps and within easy reach of the blackboards that list menu specials and the food miles of the delicious stuff you’re going to be eating.

The Lister Arms is part of the Mellor-based Daniel Thwaites Brewery family – and like their sister establishment the Red Lion in Burnsall, is providing the very best of welcomes in the very best of our northern landscapes. They’re committed to supporting ‘Shop Local’ and with their fish from the My Fish Company in Fleetwood (56 miles away), their cheese from The Courtyard Dairy in Austwick (10 miles away) – and their Chorizo from Town End Farm Shop, 2 miles away in Airton – you get the picture.

But you want to know who supplies the renowned pies? They’re actually made in the Lister’s In-House bakery.

The Bar Menu is extensive and starts with ‘Little Nibbles’ at £4.20 for marinated olives, through to ‘Sharing Plates’ at around £20.00. There’s a tempting range of ‘Salads’ and a comprehensive offering of ‘Steaks’, with an 8oz Sirloin priced at £23.50 – and an 8oz Fillet at less than thirty-two quid.

There’s also a range of delicious Burgers available – and every Sunday the Roasts on offer with Yorkshire Puds and seasonal accompaniments are a proper treat – I promise.

The ‘Lister Classics’ section of the menu is set within its own go-to rectangular border – and it’s here that you’re going to locate your Thwaites Beer Battered Fish And Chips, or your Homemade Cheese and Caramelised Onion Pie, (with beans and either mash or chips).

On today’s walk I had happily played Norgay to my oppo’s Hillary – and so waited until he plumped for ’Butcher’s sausages, mashed potato, red onion marmalade and homemade gravy’ (at £13.00), before racing to the bar.

Both dishes were exactly what you might have hoped for if this was your first visit to The Listers'. I’ve been lucky to eat here a number of times – and the food is consistently excellent. As is the welcome from the staff team – and the atmosphere.

You don’t need me to deconstruct our meals…just look at the photos and take a bearing for Malham this weekend!

However, purely in the interests of quality food journalism – and to provide our Mag North people with the most exacting of features – we did feel compelled to order puddings. The Dessert and Hot Drink Menu is also comprehensive and there’s everything from an Americano (at £3.10), to a Cheese Selection.

We both opted for the Chocolate Fudge Brownie, dark chocolate sauce, forest fruits, vanilla cream and griottine cherry. (£7.50 per serving.) At only 1173kcal – I will have expended those calories before getting to Janet’s Foss. (Won’t I?)

Malhamdale and The Lister Arms is as good as it could possibly get on a February Thursday (or a July Saturday): the geography, geology, location and welcome are all 100%. And the Renowned Steak and Thwaites Ale Pie? Just order it and see for yourself!

The Lister Arms, Malham, Skipton, BD23 4DB. Tel: 01729 830444


If you have a favourite walk anywhere in the North that ends with a fantastic stop for food – let us know.

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