Head for the Hills…
The Malvern Hills provide everything you need for a relaxing weekend break
Article by Mark Nicholls
Renowned for its pure water, Malvern sits amid one of the most spectacular landscapes in the country. Indeed, it is this terrain – the eight-mile escarpment of the Malvern Hills – which is provider of the pure water which first put this area on the map. Enjoyed by queens, from Elizabeth I and Victoria, to Elizabeth II, Malvern water contains, as 18th century physician Dr John Wall put it “just nothing at all.”
Malvern, on the Worcestershire/Herefordshire border, is synonymous with well-being and is perfect for a weekend getaway. We set off on a Friday afternoon and headed across England. The four-hour drive was well worth it, arriving at Colwall Park Hotel in time to change, enjoy a drink in the bar, and then have dinner in the formal restaurant setting.
I opted for the Hock Ham and minted pea soup, followed by cod and cockles on a bed of toasted quinoa with my wife, Sharon, starting with smoked mackerel, then the beef with carrot puree and red wine jus. Other options were chicken or pigeon breast.
Sharon went for white chocolate cheesecake and raspberry sorbet for dessert, I’m more of a savory person so went for the cheese board, at £10.25 with a selection of five from a range of 10 local cheeses, with lovely chutney, nuts and fruit and a range of biscuits. Spoilt for choice, I had the Somerset Brie, Worcestershire Sauce with shallots, Hereford Hop, Worcestershire Honey and Figs, Applewood Smoked… and the obligatory glass of port. I shouldn’t forget to mention the excellent and attentive service and very good breakfast selection including the Colwall Full English.
Colwall Park is a comfortable, dog friendly hotel, situated atop the Malvern Hills with the winding drive up from Great Malvern offering impressive views on route. Independently owned and sitting in a peaceful rural village on the sunny western flanks of the breathtaking Malvern Hills, it was constructed in 1905 specifically to cater for guests at the now defunct Colwall Race course. With character and 22 individually-styled rooms in keeping with the history of the hotel – and a complimentary nightcap of Madeira in each room – it makes a perfect base for exploring the area.
The following morning we set off to do just that, driving around the hills and stopping off to take in the views. The Malvern Hills are a stunning ridge, with spectacular panoramas of Wales, The Severn Valley and the distant Cotswolds. Those feeling energetic can hike up to the British Camp, an Iron Age hill fort constructed in the 2nd century BC. With the summit of British Camp at 1,109 feet, you can see for miles across the surrounding Herefordshire and Worcestershire landscape in a view that diarist John Evelyn (1620–1706) remarked was “one of the godliest vistas in England.”
Later, we drove into Great Malvern, a lovely town to wander around with a time warp feel of intimate streets with cafes and restaurants, pubs and small antique and book shops to browse in. Take time to visit the Malvern Museum and learn about the town’s history, particularly about Malvern Water with its purity attributable to its source within the oldest and hardest rocks in the UK. As the water permeates through the rock, little or no mineral trace remains in the water.
In the 1840s, Dr James Manby Gully and Dr James Wilson opened water cure clinics, triggering the town’s prosperity and seeing construction of large Victorian and Edwardian hotels. People were attracted to Malvern to drink the water and bathe in it for an array of ailments. Charles Darwin stayed in Malvern in the hope the water would improve his daughter’s health, while other famous patients included, Thomas Carlyle, Florence Nightingale, Lord Tennyson, Samuel Wilberforce, and Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton. Today, when wandering around the town, you can pause at the Malvinha Fountain for a drink and of course the water is bottled for commercial sale. There are heritage trails to follow, guided walks offered by the tourist information office as well as plenty of opportunity to wander independently.
This is also an area where literary creative talent met. The Unicorn pub in the centre of Great Malvern was frequented by C.S. Lewis, creator of the Chronicles of Narnia, where he would gather with friends for earnest conversation. Among them was Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien. There is Malvern Priory and the picturesque Priory Park and a few miles away is the magnificent setting of St Wulfstan’s with the burial place of the great English composer Edward Elgar in its graveyard.
Note the Malvern gas lamps, along the A449 and in the Priory churchyard, said to have been the inspiration for the lamp in the forest in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. The surrounding area also has many other attractions too from theatres to Hampton and Eastnor castles, while motor enthusiasts can take a tour of the Morgan car factory. It is, however, somewhere to seek relaxation and therapy. For that aspect, we switched to The Malvern hotel.
The first spa in Malvern since 1910, and drawing on 100 years of spa heritage, The Malvern is a hotel, health club and spa offering a range of therapies and treatments with health, beauty, relaxation and indulgence in mind. A very modern building on the outskirts of town, once you go in, you enter a world of fitness, wellbeing, spa and pool areas where the attire is slippers and white gowns. Featuring the UK’s only 20 metre 35°C indoor-outdoor hydrotherapy pool and filled with Malvern spring water, treatments range from foot spas, hydrotherapy and thermal rituals with steam rooms and saunas to massages.
The Malvern Water Cure Spa Day specialty owes much to Drs Wilson and Manby Gully and includes the Signature Water Cure body treatment, including a full body ice scrub, hot lavender cleanse, warm oil lymphatic massage, and cooling Rose Quartz facial.
I enjoyed an hour-long combo face and body massage (£62), while Sharon went for restorative mud envelopment wrap. These body wraps from ESPA include lymphatic skin brushing, skin smoothing exfoliation and an envelopment of oils to transform the skin and relax the mind. The choice also includes detoxifying algae wrap and skin hydrator wrap. (55 minutes £60).
The range of therapies is broad from aromatherapy and hot stone massages and facials, Indian head massage to manicures and pedicures.After a treatment, there’s the pool area to relax in, the gym for fitness, the restaurant and bar.
Colwall Park Hotel: A one night stay including walking pack and packed lunch, dinner included, from £87.50pp based on two sharing / Walwyn Road, Malvern WR13 6QG / 01684 540000 / www.colwall.co.uk
The Malvern: Spa break at The Malvern, to include dinner on one night, bed and breakfast accommodation and as a choice of a Detoxifying or Re-hydrating body wrap (55 minutes), from £128.50 pp based on two people. / Groveward Road, Malvern WR14 1GD / 01684 879694 / www.themalvernspa.com
The Malvern Hills: www.visitthemalverns.org