The Cottage in the Wood is nestled in the Malvern Hills, a range covering Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire. Though the hills dominate the surrounding countryside, the nearby spa town of Malvern is one of a number of attractive settlements to visit within a short drive.
Ambience: You might not hear much chatter at the breakfast table as the views out of the enormous window fronting the hotel’s main house, looking out over the Cotswolds countryside with Cheltenham, Tewkesbury and even Kidderminster visible in the distance, render most topics of conversation redundant. The hotel’s 1919 restaurant has a grey, green and pink colour palette and an unhurried, refined air.
Accommodation: The main house of the hotel dates back to the 1700s and was built for the lady of the Godolphin family, but its 30 rooms are also spread across the nearby Beech Cottage and Coach House. All command the same spectacular views of the valley laid out below. The rooms themselves eschew the modern aesthetic of the restaurant for something more traditional, but are spacious, well-kept and with a bed that would pass even the most stringent comfort tests.
Food and drink: With two AA rosettes under its belt and a well-regarded head chef in Gloucester-born Mark Redwood, it’s not hard to see why the hotel presents its food as just as much of a selling point as the setting. The fare on the menu at 1919, which serves up locally-inspired dishes spruced up for 2018 with modern techniques like compression and charring, is hugely accomplished. Flavours are thoughtfully coupled and elegantly presented, without pretension but with plenty of flavour. During our visit, a venison lasagne is beautifully tender with delicate sheets of pasta combined with trompette mushrooms, hazelnuts and parmesan. And the sweet softness of my scallops is enhanced, rather than drowned out, by the salty black pudding crumble and slices of apple and cauliflower that accompany them. The mains, particularly my breast of guinea fowl with truffled gnocci and asparagus, are no less impressive. And the Cottage fish pie, packed with smoked haddock, salmon, thermidor, prawns and cod, is rich and decadent to the point of saturation.
What to do: A leisurely, or more energetic, walk in the hills is an obvious first port of call, and the four-mile walk to the area’s highest point, Worcester Beacon, is popular with many visitors. In the nearby spa town of Malvern, the Great Malvern Priory is a stunning Grade I listed building which boasts a Norman nave and a fine collection of medieval glass. The towns of Ledbury and Upton-upon-Severn are also worth a visit if you’re staying in the area longer.
Worth writing home about: The local scenery has a great literary pedigree, with the Malvern Hills said to be the inspiration for parts of JRR Tolkien’s Middle Earth.. And the eye-catching gas lamps in Malvern appear in the opening description of Narnia in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by CS Lewis, who went to school locally.
To book: The Cottage in the Wood can be found at Holywell Road, Malvern Wells, WR14 4LG. To book call 01684 588860 or visit www.cottageinthewood.co.uk. Prices start from £45pp including breakfast (based on two sharing). The hotel is offering a number of Christmas packages at cottageinthewood.co.uk/events/the-festive-season
Concierge tip: Book a tour at the hotel’s wine-supplier, Lovells Vineyard, less than a 10-minute drive from the Cottage in the Wood, and sample an array of wines named after Great Malvern local Sir Edward Elgar.