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Cottage in the Wood Hotel & Restaurant
Holywell Road, Malvern Wells

by Sarah Shuckburgh

Family-run hotel and restaurant, perched on the edge of the Malvern Hills.

The three-star Cottage in the Woods has been run by the Pattin family since 1988 - John and Sue’s son Dominic is the chef, their son-in-law is the General Manager, and their two daughters also work at the hotel. John Pattin’s chatty introduction in the hotel information file sets the tone - the atmosphere is friendly, comfortable, conventional and cosy, but neither sophisticated nor pretentious.

First Impressions:
The hotel is in an amazing position, half way up the steep, wooded escarpment of the Malvern Hills, with huge views eastwards across the dead-flat Severn vale towards the Cotswolds, 30 miles away. There are three buildings, surrounded by terraces, colourful flowerbeds and trees. The oldest house, the original ‘cottage in the wood’, contains several bedrooms. Next to it, a Georgian Dower House houses the reception, dining room, lounges, and more bedrooms. On the other side of the cottage is a new bedroom annexe, built in 2003 on the site of an old coach house, and named after the Pinnacle peak above the hotel.

Make sure you get a bedroom facing the view - a few rooms face the almost vertical hillside behind. The bedrooms and bathrooms in the Dower House and Cottage vary in shape and size, as you would expect in 18th century houses, and some are quite poky. More spacious, and lighter, are the rooms in the new, but curiously dated-looking Pinnacles. Throughout the hotel, the rooms are furnished in a busy, old-fashioned style - no minimalist designer chic here; it’s all patterned wallpapers, patterned curtains, reproduction furniture, and embossed dados. But the rooms are warm and welcoming, and the water pressure in the Pinnacles bathrooms is amazing - my bath filled in about a minute. Dogs are welcome in some bedrooms.

Come for:
1. The view: if you’re feeling lazy, you could just sit on a terrace or balcony and gaze at the river Severn glinting as it winds through the vale, beneath huge skies.
2. Walks: footpaths lead from the hotel up through the woods to the treeless 9-mile ridge of the Malvern Hills - easy walking once you get up there, with marvellous views in every direction.
3. Malvern water: drink the strong-tasting local spring water, prized for its healing qualities.
4. The Elgar Trail: Elgar liked to compose while walking in the Malvern Hills. He is buried in St Wulstan’s church, in the village below the hotel. There’s an interesting museum at his birthplace in Lower Broadheath, ten miles away, and a marked trail past places associated with Elgar‘s life.
5. The food: see below.

Not suitable for:
Trendy urbanites: this hotel is neither trendy nor urban.
Clubbers: the only night owls here are the owls.
Smokers: no smoking in the restaurant, most of the lounge, and some bedrooms.

“Eating in, eating out”
The hotel restaurant has won several awards for its modern British cooking, including 2 AA red rosettes. The chef, Dominic Pattin, changes the menu every 6 weeks, always using fresh local ingredients. (We ordered Herefordshire beef fillet, rare and delicious). John Pattin’s cellar contains 600 different wines, including some from vineyards in Worcestershire and Herefordshire - if you don‘t like this local wine, John gives you a refund and drinks it himself! There’s a separate list of half bottles, and a useful fast-track list for guests who don‘t want to consider 600 options. The more expensive wines are very good value, as the mark-up charge is fixed at £18.50.

Cottage in the Wood Hotel & Restaurant
Holywell Road
Malvern Wells
WR14 4LG
Tel: 01684 57 58 59
Fax: 01684 560 662
31 rooms
Prices: doubles £99-£179
AA 3 star, 2 red rosettes; ETA 3 star silver award

First published by Travel Intelligence Ltd

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