The Malvern Hills
The Malvern Hills rise dramatically over the River Severn's plains and offer lush countryside, fantastic vistas and a great playground for those who like outdoor adventure. The Hills cover 9 miles of space across the English counties of Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire. They are comprised of 18 named peaks, the highest being Worcester Beacon at 419 meters. Designated as one of the country's Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it can easily be accessed by car, bus or train (regular buses and trains arrive at Great Malvern from Worcester and Hereford).
Natural beauty is a major feature of the region, and the Hills are well suited for exploring. More than 100 miles of trails wind through the Hills' granite rocks though ramblers are not obliged to keep to the paths thanks to the region’s status as 'open access', as determined by the Malvern Hills Act of 1884. The famous medicinal waters in this part of the country gurgle out of streams and springs. These waters waters once attracted people in the Victorian Era, who came to relax in places like Great Malvern, a pretty and upscale spa town. The water is now used and sold by a local bottled water business.
Mountain biking, kite flying, rock climbing, horse riding, orienteering, hang gliding (off Pinnacle Hills) and fishing (at the Mill Pond, Castlemorton) are all activities easily accommodated by the Hills. The Malvern Hills Outdoor Centre is a good resource base and can help organise and lead activities.
The long history of protection of the natural environment means that many rare species of flora and fauna can be spotted in the Hills. The Malvern Hills and Commons have been recognised as Sites of Special Scientific Interest, and the lesser horseshoe bat, dormouse and polecat are some of its rare mammal inhabitants. Additionally, more than 130 species of birds and 25 species of butterflies have been recorded.
The local area is rich with culture, history and attractions. Plan your visit at the tourist information office in Great Malvern, where you can also pick up trail maps of the Hills and help on where to find springs and fountains within. Highlights and local attractions include the Great Malvern Priory, a 11th-century building full of interesting historical artefacts. The Malvern Museum of Local History provides just what its title suggests and includes information about the area's geology and more recent cultural heritage as a place of healing.
One of the most famous Malvern Hills residents is composer Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934), who wrote many of his revered works in his home in Little Malvern. His works are still performed in theatres in the regions, particularly in the theatre at Winter Gardens near Great Malvern's Priory. Others who have lived in or been inspired by the Hills include the poet W.H. Auden (who taught at a school in Colwall) and J.R.R. Tolkein.
Much of the region's accommodation has a Victorian feel and country cottages and bed and breakfasts offer plenty of options for visitors.