Cottage in the Wood review

The Cottage in the Wood review

The Cottage in the Wood review

A gorgeous retreat in the land of Narnia and Gondor!

There’s something rather magical about The Cottage in the Wood. As you’d expect from the name, it is tucked away in glorious and mysterious woodland. But it’s not just that. And if you stop off on your way in the nearby town of Malvern you’ll be well set up for your stay.

The atmospheric Victorian spa town was once the haunt of writers CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien. Together with their friend and local teacher, George Sayer, they hiked the Malvern Hills, and would drink together in Malvern. Legend has it that one snowy night as they headed back from the pub, Lewis remarked upon the gas lamps dotted through the town and they went on to inspire his description of Narnia in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Tolkien, meanwhile, while he was out wandering the brooding hills, would conjure up his descriptions of the mythical White Hills of Gondor in The Lord of the Rings.

There must be something in the famous waters – the area also inspired composer Edward Elgar who formed compositions in his head while out walking, and you can take a driving tour of where he was born, buried, and the various monuments to Malvern’s most famous son.

As you head up the winding road to the hotel, you’ll see more of the original gas lamps, with some in the grounds of The Cottage in the Wood. To call it a cottage is a misnomer, and the rather grand white Georgian building features floor-to-ceiling windows from which you can gaze over far-reaching views across the Severn Valley.

The hotel has just completed an extensive refurb, and a smart job they have done, too. Much has been made of the period features and yet it is restrained, elegant and contemporary. The best bedrooms feature roll-top baths, balconies and antique furniture.

With the children in tow, a more spacious room for our gang of four was over in the coach house – it doesn’t look as grand as the main building but if it was good enough for Elgar, who performed a violin recital in the building….

And inside our room was perfect, with a vast double bed and two singles made up for the children and plenty of room in between. We could also look out over the valley and across to the woods. I loved the décor – a mix of cool cosy Scandi style with a British twist. The coach house is pet-friendly, too, with rooms available for those bringing their four-legged friends.

Wanting to make the most of the autumn sunshine, we dropped our bags and went off to explore. From the hotel, there are some fabulous trails through the woods. We decided to head on up to the Worcestershire Beacon, a famous landmark affording views of 14 counties on a clear day.

The walk should only take around a couple of hours – it’s quite steep but nothing that a family couldn’t do and there are good paths up to the beacon. We weren’t alone on our hike – it was half-term – but there’s plenty of space. And the panorama is glorious. Look one way and you can gaze out over Worcestershire and Gloucestershire. Turn your head to Herefordshire with the Black Mountains glowering above. Lord of the Rings certainly springs to mind, with the countryside of The Shire on one side, Gondor on the other.

As we headed back down from the beacon and through the woods, it started to rain and we raced back to our welcoming room for hot teas and hot baths, before making our way to the bar.

The bar is a chic spot with gorgeous colour-pop velvet sofas and chairs, modern art and album covers (‘what are those?’, the kids asked) on the walls. I enjoyed a well-earned and well-prepared G&T. Hubby tried one of the delicious local ales from The Friday Beer Company, created by three beer-loving local scientists.

1919 is the hotel’s 2 AA Rosette-awarded restaurant. In daylight hours, the huge windows frame the view across the valley. At night, the towns below twinkle in the distance. It is a really charming spot and stylishly done.

I started with tamarind cured salmon, which was divine, followed by a stunning main of blackened sirloin of beef, accompanied by a perfectly judged onion tart. While dining is refined, there’s also a children’s menu with all the kids’ classics – ours loved their fish goujons. To finish, a pear tarte tatin was my idea of dessert heaven. There’s an impressive wine list too. The restaurant was happily buzzy on our visit, with a mix of families and couples of all ages.

After the most peaceful night’s sleep, we headed for a very civilised (and perfectly cooked) breakfast. There was no view to be had as a deep fog had descended on the valley, but it simply served to make it feel all the more mysterious. It really is a special location. And the hotel blends perfectly, style, relaxation and a warm welcome.

We stayed at a glorious time of year, when the woodland and valley below was a picture of colourful leaves turning red and gold. The hotel is currently booking for Christmas – and I imagine this will be a wonderful place in winter-time, particularly if it snows, and Lewis’s Narnia is really brought to life.


  • A cosy double at The Cottage in the Wood starts at £104 per room including breakfast. Its two-night Christmas package starts at £445 per guest for two sharing.