The Malverns have everything a growing family could ask for. Stroll to world class theatre and cinema, explore pretty side streets, independent cafes, welcoming pubs and quirky shops then walk straight from town into the stunning Malvern Hills, the landscapes that inspired CS Lewis and Tolkein. It’s just a short drive to Great Witley Court, a mansion left to ruin after a fire and National Trust place Croome Court, both with loads of room to run wild.
If you are struggling to place the Malverns, they are an area of outstanding beauty – but also culture and food – between Birmingham and the Cotswolds.
1, A walk to the Malvern Hills
Imagine CS Lewis walking home from a Malvern pub one snowy night with JRR Tolkien. They must have had some great conversations! The snow covered Victorian gas lamps that light the fairytale paths out of town are said to have inspired CS Lewis’ opening description of Narnia in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. After initially struggling with finding a publisher, Tolkein was re-inspired by walking the Malvern hills, which reminded him of his own visions for Middle Earth.
A breathtakingly beautiful and satisfying walk, through the trees, past the gas lamps which feel so much like Narnia, and then onto the hills and the summit into Middle Earth, where you look down on Malvern, its white villa houses below like a toy town. The best bit is you are never far from a cafe, pub or town, which makes getting kids walking a breeze.
2, Great Witley Court
In the 1890s fashionable society flocked to Witley Court, but it was ravaged by fire in 1934 and fell to ruin. Walk round and listen to snippets of the audio as different people – residents, guests and servants bring the building to life with stories of its extravagant past. Kids will love running around the old corridors and into the garden where the ornate fountain fires a staggering 100ft into the air.
3, Malvern Theatres
There are three theatre spaces and a cinema within Malvern Theatre so you are guaranteed to find something to indulge in as a family during your visit. It’s a lovely, light and airy space, which opens out onto park, perfect for a family friendly cultural outing.
4, National Trust Croome Court
There are two very different stories at Croome, that of the Croome Court, the former home of the Earl of Coventry, and a wartime story of a second world war airbase.
The black corragated iron wartime hospital complex has been restored to become the visitor centre and museum. So even on a rainy day there is the house and RAF museum to explore and a 1940s themed tea room which is gorgeous. There is an outside canopy sheltered area where visitors with dogs can enjoy tea and cake.
Play with the wooden model of the house that allows you to see how it has changed over the years and fallen foul to changing fortunes. Walk through the rooms of the house and hear of the silk tapestries being stripped off and sold.
5. Eat and drink
Teme Valley Farmer’s Market. If you happen to be anywhere near The Talbot Pub at Knightwick, Worcester on the second Sunday of the month, between 10.30-1.30pm you can catch one of the oldest farmers’ markets in the country. The setting is beautiful, between a pub and the river with lots of picnic tables, and the stall holders are so welcoming. Stock up for a picnic to take to Croome or Witley.
The very accommodating and dog friendly Abbey Road Cafe is a great place to take stock of what you have seen in their Young Explorer’s Great Malvern guide booklets – we were so impressed by these guides to the town for children and also for teenagers. Pick one up in the tourist info.
The Swan Inn, Newland, a brilliantly quirky pub that welcomes kids and dogs. Look our for the tongue in cheek health and safety signage and child friendly policies – but with all the board games, outdoor chess and quirky things to look at, no child is going to want to run amok here anyway. You could always stick them in the stocks if they do!
St Ann’s Well cafe. If you need bribery to get them walking, the Malvern hills, tell them there’s a magical cafe, of course they have to reach the top and descend a little first, but when they see it they won’t be disappointed. It’s like something out of a book and the cake is yummy too.
Need to know
Penny stayed as a guest of Malvern Tourist Information at the ivy clad, iconic, rather lovely and centrally located Abbey Hotel, Great Malvern. You can watch her video and read more over on her own blog parentshaped.co.uk
Check out the Walking app
Teme Valley Market, The Talbot Pub at Knightwick, Worcester. Second Sunday of the month, 10.30-1.30pm
Witley Court, English Heritage
Croome Court, National Trust
The Swan Inn, Newland