Key information: Malvern Hills
- Fine walking on this peculiar, atmospheric, historic, high, narrow ridge. Lovely, gentle views for miles around.
- Walkopedia rating86
- Natural interest14
- Human interest15
- Negative points2
- Total rating86
- Note: Negs: Popularity, you won't be alone.
- Length: Your choice
- Maximum Altitude: 425m
- Level of Difficulty: Variable
This peculiar 10 mile (16km) long ridge separates Herefordshire and Worcestershire in western England. To the west are the low hills of Herefordshire, beyond them the high ridges of the Welsh borders, the Black Mountains in particular. To the east, the plain of the Severn Valley, the Garden of England, with the Cotswold escarpment behind them.
On any day, the views are very good, but on a clear one, or a bright, showery one, they are outstanding. While the eastern slopes are (not unpleasantly) urban, the further views are magical.
The Hills are a complex assemblage of relatively hard crystalline igneous and metamorphic rocks thrust up along an ancient fault line at least 650 million years ago. The ridge top supports little more than grasses, providing fine walking conditions. The flanks support gorse, bramble and bracken interspersed with silver birch, mountain ash, hawthorn, sycamore and oak. The trees are stunted at higher levels but grow thick and large lower down.
Much of the drama and peculiarity of the Hills arises from the way this single, steep-sided, narrow, high ridge rises out of these gentle low hills and plains. It really is a unique landscape. Another feature is the many springs, some 88 of them, which sustained life from early times and explain the setting of marvellous Malvern Priory. Of particular note are St Ann's Well and Holy Well.
The northern end of the ridge is the higher, with Worcestershire Beacon (425m) the highest point. North Hill (397m) forms the main northern bastion. British Camp Hill (Herefordshire Beacon - 338m), further south, is the other highest point. In total there are some 20 named hills. The entire length of the Hills is open to the public and is criss-crossed with about 160km (100 miles) of bridleways and footpaths.
The Hills are popular, and best avoided at busy times such as weekends if you like solitude. The southern end tends to be emptier and, with the complex and hugely atmospheric ancient fort of British Camp, said to be the place of the chieftain Caractus’ last stand against the Romans, very pleasurable (and rural) walking. That said, British Camp is itself popular, so don’t expect to be alone anywhere. But it is an unforgettable picnic spot.
Great Malvern lies at the northern end of the Hills on the Worcestershire side, below Worcestershire Beacon and North Hill. There is direct walking access to the Hills from the town via the steep path up to St Ann's Well. Various villages lie on the slopes.
The Hills have inspired a multitude of artists. The composer Edward Elgar lived in the area, and was inspired by them. Langland’s Piers Plowman was set in the Hills, W H Auden wrote poems about or set in them, Paul Nash painted them.
You can walk the length of the Hills, 16+km/10miles, in 4+ hours. And you can make an endless variety of shorter circuits. An excellent option is the 12+ km from the Hollybush carpark on the A438 in the south, along the ridge to the northern extremities and dropping to the town centre via St. Anne’s Well. (See William Mackesy’s account below)
The Hills have lots of weather, so come prepared. Some of the Hills’ most beautiful light is on showery days, so don’t be disheartened by a mixed forecast!
Please help us by making suggestions and sending photos! Thank you!
WILLIAM MACKESY'S ACCOUNT
of this walk
I walked the length of the hills, south to north, on a warm, damp September day in 2018.
We parked in the centre of Great Malvern, and took a taxi south (£20) to Hollybush, where the A438 crosses a gap in the southern peterings-out of the hills.
A steepish climb gets us straight up, through a belt of woodland, to the bare top of Midsummer Hill, and fine views in all directions, the pretty Eastnor Castle estate to the east calling for special attention – although, with thick, low cloud and an approaching shower, all is coated on gloomy light. And we are in.....READ MORE
Other accounts: share your experiences
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See also expedition planning, including our universal expedition checklist.
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Books and Maps
Books on this walk (support us: find books using our Amazon search box)
The Tourist Information Centre in Great Malvern (TIC) can sell you a number of guides and maps in person or over the phone (credit card needed)
Find these and other books on Amazon.
Malvern Hills Superwalker map (1:12,500).
OS Explorer 190 (1:25,000), OS Landranger 150 (1:50,000)
Can be bought locally, easily.
Stanfords: www.stanfords.co.uk. An excellent (and user-friendly) online specialist source of worldwide maps (it is also good for guidebooks).
Best times to walk/weather
Best times to walk
All year is wonderful, in different ways. High summer has the best chance of good weather but can be crowded in famous places. Spring and autumn can be magical but with less predictable weather. September and June can as a result be the best months. Clear winter days can be magnificent. Avoid weekends if you can.
Lots of it. Low cloud, rain and wind are not uncommon. Snow in winter. Come prepared.
Most people come by car or train to Great Malvern.
Great Malvern lies at the northern end of the Hills on the Worcestershire side, below Worcestershire Beacon and North Hill. There is direct walking access to the Hills from the town via the steep path up to St Ann's Well. The village of Colwall lies on the western slope of the Hills, about one third down their length. Both Great Malvern and Colwall have railway stations on the Worcester to Hereford line that can be used as starting points for a visit to the Hills.
There are car parks all round the hills. The highest one is located on Beacon Road at the Wyche Cutting (B4218 road from Malvern to Colwall). This is also the closest to the Worcestershire Beacon. For those wanting to walk the Hills from end to end, the car parks to use are at the Clock Tower at the Northern end (on North Malvern Road) and at Hollybush at the Southern end (on the A438 Ledbury to Tewkesbury Road). Hollybush isn't quite at the very Southern end as Chase End Hill is only reachable on foot, although there is a minor road that goes to Whiteleaved Oak. The other major car park is at British Camp. This is situated about half way along the Hills, on the A449 Malvern to Ledbury road, and is the car park to use for the Herefordshire Beacon and points south.
Taxis: there are various taxi firms, so you can (e.g.) take a taxi from Great Malvern down to the southern end and walk back up to your train/car. Try Sue’s Taxis on 01684 891 010.
See “Walk Summary” above.
6 Trail Guides detailing circular walks of about 4km each (Trails 1 and 2 cover the area above the town, Trail 3 covers Wyche Cutting to British Camp, Trail 4 British Camp to Gullet Quarry and Trail 5 Midsummer Hill to Chase End Hill. Trail 6 is an end to end guide).
Possible problems, health, other warnings
- Weather: lots of it - rain, cold and wind are possible at any time of year. Snow in winter. Come prepared.
- Heat and strong sun(!). Carry enough water and protect yourself in summer.
- Heights: there are some low cliffs and crags.
See also the websites in our useful links page for more detailed, and up-to-date, information.
Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk. Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
Make sure you have appropriate insurance.
Guided or independent?
Almost all do these walks independently.
Some people form or join organised/supported expeditions. Expedition organisers include: https://malvernwalks.co.uk/guided-tours/
There is a huge variety of accommodation to suit everyone, from grand hotels to campsites. Or you can rent a cottage.
Every guidebook will have a lot of suitable places to stay. Hostelbookers usually has a good selection of cheaper-end accommodation.
Other information and tips; responsible tourism and charities
Useful websites and information
There are many websites with relevant information. Here are some that we think are useful or have been recommended to us.
- www.malvernhills.org.uk – the website of the Malvern Hills Trust, with good information and (small) maps.
- Try www.flickr.com for pictures of this walk.
- Have a look at TripAdvisor.
Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.
Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
share your experiences
Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).
Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.
Responsible travel matters, a lot. How you travel will make a real difference - for better or worse. PLEASE consider this when making plans. Read more