The Malverns is known as an area of outstanding beauty, made up of the Malvern Hills and picture-postcard towns and villages scattered throughout the countryside.
The ‘centre’ of the Malverns, Great Malvern, began life as a Victorian spa town, where people would come from across the UK to experience the therapeutic qualities attributed to its springs. Just over an hour away from Bristol, less than an hour from Cheltenham and Gloucester and just a short drive from Worcester, it’s well placed for a relaxing country break in the west of the UK.
I’d been invited to experience The Malvern’s overnight spa break, which includes dinner, breakfast and full access to the spa facilities from 3pm on the day of your arrival until check out the following day.
Justin and I rocked up at the hotel mid afternoon, and I have to say I was surprised by its location. The hotel isn’t in the centre of the town and is near a business park and shopping complex. This location was specifically chosen as it’s the site of an original underwater bore hole for Malvern spring water.
Next door to Screwfix and a Premier Inn it seemed quite out of place, but its location is pretty much forgotten once you walk through its doors and are transported to a modern, design-focused spa hotel, which is warm and welcoming.
After a quick tour around the facilities we headed up to our room, where we unpacked and relaxed for a while. I loved its design, and I can report that the bed was super comfortable (shame I was rudely awakened at five to seven on Sunday morning by some lady requesting an extra bathrobe, as she thought she’d rung reception – urgh!).
It had all the amenities you’d want and expect – such as flat screen TV (where we could plug in our Firestick and watch an episode of Preacher before bed!), tea and coffee making facilities, plus a few extras that went down very well. This including some tasty homemade biscuits that I devoured within a few minutes, and a gorgeous rain shower.
At 7.30 we headed down to the restaurant for dinner. I was taken to one of my favourites spots in a restaurant, the corner table, which gave me a great view of the space and a chance to people watch and see all the different dishes as they were brought out.
You’re spoilt for choice food-wise – the restaurant has two different menus on offer, an all day menu and then an a la carte option, and you can pick and choose off the two as you wish. As part of our dinner, bed and breakfast package we each had a £25 allowance to spend on food, anything over this you pay on checkout. If choosing only from the a la carte you may go over the allowance though, as I personally thought the menu was quite expensive with starters costing around £6 or more and mains in the teens to low twenties.
Our meal started with little treat of freshly cooked focaccia with garlic and olive butter. I’d not seen butter like this before, and I have to say it was delicious. I decided to skip starters in order to save room for dessert, but I did taste a little of Justin’s dish, which was smoked wood pigeon, with grilled spring onion, pomegranate seeds, bacon lardons and a balsamic dressing (£7).
This was also very tasty with a strong flavour that had a hint of game. The crispy bacon was gorgeous, and Just particularly liked the contrast the pomegranate gave to the flavour of the pigeon.
Next up were our mains. Originally we’d both been looking at the beef tenderloin or steak, but while perusing the menu we saw the most amazing burger (£13) come out and Justin decided he just had to have that. But he also can’t say no to dauphinoise potatoes, so he ordered those instead of chips!
I went for the beef tenderloin with skin-on chips, roasted beetroot, cavolo nero and purple-sprouting broccoli with a red wine jus (£24.50). My beef was cooked perfectly, but I would have liked more of it! I loved the slightly curled, crispy fries though, and the veg was super tasty with the sauce. Just wasn’t disappointed with his burger, but he did find the potatoes to be very oily. However, once he’d taken a mouthful he did point out that they were delicious.
Finally we ‘shared’ desserts, ordering the chocolate brownie with marshmallow sauce and vanilla ice cream (£6) and the warm treacle tart with pecan brittle and clotted cream (£6.50). I enjoyed both but for me the treacle tart stood out – I think because it was warm. If the brownie had also been heated though, it would have been very, very hard to pick a favourite as it had that perfect balance of a crisp crust and a gooey centre.
The food was enjoyable but what made the meal standout was our wonderful server Soph. From the get-go she made us feel welcome and would pop by to chat about our visit and ask our thoughts on the dishes we’d ordered. She was super busy as it was a Saturday night, but would always make time for us. She was attentive to our needs and more than happy to help with our particular requests and really made our night.
The next morning we returned to the restaurant for breakfast before heading into the spa. There’s a much more relaxed vibe in the morning, with a continental buffet to pick from. Servers will come and take your order for tea and coffee and you can also pick from a menu of hot dishes including a full English, grilled kipper, porridge, pancakes and a bacon and sausage sandwich.
J went for smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, while I chose poached eggs, toast and bacon. I thought they were a bit sparing on my bacon compared to the big plate of salmon J received, but all the food was tasty (although I did have to pick egg shell out of one of my eggs, a first!) and filled us up ready for a busy morning of…relaxing!
The Malvern spa
The spa is really what a stay at The Malvern is all about, and I have to say it’s something special. Wrap yourself up in the large, soft and fluffy bathrobe, pop on your slippers and head on in. There’s a beautiful lounge area where you can unwind before or after a treatment, but the piece de resistance is its 35°c 20 metre indoor-outdoor hydrotherapy pool. This features vigorous bubble massage stations, powerful water jets, gentle hydrotherapy beds and spacious relaxing booths.
When you walk into the spa the warmth from the pool hits you straight away, and you get that feeling of warmth like you would on a beach in Southeast Asia! That alone started to help me unwind, and with the sun shining down on us on a surprisingly bright autumn morning, I felt like I was sunbathing as I lay on my lounger with a book.
I didn’t stay there for long though, as I was keen to get in the pool – which I loved. So warm! Why can’t all swimming pools be like this? We both relaxed in one of the jacuzzi areas inside before venturing through the flaps to the outdoor part of the pool and the brisk October air. It’s a slight shock to the system at first, but it doesn’t take long for the heat of the pool to help you feel comfortable as you unwind at one of the many different areas the outdoor pool has. These include a bubble seat, jet streams for you to swim against, a ‘volcano’ where you can let the water envelop you, and air loungers – where you can lie in the water on a bed of bubbles!
I could have stayed in the pool for much longer, but eager to try out the other features, I dragged myself out and headed to the thermal suite. Here there are four different heat experiences; the salt grotto, a crystal steam room, a herb sauna and the kelo sauna.
They recommend starting off with a foot bath and then heading into the salt grotto, which has a rich natural source of salt microns and negative ions that are reputed to have a restorative effect on the respiratory system and skin. Next we went into the steam room, which has a large crystal as a centrepiece. At 45 degrees the steam opens your pores and its lovely sitting back and watching the sweet twinkling of the fibre optic lights in the ceiling, while you breath in the essential oils that fill the air. To be honest I’m not sure what the crystal was all about, but it did look pretty…
Next we spent a little time in the two saunas. The herb sauna has seasonal herbs and essential oils and is set at a dry heat on 75-80 degrees. The kelo sauna was the first of its kind in the UK. Heated to 80-90 degrees you can feel the difference in the heat when you enter this rustic sauna, which is made from fragrant wood only found in the Arctic Circle.
On exiting the thermal suite it’s recommended that you close the skin of your pores with a cold therapy. I did take a look at the options, but have to admit I wasn’t brave enough to partake. You can choose from three crazy treatments – rub crushed ice over your body from the ice fountain, take a drench shower, which essentially sees you pour a bucket of cold water over your head or take the more relaxing sounding ‘experience shower’, where you can choose from ‘tropical rain’ or ‘cool fog’, which have the refreshing scents of lemon and menthol.
I’m sure they’re great for your skin, but I decided to skip that part of the spa process and just spend the rest of my time at the Malvern split between the hydrotherapy pool and my lounger. Much more relaxing if you ask me!
What I thought of The Malvern
I enjoyed my overnight spa break at the Malvern a lot. I did think some of the prices for food and spa treatments were quite expensive, but then they are providing a luxury spa break experience.
I had a great night’s sleep in my bed and enjoyed the food, but for me the highlight by far was the spa facilities. I could have easily spent the entire day in or around that pool – which is possible as it’s open from around 6.15am to 10pm! Unsurprisingly it gets busy though, so if you want a lounger I’d recommend getting down there before 10/10.30 in the morning. However, they do have a spa host regularly checking the area and ensure unattended loungers left for 30 minutes or more are cleared and made available to new guests.
If I lived close by I could imagine regularly visiting to use the facilities, but I can also see myself returning for another spa break in the future. The Malvern always has a variety of packages available, like its Winter Wonderland and Date Night offers, so if you’re interested in visiting, keep an eye out for their special deals.
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I was a guest at The Malvern for the purpose of review, but all opinions are my own.