BOUTIQUE HOTELS: The Cottage in the Wood

Welcome back to Design Insider’s Boutique Hotel Series! We are thrilled to continue this positive series, started in 2020. We hope to continue the success of our Boutique Hotel articles in 2021, with a new series of picturesque and unique Boutique Hotels. Enjoy the first Boutique Hotel of 2021!

Design Insider is delighted to introduce you to our first Boutique Hotel of the year, The Cottage in the Wood, in the Malvern Hills. This beautiful boutique hotel is situated high above the Malvern hills, in eight acres of woodland and surrounded by remarkable views of the Cotswold’s.

The opening of The Cottage in the Wood dates back to 1791 and was originally part of the Blackmore Park Estate, owned by Thomas Charles Hornyold and then John Vincent Gandolphi. Since the opening, the hotel has been known to have an extensive list of well-known guests, from Charlie Watts, to Margaret Thatcher, to Sir Edward Elgar who even performed live at the hotel. The hotel has managed to continually impress guests with the beautiful interior, which was refurbished in a three-phase development from 2017 to 2020 by Nelson Design.

 “Nelson Design has created an elegant interior that honours the Georgian history of the building as well as adding style and comfort. They selected the fantastic woodland themed wall-paper which we love. Nelson used this as their design inspiration adding creativity, precision and beautiful finishes. The interiors are now beautiful, creative and perfect for what we wanted to achieve.”

Nick & Julia Davies, Owners of The Cottage in the Wood

After a day taking in the exquisiteness of the scenery and interior of the hotel, you’ll be able to relax in one of the 32 newly refurbished bedrooms. If you’ve still got an eye for a view, you’ll still be able to witness the spectacular sight of the Severn Valley from most of the bedrooms.

All of which have a bespoke design, decorated with unique features, vintage pieces & works of art. The Cottage in the Wood also prides itself on being a pet-friendly hotel; specific rooms are allocated for animal lovers. Your pet will even receive a treat and a pet-blanket upon your arrival!

Spend time lounging around in the vibrant and imaginative 1919 Bar & Lounge. The Georgian green walls that are filled with old photographs of the local area and a modern painting of the traditional Malvern gas lamp. The walls complement the quaint deep blue bookcases, creates a tranquil and unique atmosphere to rest In.

The bartender will be available to serve guests with delicious cocktails and even share secrets of mixology. Guests can also embrace the glorious setting on the Terrace, giving visitors a chance to enjoy their beverage and take in the sublime views of the Severn Valley and Cotswolds. Take a sneak peek at the Wine and Drinks Menu.

The 1919 Restaurant also provides breakfast, lunch (all day), dinner, picnic and dessert menu. Guests can select from the frequently-changing relaxed all-day café menu or the extravagant dinner menu. The Cottage in The Wood has recently appointed new head chef Rob Mason, who will be creating an original and delightful menu; all dishes are made with local and fresh ingredients.

This British getaway also offers guests a chance to indulge in their finely made Afternoon Tea menu. Try the freshly-baked scones with clotted cream & jam, accompanied by delicate sandwiches and selection of homemade pastries and cakes. There’s even an opportunity to add some sparkle with a glass of ‘Reserve’ Brut Moet & Chandon…

The hotel and area provides an abundance of entertaining things to do, both at the Cottage in the Wood, and the local area. If live music and entertainment, local events & celebrations with a view interest you, make sure you take a look at the events calendar prior to your stay – there is so much to do and see!

Design Insider has profoundly enjoyed learning about this magnificent Boutique hotel, discovering what The Cottage in the Wood has to offer, as well as the surroundings. We sit down with the owner, Nick Davies and find out a little bit more about this exquisite hotel…

Please tell us about yourself and your role at The Cottage in the Wood?

My wife, Julia, and I took over ownership and management of The Cottage in the Wood, a boutique, Georgian hotel in Malvern, in 2015. Coming from a strategy consultant background in energy, corporate restructure and venture capital in London, I had little knowledge of the hospitality industry, but drawing on our passion for hotels and travel, we hoped to create a destination hotel, restaurant and bar, which, five years later, we have now achieved.

My role at the hotel is to oversee the management of everything, from people to processes to financials. One of my main challenges has been to completely overhaul the structure of the business, resulting in a 40% increase in both F&B and overnight stays. I also oversaw the three-phase refurbishment of the hotel, which began in January 2017 and was completed in April 2020. We additionally secured £2.1 million from The Cumberland Building Society in 2019, enabling the complete refurbishment of the entire property by 2020, two years ahead of schedule.

In addition to applying my management consultancy expertise to the redevelopment of The Cottage in the Wood, I now also advise investors on boutique hotel acquisitions across the UK.

Has The Cottage in the Wood had any recent refurbishments or renovations? If so, what interior design company were used?

When we first purchased the hotel in 2015, it had not been updated in over 30 years. We set out to transform it from Margaret Thatcher’s favourite hotel in the 1980s, to a chic destination hotel in the 2020s, which included the complete overhaul of The Main House, the Coach House and Beech Cottage, and a new outdoor terrace.

The redesign was spaced out over three years to cause minimum disruption to our guests, and each phase was led by our interior designer Nelson Design. The first phase included the restaurant, bar, lounges, reception, hallway and kitchen, and was completed in 2017. We transformed The Main House’s public areas back to their Georgian glory, honouring the hotel’s history and heritage while giving it a fresh, modern look, reflecting our amazing location with nature-themed wallpaper from Timorous Beasties, and a complementary colour palette which became the basis for the rest of the hotel.

In 2019, we launched seven bedrooms in The Main House and four bedrooms in Beech Cottage, with each room individually designed to match its outlook and architecture. The Main House rooms are designed in keeping with the property’s heritage, with plenty of contemporary styling, antique and unique furniture, and freestanding rolltop bathtubs in many of the chic bathrooms. The Georgian colour palette of pinks, blues, greens and greys is set against bold-patterned accessories. In  Beech Cottage, more quirky design elements are present, with the use of inspiring wallpapers from designers including Timorous Beasties and Neisha Crosland.

Finally, in 2020, we completed 19 rooms in the Coach House, added two new bedrooms in The Main House, and created a 25-seat, all-season covered terrace. Olive and sage interiors in the Coach House were chosen to reflect the hotel’s peaceful surroundings, with injections of contemporary pink and burnt orange. The terrace was built to create an additional seating area for guests dining or simply having an afternoon drink while taking in the sweeping views and includes a retractable roof and infrared heaters to allow for all weather.

Please could you tell us about the history of The Cottage in the Wood?

The building was originally part of the Blackmore Park Estate, owned by Thomas Charles Hornyold and later John Vincent Gandolphi. It’s rumoured that J.R.R. Tolkien drew a lot of inspiration from Malvern and invented the name Gandalf after hearing the name Gandolphi! The estate was put up for sale in 1919 and was then opened as a tearoom. Our restaurant, bar and terrace’s name is inspired by this date, as this was the official opening of the estate as a hospitality destination.

In the 1920s, Edward Elgar came to perform for a private audience at the Coach House, having lived in and around Malvern for much of his life. Then in 1947, the hotel began to run as a guest house. The hotel changed ownership twice over the next four decades, with the most previous owners, Sue and John Pattin, running it from the 1980s to their retirement. Baroness Margaret Thatcher was a regular guest at the hotel, always staying in room 35, which was then also known as The Blue Room. Charlie Watts, Adam Ant and The Who all have links with the hotel as well, either from staying, playing or visiting the area. As you now know, we then took over the hotel in 2015.

What makes The Cottage in the Wood so special?/Do you think the location of the hotel has contributed to the success of it?

Our hotel is truly one-of-a-kind, with no other hotel affording such spectacular views of the Severn Valley and Cotswolds. Our location high in the hills offers the ultimate escape for city-dwellers and creates the perfect setting for relaxation in peace and tranquillity.

I believe guests come to visit us to get away from the pressures of daily life, and this was made more evident by a surge in bookings last summer, our best season ever, when so many people were sick of being cooped up after the first national lockdown.

Guests can literally step out of The Cottage in the Wood and onto the hills, following a myriad of paths through woodland, along high ridges and into valleys, all part of this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Malvern and surrounding towns such as Ledbury and Upton upon Severn are great for those looking to amble around independent shops. Malvern Theatres offers a wonderful array of live performances including theatre, music, film and comedy, while keen drivers can visit the Morgan Experience Centre, or take part in our new Land Rover Driving Experience in partnership with Eastnor Castle, where guests can explore 66 miles of the beautiful grounds and challenging terrains in a Land Rover of their choice.

We have created a destination restaurant, and I can let you into a little secret that hasn’t been officially announced yet, we have recently appointed our new head chef, Rob Mason, who is passionate about the best of the local ingredients from leading suppliers, building British, modern menus around seasonality.

Thank you so much for answering our readers questions, Nick!


If you’ve enjoyed this article, take a look at our previous Boutique Hotel articles. Or take a look at our previous trend report on the future of Boutique Hotels.

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About Jess Mockler

Jess is a Marketing & Event professional who joined the BCFA as a Marketing Executive in 2019. Working closely with designers and BCFA members, Jess has published an array of content for the Commercial sector.
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