Malvern Hills Worcester Beacon

Malvern Hills Worcester Beacon

The Malvern hills Jubilee toposcope

Jubilee Toposcope

The Malvern Hills Worcester Beacon is the highest summit offering magnificent views.

The Malvern Hills Worcester Beacon referred to locally as ‘The Beacon‘, is the highest point of the Malvern Hills at 425 meters (1,394 ft/ 425m)  The Malvern Hills run about 13 kilometers (8.1 mi) north-south along the Herefordshire – Worcestershire border, but the Worcester Beacon is itself entirely within the county of Worcestershire and is clearly visible from the M5 Motorway.

The Malvern Hills are managed by the Malvern Hills Conservators, whose aim is to preserve the nature and environment landscape of the area and to protect this beautiful landmark from encroachments. The Malvern Hills and especially the Worcester Beacon is extremely popular with walkers as there is a good footpath to the summit that can be easily reached via a dense network of footpaths crisscrossing the area. It has been designated by the Countryside Agency as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and stands proud, with Great Malvern at the foot of the hills.

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The Malvern Hills are a range of hills that spread across the three counties of Worcestershire, Herefordshire and a small area of northern Gloucestershire. The Hills are a wonderful backdrop as they dominate the surrounding countryside, towns and villages and the Victorian town of Great Malvern. On a clear day from the summit, you will enjoy a panoramic view of the Severn valley, the rolling countryside of Herefordshire, the Welsh mountains, parts of thirteen counties, the flood plain of the River Seven down to the Bristol Channel, and the cathedrals of Worcester, Gloucester, and Hereford.

Malvern is also recognised for its spring water, initially made famous by the region’s many holy wells, and later through the development of the 19th-century spa town of Great Malvern. There is still the production of the modern bottled drinking water at St Ann’s Well.

The Malvern Hills have been designated as a ‘Biological and Geological Site of Special Scientific Interest‘ and as ‘National Character Area 103′ by Natural England 

The Malvern Hills are around 600 million years old and mainly igneous and metamorphic rocks from the late pre-Cambrian. Hundreds of millions of years of erosion and glacial passage have given the Worcester Beacon and its neighbouring peaks their characteristic smoothly rounded features and the Beacon is part of the watershed that permits the rise of mineral springs and wells. Today the famous Malvern water is still bottled commercially from St Ann’s Well, and these wells were the foundation of Malvern developing from a small village to a busy spa town in the early 19th century.

Worcester Beacon shire ditch

The Shire Ditch forms a shallow trough just to the right of the ridge all the way to the top of the Beacon

You will find a shallow trough just to the right of the ridge that runs all the way to the top of the Beacon called Shire Ditch, and immediately behind Bellvue Terrace in town, the steep eastern flank of the hill will take you to the summit on a brisk 40 minute STEEP walk via St Ann’s Well or Happy Valley. You can also take a short, steep, unpathed climb from Jubilee Drive on the western side of the Malvern Hills, or take a more leisurely stroll along the crest of the ridge which is explained further down.

The Malvern Hills Worcester Beacon offers a magnificent panoramic view that includes the Lickey Hills, The Wrekin and past Birmingham to Cannock Chase, as well as much of Herefordshire and Gloucestershire, the Welsh border mountains, the Shropshire Hills and across the valleys of the Severn and Avon to the Cotswold Hills. In fact parts of thirteen counties, the Bristol Channel, and the cathedrals of Worcester, Gloucester and Hereford can be seen running due east from the Worcester Beacon, the next highest point of land is on the western slope of the Ural Mountains.

At the summit of the Malvern Hills, Worcester Beacon is the Diamond Jubilee Toposcope, which was erected to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897, and designed by Arthur Troyte Griffith

The Worcester Beacon historically was a location for beacon signalling, and in 1588 formed part of a chain of warning fires lit when the Spanish Armada attempted to invade England. Beacon fires have also been lit to celebrate national occasions including:

  • The end of the Crimean War (1856)
  • The marriage of the Prince and Princess of Wales (1863)
  • The Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria (1887)
  • Diamond Jubilee (1897)
  • The Coronation of George V(1911)
  • The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II (1953)
  • Millennium night of 31 December 1999 when a large fire was lit as part of a nationwide network of hilltop beacons to celebrate the event
  • The Golden Jubilee of Elizabeth II
  • On 4 June 2012 to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II
Summit of the Worcester Beacon

Summit of the Worcester Beacon

The summit has a viewfinder or toposcope, identifying the hills to be seen on a clear day. It was designed by Malvern architect Arthur Troyte Griffith, a friend of Sir Edward Elgar and erected in 1897 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, however, it was stolen in 2000 but replaced by Malvern Hills Conservators that same year. (The original was returned to the Conservators in 2001)

The Beacon was also used during World War II as a fire lookout point for air raids on Birmingham and Coventry, and in the latter part of the 20th century, a BBC transmitter relay van was placed there to cover horse racing and sports events in Worcester.


Worcester Beacon Cafe

Worcester Beacon The site where the Cafe used to sit

The site where the Cafe used to sit

Sadly in 1989 a café that had existed on the summit for many decades was destroyed by fire and although the Conservators tried to get the power to build a new one, it was stopped by the House of Lords because the  Malvern Hills Acts stated that no building should be erected on the Conservators’ land or on land under their jurisdiction. Five members of the House of Lords Select Committee visited the Malvern Hills and decided that there were enough facilities in the immediate area and that St Ann’s Well cafe should be enough provision on the hills, that’s why the application to rebuild was turned down.


As a point of interest, the West of England Quarry on the Worcester Beacon was used as a location in the Doctor Who serial The Krotons, starring Patrick Troughton, and was aired in four weekly parts from 28 December 1968 to 18 January 1969.

Check out some great walks across the Malvern Hills, at John Harris Walking in England’s Website

Walk to the Worcester Beacon from Upper Wyche

Worcester Beacon path all the way to the summit

Path all the way to the summit

Start in the village of Upper Wyche, which you will reach from the A449 that runs through Great Malvern. There is limited on-street parking (grid ref. SO768437) and 2 pay and display parking area’s up Beacon Road (recommend you drive to the second car park) or there is parking at Earnslaw quarry a few hundred meters down the hill towards the A449.

This is a moderate uphill walk mainly on a tarmac track that heads north towards the Worcester Beacon from the car parks. Shortly after leaving the main road a number of paths become evident and these can provide a more pleasant walk if you want to go off the tarmac path. It will take around 25 minutes to reach the summit (around 1.3 miles) via the path, walking at a decent pace. When visibility is good the panorama is glorious and includes Worcester, Gloucester and the Cotswolds to the east and views of the distant hills of Wales to the west.

Worcester Beacon Malvern Hills view to North Hill

Path to St Ann’s Well Cafe

You can go on from the summit of the Worcester Beacon and descend down towards North Hill, with a lower directional stone circle showing various paths to destinations such as St Ann’s Well. From this point, you can walk over Sugar Loaf towards the summit of North Hill or walk around it, but there is a choice of paths to its summit and again you are rewarded with excellent views to the north of Worcestershire and Shropshire.

Descend northeast off the summit to join a broad grassy path which contours around the side of North Hill. Follow this back and head back towards the Beacon veering left to take a narrow path that skirts across the eastern side of this summit. This will lead you back to the tarmac track that you initially used at the beginning of the walk.

Come and visit this beautiful area, get up on the Malvern Hills, and explore the lovely Victorian town of Malvern and using Orchard Side Bed and Breakfast as your base will provide your escape to the country.

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