Hills are alive

Straddling and dividing Herefordshire and Worcestershire, the 20 graceful flat-topped Malvern Hills have over 100 miles of walking trails and bridleways, with extensive views of the flatlands of the Severn Valley. Home to a smorgasbord of wildlife including rare butterflies, the gentle hills have stood for more than 700 million years and are renowned for producing pure spring water from their wells. St Ann's Well is one of the easiest springs to get to - park in Great Malvern and climb up the 99 steps to the well and the Hills.

Black and white beauty

The historic town of Ledbury in Herefordshire is centered around the 17th century Old Market House and a stroll down the cobbled Church Lane takes you back in time, past the Butchers Row House Folk Museum; a charming beamed house stuffed full of objects from Ledbury's past. Further up Church Lane is the Old Grammar School, a late 15th century black and white building that is now home to the Heritage Centre. The lane ends with the 11th century St Michael and All Angels Church, which can be seen as part of a walking tour. Nearby is Eastnor Castle with a beautiful deer park, arboretum and lake for the adults and an assault course, maze and adventure playground to keep the kids busy. A list of special events and opening hours can be found online at www.eastnorcastle.com

Perry nice

The Three Counties of Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire are famous for cider and perry making - more is made in this area than anywhere else in the world. You can get a taste of the local tipple and see how it is produced at a working cider mill nestled on the hillside of the Herefordshire village Much Marcle. Tours take about an hour and a half, cost £5 and end with tastings of cloudy apple cider and sparkling perry made from pears fresh from the orchard. While grown-ups sample the alcoholic offerings, underage visitors can enjoy the Shirehorse dray rides, playground and rare breeds park. Visit www.westons-cider.co.uk for more information.

Cottage in the wood

A leisurely way of enjoying the fantastic view from the Malvern Hills is to spend the night at the Cottage in the Wood. Perched on the side of the hill at Malvern Wells, on a clear day the hotel has views 30 miles across the Severn Valley all the way to the Welsh Black Mountains. The composer, Sir Edward Edgar, lived near the hotel at Craeg Lea from 1899 to 1904 and taught music at the nearby Wells House School. The hotel comprises the main Georgian Dower House which has the restaurant, bar and seven bedrooms. There are four bedrooms at Beech Cottage and more at the Pinnacles - a white building revamped in 2003 that contains 19 bedrooms, most with a valley view. The décor inside is new yet old-fashioned, but this adds to the country house charm of the family-run hotel. It is owned by Sue and John Pattin, who have stamped their personality onto everything from the warm welcome to the truly mammoth wine list. Their son Dominic runs the kitchen and imaginatively uses local ingredients to create delicious dishes. Rooms range from £99 to £179, call (01684) 588860 or visit www.cottageinthewood.co.uk to book.

Compose yourself

Sir Edward Elgar was born in Lower Broadheath, near Worcester, and the Malvern Hills were a source of inspiration for his famous pieces such as Cello Concerto. The 45-mile Elgar Route is a self-guided driving tour around the area, which can be joined at any point - maps are available from Malvern Tourist Information office or follow the cello road signs. The tour visits over 40 places of interest including his birthplace, which has the official Elgar Birthplace Museum, past houses he had lived in and picturesque villages including Upton-on-Severn; a riverside Saxon town where you can take a boat trip to Tewkesbury or Worcester between May and September.

Show stopper

The Three Counties Show at the Three Counties Showground, near Malvern Wells, is a huge celebration of rural life in the area and the ideal event to get a flavour of the region. Between June 13-15 the show features different villages' including a regional food and drink village with farmers' market, cider tasting, dairy products and a live cookery theatre. Rare breeds, country pursuit displays, craft demonstrations, equestrian events and vintage farm machinery are spread out over 30 acres in farming, equestrian and country pursuit villages. Visit www.threecounties.co.uk for more information.