If you’re in to history, the royal family, or have been re-watching The Tudors lately on Netflix, you’re going to love Thornbury Castle Hotel and Restaurant. I’ve never before had the privilege of staying in a castle, but I’ve always wanted to; I mean, who hasn’t? I didn’t, however, think the castle I would finally get to stay at would once have been owned by King Henry VIII. Turns out Thornbury Castle Hotel has a long and storied past, one that involves the royal we all love to hate.
Located just 25 minutes from Bristol and just under an hour from historic Bath, Thornbury Castle is in a very convenient location for visitors who want to experience the city, but stay in a remarkable hotel that far exceeds your typical hotel expectations. Thornbury Castle Hotel is located on the edge of the Cotswolds on meticulously landscaped grounds with the extraordinary St. Mary’s Church just a few steps away. It is the only Tudor castle to operate as a hotel in England.
The castle was built by Edward Stafford, the Duke of Buckingham, in the early 1500s, but was confiscated by King Henry VIII after he accused Stafford – his cousin – of treason, and ordered him beheaded. King Henry later spent a portion of his honeymoon there with Anne Boleyn. Of course, it doesn’t look now as it would have then. The decor is much warmer, and modern features and amenities have been introduced, but you can still imagine it as it might have been.
If historical significance was all Thornbury Castle Hotel had going for it, it would have been worth it, but the experience far exceeded just the historical value. Renovation has been taking place at the castle to restore and upgrade the property.
All of the 26 rooms are uniquely decorated, but each combines historical and modern details, like luxurious bedding and comfortable sitting areas. In the room where we stayed, uniquely scalloped windows that replicate the ones originally chosen by Stafford, opened up to a spectacular view of St. Mary’s Church. The enormous four-poster bed was dressed with velvet linens and mounds of pillows. The bathroom even had tissue with royal crests on it.
Our room had a large table with seating, a vanity area, and an antique wooden wardrobe, all which fit the part very well. A decanter filled with complimentary sherry was a welcomed extra touch. You can also choose to stay in the Duke’s bedchamber, where King Henry and Anne Boleyn slept in, or the grand Tower Suite, that can only be reached by a 77-stop spiral staircase. No matter which room you choose, you’ll be wowed by the etched ceilings, enormous four-poster beds and attention to detail.
The restaurant at Thornbury Castle is run by head chef Stuart Shaw, who has been working in top restaurants throughout England for many years. His expertise and passion shines through in every dish served in the restaurant’s various dining rooms, and continuing the tradition of stellar food and atmosphere that has been carried out at Thornbury since the 1960s.
Tip: Book the Dinner, Bed and Breakfast rate for the best experience and savings. The package includes a 3-course a la carte dinner, along with a lavish breakfast in the morning.
We arrived at the drawing room prior to our dinner for a pre-dinner cocktail. We enjoyed our drinks in the drawing room, sitting by the fire, surrounded by the conversations of our fellow diners.
Just before our reservation time, we were given a menu, along with a few canapes to nibble on before dinner. Once we’d decided on our meal, we were moved to the restaurant. Lucky for us, we were again seated by the fire. The room wasn’t too formal or stuffy. It was just like a castle dining room should be, with a large chandelier and metal sconces, and a sword or two hanging on the walls.
I was really impressed with the food. You could see that care was taken with each dish to ensure quality. For a starter, I had a fois gras torchon with rhubarb, golden beetroot, Sauternes jelly, and toasted brioche. Nick had
For my main dish, I had guinea fowl with a sweet potato puree, braised red cabbage and a Madeira jus. Nick had pork belly and braised pork cheek, with carrot and cardamom puree, spiced lentils and a five-spice jus.
The usual rate at Thornbury Castle Hotel includes bed and breakfast, and you definitely don’t want to miss this breakfast. They serve a full breakfast, made-to-order, in the dining rooms. You can choose where to sit, and then make your way to the well-stocked buffet table, full of many favorites like croissants, meats, cheeses, yogurt and fruits. You can also order from the Full Menu.
I ordered the English breakfast (without eggs, because I can’t eat them), and Nick ordered scrambled eggs on toast with smoked salmon. We’d order these same dishes at Lucknam Park Hotel, so we could do a little comparison. I was really impressed with the English breakfast at Thornbury. Also, the presentation of Nick’s egg dish was impressive.
Sadly, we were only at Thornbury Castle for one night, which was just not long enough to full enjoy the amenities and get a true feel for the house. I would have loved to stay for a whole week to explore the grounds and explore all the nooks of the castle. For the time we were there, though, we had a fantastic time. Everyone was extremely helpful and welcoming. The room was very comfortable. We felt a little like royalty ourselves while staying there. The only thing that could have made it better is more time.
(As always, all thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are my own honest reflection on our travel experiences).