Britain is blessed with many historic Castles in beautiful surroundings. Although there are many castles in England which you can visit, there are very few Castle Hotels. We discovered one close to where we lived, and we didn’t have to pay a King’s ransom to spend the night; Thornbury Castle in South Gloucestershire.
Thornbury Castle is a 500 year old luxurious Castle Hotel. Built in the 1500’s, King Henry VIII owned this castle and stayed for 10 days with his wife, the fated Anne Boleyn, on their honeymoon tour in 1535, and yes you can stay in the same room as King Henry VIII.
We booked a night here for Sy’s birthday, but did it live up to its expectations? Did we feel like Royalty when we stayed at Thornbury Castle, and what’s it like to walk in the footsteps of Kings and Queens?
Feet Do Travel reveal what it’s like to stay in a real Tudor Castle Hotel.
Thornbury Castle is located in South Gloucestershire, the south west of England in an area of outstanding natural beauty known as the Cotswolds. It is just off Junction 14 of the M5 near Bristol where I was born.
Thornbury Castle was built in the 1500’s by Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham. Unfortunately for him, a disgruntled servant betrayed him to the King, so Edward was sent to the Tower of London, executed on Tower Hill for high treason, and King Henry VIII claimed the castle for himself. Like he always did!
The Castle was owned by the Tudor’s for about 25 years. It was Henry VIII’s for 14 years until he died, then passed onto his daughter Queen Mary I. After her death in 1558, it was returned to the Duke’s family.
From the moment we walked through the solid oak wooden door to when we drove out of the magnificent grounds, I felt relaxed and (dare I say it) like Lady Briggs.
It’s a large, grand room as one would expect befitting a King! In hindsight, I wish I had taken a photo of the entire room and not just the four-poster bed. However, I was in awe, I couldn’t help but stand and stare. Looking around the room, I wondered what conversations took place here over 500 years ago … if walls could talk, oh what stories they would tell!
The Castle is somewhat of a museum. Suits of armour are displayed in large embellished oriel bay windows, luxurious tapestry-covered chairs sit next to stone open-fireplaces. A drawing room is filled with books stacked high in wooden bookcases; you are welcome to sit, read, and look around at the impressive tapestries displaying Tudor hunting scenes.
On a summer’s day, I can imagine it would be wonderful to play croquet on the lawn, try a spot of archery or learn falconry which are some of the options provided by the Hotel. Afternoon Tea is also an option of which I am a huge lover.
I can’t think of anything more quintessentially English than having afternoon tea in the castle gardens on a fine summer’s day. Delightful.
We loved dining at Thornbury Castle so much, we continued to return for special occasions such as our Wedding Anniversaries and Mother’s Day.
There is only one word to describe the serve; impeccable.
We once dined at The Ritz, London for our wedding anniversary and, If I am honest, Thornbury Castle was better. I felt The Ritz was overly pretentious, for example, despite Sy wearing a waistcoat and tie under his suit jacket, he was forbidden to remove it due to their strict rules (dinner jacket must be worn in the dining room at all times), yet ladies were permitted to wear a jumper to dinner. We were also forbidden from having a photograph of the two of us taken. No cameras were allowed in the Ritz Restaurant, but we merely wanted our waiter to take a picture of us toasting our wedding anniversary.
Speaking of wine, the hotel has its own vineyard serving Thornbury Castle wine. We shared a bottle, it was crisp and fresh complementing our palette perfectly.
With fine dining, your plate is never piled high with food, however the richness of the ingredients ensures you never leave the table feeling hungry. From the A-La Carte menu we ordered beef and venison which were cooked to perfection. Every single mouthful was slowly chewed to extract as many flavours as possible. For dessert, I had told the hotel in advance that it was Sy’s birthday, and I was pleased to see they hadn’t let this special occasion go unnoticed.
We had such a comfortable night sleep I didn't want to get out of bed the next morning. I lay in the grandiose room, marvelling at the reality of where I had actually slept. In a bone-fide Tudor Castle.
I will finish with an extract from my Trip Advisor review:
"We will most definitely stay here again in the future for anniversaries, birthday's or simply because we want to spoil ourselves. Now that we have found this little piece of heaven just down the road from where we live, we feel this shouldn't be just a "once in a lifetime" experience!
If you want to be waited on, enjoy sumptuous food and walk away feeling as if you don't have a care in the world – Thornbury Castle is the place to stay. So next time you are thinking of a place to visit for a special occasion - book Thornbury Castle!”
If you have been inspired to stay a night at Thornbury Castle hotel after reading this post, click here to book.
The Legend of King Henry VIII
King Henry VIII was a fascinating King who left a huge legacy. Because of his lust and ego, he turned a Catholic England into a Protestant Country, leaving a bloody trail that would continue for decades, even after his death. He is most famous for having six wives, and it was his infatuation with Anne Boleyn that ripped England apart during the 16th Century.
After 20 years on the throne, his marriage to Catherine of Aragon had produced only one surviving heir, Mary who later became Queen Mary I (Bloody Mary). Frustrated that he had no male issue, and driven crazy by lust over Anne Boleyn refusing to be his mistress, he sought an annulment. The Catholic Church did not permit this, and for the next seven years, Henry put the wheels in motion to break ties with Rome.
He formed the Church of England becoming the self-proclaimed Supreme Head of the Church of England, a title which our current Reigning Queen Elizabeth II holds to this day.
As he grew older so did his waist. Following a jousting injury in his mid-40’s, he went from a trim 32 inches to 52 inches. He never fully recovered and was left with a painful, ulcerous leg. He became paranoid, greedy, egotistical and bad-tempered. Known for his quick temper, he sent trusted friends and political alliances to their execution when they fell out of favour, this included two of his wives (Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard). More men and women were executed under his rule than any other Monarch.
If you want to remember the order of Henry's wives, there is a little rhyme;
"Divorced, beheaded, died. Divorced, beheaded, survived"
Henry VIII left a legacy which changed England forever. His daughter Queen Mary (with his first wife Catherine of Aragon) tried to revert England back to Catholicism and became known as Bloody Mary. Henry's daughter Queen Elizabeth I (with his second wife Anne Boleyn) was known as Gloriana, one of the greatest Queen's to have reigned.
If you wish to continue walking in the footsteps of Tudor Kings and Queens, I recommend nearby Sudeley Castle and Hampton Court.
Sudeley Castle is a Grade I Listed Building. It was owned by Henry VIII which he visited with Anne Boleyn on his honeymoon tour in 1535. When Henry died it became the property of his son, King Edward VI who gave it to his uncle, Thomas Seymour.
Queen Elizabeth I was entertained three times at Sudeley Castle, including a celebration of the Spanish Armada defeat in 1588.
Hampton Court Palace was King Henry VIII’s residential home where he lived with all six of his wives (obviously not at once!).
This grand Castle was originally owned by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey who spent a considerable amount of money transforming the original country house into a magnificent palace fit for a King. His work did not go unnoticed, and as Wolsey began to fall from the King’s favour, he gave it to Henry as a present in 1529.
Note: This is NOT a sponsored post and we did not receive a night for free in exchange for a review. This is our private story celebrating a special occasion. We wish to share this experience with you purely because it was so magical and memorable. All opinions are our own.
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