In my opinion, England’s incredible history and stunning castles are two of the best reasons why you should plan a trip here. Thankfully, several historic castles have been beautifully restored and turned into luxury hotels for people around the world to soak up their magic. Today we’re going to focus on Thornbury Castle, a gem nestled in the heart of Gloucestershire, where history comes alive, and luxury meets regality. As an avid traveler with a taste for unique and opulent experiences, my recent stay at Thornbury left a lasting mark on my travel diaries in the United Kingdom. Let’s embark on a journey through time and opulence as we explore the historic charm, luxurious accommodations, stunning grounds, and exquisite dining options that make Thornbury Castle a truly royal retreat…
A Glimpse into History: Thornbury Castle’s Storied Past
Before even setting foot inside, Thornbury Castle captivates you with its rich history as you arrive through the castle gate and admire the views while driving up. Built in the 16th century by Edward Stafford, the Duke of Buckingham, this castle has witnessed centuries of royal intrigue. Most notably, the castle played host to the legendary monarch, King Henry VIII, and his new bride Anne Boleyn during their honeymoon in 1535.
The thick stone walls, authentic Tudor architecture, and the palpable sense of history make Thornbury Castle a living testament to the bygone era of English royalty. And as part of the luxurious Relais & Châteaux hotel group, you can expect a five-star experience.
Staying in The Elizabeth of York Castle Suite
Stepping into the Elizabeth of York Castle Suite is like entering a realm of medieval opulence. Named after the Queen consort to Henry VII (and mother to King Henry VIII), this suite seamlessly blends modern comforts with historic grandeur. The four-poster bed, draped in sumptuous green fabrics, is the most inviting bed to rest in after a long day of traveling. I loved intricate Tudor-style woodwork found throughout the suite, along with comfortable and classy antique furnishings, and a fireplace that adds warmth and a touch of nostalgia. There was plenty of space to spread out, and I appreciate the circular dining room by the charming stain glassed window. Here they left a complimentary carafe of locally distilled sloe gin as well as the history of Elizabeth of York.
As you stepped out of the living and bedroom area, you go through beautiful wooden doors into a magnificently large walk-in closet and a desk area. Another set of doors then takes you into the bathroom where you can enjoy a freestanding tub, or a roomy shower, with lovely details like a gold framed mirror, historic portrait, a pretty tiled floor, and more. Thornbury Castle also provides lush bathrobes, slipper, Milton Brown toiletries, and a range of other appreciated amenities such as a Nespresso Machine.
While it was occupied during my visit, I highly recommend booking the Henry VIII Castle Suite at Thornbury Castle if you’re celebrating a special occasion or are a history buff! This is the very room that King Henry and Anne Boleyn stayed in almost 500 years ago. However, every room here is filled with character and luxurious comforts, you won’t be disappointed with any of their 27 bedchambers.
Wandering the Castle Grounds: A Tranquil Oasis
Thornbury Castle is not merely a luxurious haven; it is also surrounded by enchanting gardens and grounds. Taking a leisurely stroll through the manicured gardens feels like stepping into a fairy tale. The scent of flowers, the rustle of leaves, and the distant echoes of history create a serene ambiance that transports you. Definitely ask reception if you’d like a tour arranged for you, not just inside Thornbury Castle but of the grounds as well. This doesn’t take more than an hour, but it helps you gain a better appreciation for this historic place.
The castle’s grounds offer a variety of spaces to explore, from hidden nooks for quiet contemplation to open lawns that invite you to bask in the beauty of the English countryside. Whether you’re an avid horticulturist or simply seeking a peaceful retreat, Thornbury Castle’s grounds provide the perfect backdrop for moments of reflection and relaxation. If it’s a sunny day, I highly recommend enjoying a drink at one of the tables outside that face the grandest part of the castle with stunning views of the church next door as well.
Dining Fit for Royalty: Varied Culinary Experiences
A stay at Thornbury Castle is not complete without enjoying in its culinary delights. I made a point to enjoy all three of my meals at the castle because I was only staying for one night and wanted to make the most of my time here. After checking in and exploring the castle, I excitedly got ready for dinner at the hotel’s main restaurant where you actually begin your dining experience in the grand lounge with canapés and a glass of champagne (or another drink of your choice). These delicious morsels were a great taste of what was to come. A lovely member of staff then escorts you to their main dining room which is an impressive octagonal room with several interesting historic paintings and artifacts.
The menu, carefully curated to showcase the best of local and seasonal ingredients, offered a gastronomic journey that rivaled the grandeur of the castle itself along with the most superb service. I recommend choosing 3-courses as you will be perfectly satisfied with their portions. To start, I loved the Cornish crab ravioli with a delicious seafood bisque poured dramatically into my porcelain bowl – the presentation throughout the meal was excellent! For my main, I chose the stone bass with cauliflower, pancetta, apple, and brown shrimp with a moorish sauce. This was wonderfully light but also filling. The deconstructed cheesecake with blueberry, lemon thyme, confit lemon and hazelnut was the perfect ending to this special castle dinner.
For breakfast the next morning, I dined in another one of their lovely 3AA rosette dining rooms where I ordered freshly squeezed orange juice and a classic eggs Benedict. Before I departed in the afternoon, I wanted to spend more time in their grand lounge, easily my favorite room in the castle thanks to its high ceilings, rich tapestries, portraits of Tudor royalty, an ornate fireplace and more.
For a taste of quintessential British tradition, an afternoon tea experience in Thornbury Castle’s grand lounge is a must. The opulent yet cozy setting, complete with plush seating and ornate decor, provides the perfect backdrop for savoring an array of finely brewed teas, delicate finger sandwiches, and decadent pastries. As you sip your perfectly brewed tea (thanks to an adorable tea timer), and sample the delectable treats, you can’t help but feel transported to a time when afternoon tea was a leisurely pursuit reserved for the elite.
Even when you’re not dining here, it’s the perfect space (along with the library & lounge next door) to cozy up with a book or even play one of the many games that are provided. However, indulging in the English tradition of afternoon inside this historic castle was such a special experience for me.
Thornbury Castle offers a seamless blend of history, luxury, and culinary excellence. From the moment you step into the castle, you are transported to a world where the past and present coexist harmoniously. While it feels like a hidden gem in the tranquil English countryside, you’re also less than an hour away from bustling cities like Bristol and Bath which would make for perfect day trips during your stay. If you’re seeking a castle hotel experience that combines opulence with historical charm, Thornbury Castle is the crown jewel awaiting your arrival in England.