|Thornbury Castle is absolutely beautiful|
I don’t know who was more excited, me, or the children. After all, it’s not everyday that you spend the night in a castle, and certainly not one which has hosted one of the famous monarchs of all, Henry VIII.
Then again, Thornbury Castle is not your everyday kind of place. Instead, it is utterly gorgeous and perfect for a real taste of luxury. It is also situated right next to a beautiful church and just a few minutes from the delightful village of Thornbury in Gloucestershire. Thornbury has a very impressive array of shops, tearooms and restaurants and the most fabulous park which boasts the biggest paddling pool I’ve ever seen.
But back to the castle, which was built by Edward Stafford, the third Duke of Buckingham between 1510 and 1521. He was beheaded (unfortunately a common experience in Tudor times) in 1521 but the castle continued to go from strength to strength. Mary I stayed here often and Henry and Anne Boleyn (another who lost her head) stayed for 10 days in the Tower suite (yes, it’s still there, although with some mod cons) in 1535.
The castle became a hotel in the 1960s and has recently been renovated and refurbished. It is part of the Luxury Family Hotels group, though more for families with older children (like ours) who don’t need creches or looking after by other people during the day. However, it does offer activities for kids during the summer, early suppers, babysitting, and of course, a really special location.
|Our suite was up its own stone staircase|
I am a real sucker for history and castles (see my piece on Gorey Castle here), but Thornbury is special. The Tudor architecture is a joy and the bedchambers (all different – we made sure we visited some other than our own) are fantastic.
We stayed in Portlethen, up its own stone staircase and with its own impressively heavy key (to open a heavy oak door). The suite was magnificent, with more than enough space for the four of us, and with the children in separate single beds (they aren’t too happy to share a double now they’re getting older). There was even a small kitchen, as well as a very authentic looking tapestry on the wall.
|This tapestry was in our suite|
We loved the “royal” touches, such as long red ropes which you pulled to put the lights on and off, and crested toilet paper. My husband and I had a proper four poster bed and it was incredibly comfortable. In fact, we had such a good night’s sleep and were so impressed by how unusual that is, we asked about the mattress the next day.
|Upmarket toilet roll!|
|Aaah, we loved this comfortable bed!|
The grounds are also atmospheric and charming. We enjoyed walking around the beautifully manicured gardens and although we didn’t have afternoon tea outside, I can imagine that it would be a lovely place to do so.
|Enjoying the gorgeous lawns|
Portlethen was in one of the wings of the castle, so obviously we explored the main part of the castle too. We said hello to the coat of armour and visited the library and dining room. We also learnt that the long, deep windows in that room were originally built like that so that the men could, ahem, do their business in there, and not have to leave and miss any conversation (or plotting).
Our only criticism of our stay was that the service in the restaurant was extremely slow. We had booked an early supper, from 6.45, but were still there at near to 9pm and weren’t given any explanation for the delay. In addition (and it hurts me to say this as we did have such a wonderful time), we weren’t hugely impressed by the food, except for the desserts. We chose the vegetarian menu (we were impressed to know that there was a vegetarian menu) and it was a bit bland for all of us, although the menu descriptions sounded delicious. The food simply needed more seasoning.
However, it didn’t detract too much from such a marvellous stay. We all agreed that Thornbury is simply not the kind of place you come across very often and that makes it truly special. We would recommend it for visitors from all over the UK (it’s not far from Bath or Bristol, so you could combine it with a day trip to either) and around the world.
Visit Thornbury Castle’s website for more.
We stayed as guests at Thornbury Castle, near Bristol, which is part of the Luxury Family Hotels collection (telephone 0844 482 2152 or www.luxuryfamilyhotels.co.uk).
Classic Rooms start at £170 per night based on two adults sharing on a room and breakfast basis. A room accommodating two adults and two children is available from £270 per room per night on a room and breakfast basis.