After our nights in Castle Combe and Cirencester (blogged about here and here, if you’re not all caught up) we wanted to end our Cotswolds adventure with some sort of epic finale. Everyone was back at work and Instagram was awash with green juice and sweaty post-run selfies, yet here we were still desperately clutching on to Christmas with our brie covered claws. It wasn’t time to put the port away just yet. Don’t make us.
Luckily I’d found the ideal place to hole up and pretend real life wasn’t happening, a place where Henry VIII himself had done the very same centuries before: Thornbury Castle.
I wouldn’t have sought out a Tudor castle as a home away from home (though I will going forward, they’re very comfortable) but I’d found myself on Secret Escapes again after booking our Castle Inn stay and they had a special “advent calendar deal” which seemed worthy of investigation. There was a knight in shining armour on the lead picture and the prospect of pretending to be an ACTUAL Tudor royal – complete with inclusive two course dinner – seemed too good an opportunity to pass up, especially as they were throwing in a bunch of flowers for anyone who booked before midnight. (Apparently I will hand over my credit card for anything as long as there’s a dramatic clock countdown saying the deal will expire at midnight, I am a marketer’s dream).
The drive from Cirencester to Thornbury was about an hour and we realised when we got there that it’s not actually in the Cotswolds at all, but it was a lovely drive through the countryside to get there. It’s about half an hour north of Bristol which reminded me for the umpteenth time that I REALLY need to go to Bristol (and Bath!) but we only had time for our castle on this trip. “Our castle”. I liked saying that.
As you’d expect with a castle, the whole thing is just ridiculous from the moment you approach it. “Are we actually going to sleep in here? Is this ACTUALLY our address for the next 24 hours? And are you sure I can’t borrow a horse and try a bit of jousting in the grounds later?”. It felt weird to be allowed into the car park without having to faff about looking for a National Trust card.
The first thing you see as you open the door to the castle is your bodyguard for the duration of your stay…
And from there on in everything just blows your mind a bit as you try to fathom everything those walls have seen over the past 500 years. Anne Boleyn honeymooned here, for goodness sake.
We were taken to our room and whilst I had pretty high expectations, it was even more bonkers than I could have hoped for. The extravagant bay window is the only of its kind in Europe and to look out over the grounds and church felt pretty damn regal. Which is, I guess, appropriate.
I’d arranged for us to have a tour of the castle and grounds with a local historian (this is offered by reception when you book and is really easy to arrange) and I am SO glad we did as this really brought the whole thing to life. The tales of paranoia and envy and backstabbing over the centuries would gladly put any Jeremy Kyle episode to shame.
After our tour we relaxed in the lounge with books, cards, gin and cake (is there a better way to relax?!) and before we knew it it was time to get ready for dinner.
Regardless of the history and the general opulence of STAYING IN A CASTLE, dinner was a true highlight. It was the best meal we had over our three nights away (it was actually the best meal I’ve had in ages full stop) and every course was proper knock-it-out-of-the-park brilliant. We’d been asked our dietary requirements well in advance of our stay which was great as it meant the kitchen had time to prepare bespoke menus and amuse-bouche and we had lots of choice as vegetarian and pescetarian fusspots.
I need to mention the cheese trolley though because that was just something else. If you are going to Thornbury Castle then do not pass up on the cheese. DO NOT. These cheeses were exceptionally good, especially the aged cheddar drizzled with truffle honey. Oy! I’d also recommend you try the Three Bridges Botrytis Semillon if you’re going all in for the cheese. It was the perfect pairing.
We slept really well (errrr, except for when I woke up in the night suddenly really paranoid about Tudor ghosts) and waking up in a four poster bed is something I definitely recommend…
The good food continued through to breakfast, where I enjoyed dining under this super casual baby…
And whilst I forgot to take any pics of the food, it was again delicious.
It was particularly hard to say goodbye to Thornbury Castle, partly because I’d grown accustomed to high ceilings and open fires in every room but mostly because I didn’t want our mini-break to be over. And I didn’t want Christmas to be over! But I do love knowing that these special places are only a couple of hours away in the car. All our hotels were in areas that we want to explore more.
Now, how do I convince ST that we need a four poster bed at home?!
Details and rates for Thornbury Castle (as well as some properly gorgeous pics of the hotel) are here. As mentioned in the post, we booked our dinner, bed and breakfast package on Secret Escapes for £229, which was advertised as 45% off the usual rack rate. This post isn’t sponsored, discounted or PR-ified in anyway (is PR-ified a word?), I just really do love Secret Escapes as every trip we’ve booked with them has been a triumphant success.