“There’s a mounting block outside that Henry VIII almost definitely used” we were told upon check-in.
We were in Thornbury Castle hotel, a luxury five-star property located close to the city of Bristol.
This castle hotel is steeped in fascinating history, but in the last few years, it had a major makeover and now opens its doors as a luxurious hotel that still boasts rooms with an array of mod cons.
Not only is it an overwhelmingly luxurious place to stay, but its small restaurant serves tantalizingly tasty food and there’s plenty to enjoy in the grounds.
Here’s my full review of Thornbury Castle Hotel.
Disclaimer: I was provided a free stay as a plus one, and was under no obligation to write this review. All opinions are my own.
Thornbury Castle History
I’m an absolute history nerd and I particularly love the Tudors – not so much Henry, but I find the tales of his wives fascinating!
So I clapped my hands in glee when we pulled up to Thornbury Castle and I saw that it was, in every essence of the word, a castle hotel.
Thornbury Castle is an early Tudor building, dating back to 1511. Originally built for Edward, 3rd Duke of Buckingham (who was subsequently executed in 1521 for “treason” – which is how most of Henry VIII’s enemies went!).
Henry VIII then seized the property, and he stayed here for 11 days in 1935. He was on one of his tours around the British countryside, when he heard that there was an outbreak of plague in Bristol.
For all Henry VIII’s bravado and reputation for being a bit of a brute, he was actually very much a hypochondriac, and he stayed here, with his second wife Anne Boleyn (who he also later had executed…) for 11 days.
This is why, when you stay at Thornbury Castle, you’ll be in accommodation that’s quite literally fit for a king!
The castle was used as a residential property and eventually fell into a state of disrepair, before some modernising in the 19th century. It then waned in use again, until it was modernised for use as a hotel, opening in 1966.
Thornbury Castle Location
Thornbury Castle is located in a fairly rural (although, I was coming from Devon, and it’s a lot more built up than where I’m from!) location, about half an hour from Bristol city centre.
It’s walking distance from Thornbury town, which is technically South Gloucestershire, but many people see it as an extension of Bristol.
There’s an ancient church right next to the castle, and plenty of walks in the countryside. In all honestly, there’s not an immense amount of things to do in Thornbury, but you’re close to Bristol and not a million miles from Bath and the Cotswolds.
Plus, you’ll probably want to spend most of your time at the castle itself!
How to get to Thornbury Castle
Thornbury Castle is around a three-hour drive from London, or you can take a train from London to Bristol (around two hours) and then change to a bus to Thornbury.
Alternatively, the hotel can help you out with transfers from Bristol Temple Meads station.
Rooms at Thornbury Castle
Now for the best bit… the rooms at Thornbury Castle!
When Henry VIII stayed here, he probably didn’t have a Nespresso machine or lavish Egyptian cotton bedsheets, but I reckon that some traditions have stayed the same – such as a welcome drink in the room (we had sloe gin, Henry probably had wine), which was topped up during evening turndown service.
Nowadays, the rooms are still fit for a monarch. We stayed in the Edward Stafford Suite, which consisted of a lounge/ staging area with comfortable chairs and a HD TV, then an area with a large window and another seat, then a few stairs going up towards the bedroom.
This was another lavish affair with a plush, comfortable bed, tea and coffee-making facilities, plenty of wardrobe space and another HD TV.
The luxurious bathroom had deluxe toiletries and a power shower. Some of the rooms also have roll-top baths.
The most sought-after room is the Henry VIII suite, which is where the big man himself stayed back in 1537. If “sleeping in the same room as Henry VIII” is on your bucket list, this suite may be your best chance, but book far in advance – it’s very in demand!
Other suites are named after Henry VIII’s other wives (he had six in total) and notable Tudor characters.
The hotel is one of the 580 Relais & Châteaux accommodations all over the world, a prestigious company that accepts hotels with an incredibly high level of service, comfort and charm.
As we were shown around our room, we could verify that the hotel had all of these.
Service at Thornbury Castle
I was blown away by the service at Thornbury Castle. From the moment we checked in, we were made to feel right at home.
As Thornbury Castle is a small hotel with just a handful of rooms, every customer is made to feel much more like a guest, with no stone left unturned when it comes to hospitality.
Aside from all the staff members being generally polite, helpful and able to answer all of our questions and requests (they even made us up iced coffees as it was a heatwave and we just couldn’t handle hot drinks!), one element of service particularly stood out.
After a comfortable night’s stay in the castle, we had an alarm set for 5:00 am, as we’d planned to go to the Bristol Balloon Fiesta in Ashton Court – a festival of hot air balloons that takes place every August.
We received a wake up telephone call, and got ready, checked out and received some lovely hot coffees and a pastry box, as we’d miss breakfast.
We walked to our car and had an issue – the tyre was as flat as a pancake, and we were pretty sure our jack was broken.
We asked the receptionist if anyone was awake who could help, and – despite being dressed in a smart suit – he came out with us and physically tried to help us, as nobody else was awake at such an hour.
We couldn’t get the jack working, so we decided to give the balloon fiesta a miss. It was no problem to check back into our room, and we got a much-needed few more hours of sleep!
When we woke up, we were peckish, despite having some 5:00 am pastries. Sheepishly, I went to the reception, explained what had happened and asked if we could possibly still have breakfast. “Of course!” was the answer. It was no hassle at all to have two breakfasts.
While we were eating breakfast, the receptionist advised us that the caretaker had filled our tyre with air, and it should be sufficient to get us to the nearest KwikFit. It was indeed, and we managed to get everything resolved speedily, thanks to the attentiveness of the staff!
Food and Drinks at Thornbury Castle
I’m still salivating as I write this. The food and drinks at Thornbury Castle were really something to write home about.
While we regrettably had to miss the Bristol Balloon Fiesta, this at least meant that we could enjoy the glorious breakfast spread on offer.
With plenty of vegetarian and vegan options, I opted for the avocado on toast with plant-based yogurt, fruit and (more) pastries.
It was tasty, yet still felt healthy and fresh. My partner went for eggs benedict, poached eggs with sumptuous amounts of hollandaise sauce, along with some smoked salmon.
Of course, we were topped up with freshly-ground coffee throughout!
If you stay at Thornbury Castle, make sure that you book dinner – and reserve your spot early, as they can fill up!
Dinner is a three-course affair, although there’s an option to begin with canapes and a complimentary bouche is served between courses.
We took the option to start our dinner with drinks in the library, where I enjoyed a 6 o clock gin made from a local distillery and munched on some olives and cruidetes.
The library is something from every Hogwarts fans fantasy, with towering bookcases groaning under the weight of historical texts, a cosy fireplace and comfortable chairs to enjoy drinks or read a book.
After consulting the menu, we went through to the main dining room, where we ordered a bottle of wine and our mains.
I went for the vegetarian options; a Wye Valley asparagus with a vegetable risotto for mains and a chocolate dessert. My partner had the fish.
Service was impeccable, with each item being explained to us, and the meal was spaced out perfectly, with plenty of time to digest each course and soak in the atmosphere of the dining hall without ever waiting too long for food!
As it was 36°C (a very rare phenomenon in the West Country!), and the day was still holding onto inches of light, we finished our wine in the garden after dinner.
Of course, as we’d come to expect in the castle, the waiter gladly took our wine chiller outside, found us a table and ensured we knew to ask if there was anything else we needed!
I didn’t get a chance to try the afternoon tea, but it sounds absolutely sumptuous!
A traditional meal served with cake, scones and sandwiches, plus a pot of your choice of tea, this experience is open for both guests and non-guests and is served outdoors in the summer and in the library in winter.
Things to do at Thornbury Castle
While I mentioned there’s not a huge amount of things to do in Thornbury town centre, there are actually so many activities in the castle itself that’ll keep you occupied!
For history nuts, there are full tours every morning, where a local historian will take you around the castle, show you the secret hidden spots and go into great detail about the castle in the 16th century and beyond.
If you’d rather relax, take a stroll around the gardens, which are manicured to perfection and include features like a rose garden, a privy garden and a rather strapping wicker figure of Henry VIII!
There’s no spa at Thornbury Castle, but massages and facials are available on request – the therapist will come to your room for the treatment.
On the grounds, you can try longbow archery and axe throwing – ask at reception for these.
Alternatively, transfers can be arranged to Lady’s Wood Clay Shooting School for a comprehensive pigeon clay shooting experience!
Of course, you could also while away your time tucket in a corner of the castle reading a good book, playing games in the library or just spending time with whoever you’re at the castle with!
Thornbury Castle through the seasons
When we visited Thornbury Castle, it was 36°C and very sunny – which was excellent weather to enjoy the gardens, take a spin on archery and sit outside enjoying a chilled wine or iced coffee!
Although I will say, the only negative I had about the entire stay was that, in 36°C heat, it was very hot in the rooms (Tudors didn’t have as hot summers, and the building was to keep heat in, not out!).
This was a very rare situation (it’s hardly ever this warm in Gloucestershire!), so I think it would be much more comfortable usually!
When autumn rolls around, the trees turn shades of yellow, orange and reds and let go of their leaves, making it a magical time to be at Thornbury Castle. Throughout winter, it’s gloriously cosy, with festive decorations throughout December and a roaring fire until the spring.
In spring, the surrounding fields come to life with new flowers and plants.
There’s literally something for every season here – you could return time and time again and find something new – I’m already planning our next trip!
If you’re looking for somewhere luxurious to stay near Bristol, or fancy a staycation with a difference, Thornbury Castle ticks all the boxes when it comes to deluxe glamour. You’ll step into a building frozen in time, be treated like a monarch with exemplary service and leave already planning your next trip!