Now you can honeymoon in the same opulent suite as Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn at Thornbury Castle, as Wersha Bharadwa discovers with her stay at Britain’s only real Tudor castle – the ultimate royal setting for a five-star honeymoon or wedding.


Review: Honeymoon Like a Royal at Thornbury Castle


Thornbury Castle and Gardens

Let’s start with the kerb appeal – you’ve seen nothing like it. Set on the edge of the Cotswolds’ and Severn Valley and only 45 minutes from Bath, 500-year-old Thornbury Castle is England’s only real Tudor castle.

Thanks to multi-million-pound recent refurbishments and restoration by English Heritage, it’s now operating as a Relais & Chateaux hotel where you can stay for a romantic weekend, honeymoon or book for a luxury wedding.

Located in Thornbury, Gloucestershire – a mere 15 minute drive from the M5 – the drive down is an immersive experience through pretty farmlands and fruit orchards. Once inside the 15-acre estate, you’ll pass the picturesque St Mary’s church (built in 1340) on the approach to the castle’s central gatehouse, outer walls and Tudor gardens.

First Impressions


Every move past the car park is a reminder you’re stepping into a real castle with a fascinating history; entry to the Grade I listed pile is past high stone walls and octagonal corner towers and via heavy oak doors proudly displaying Thornbury’s coat of arms.

Continue reading below…

Originally built as a fortress by Edward Stafford in 1511, you can still see the arrow slits in the walls of the battlements. The castle’s famous founder, the Duke of Thornbury (a cousin of Henry VIII) even had a bit part in Shakespeare’s Henry VIII after a starring real-life role in which he found himself executed Tudor-style in 1521 on likely dubious treason charges and when the estate was seized by the king.

Tudor Walled Garden

While you’ll likely be rocking up for your honeymoon without an entourage, you’ll love being greeted by warm and welcoming reception staff in the same stone-flagged courtyard Tudor royals once graced.

GM Simone Arcucci is an experienced hand in luxury hospitality (he previously ran another Wedding Ideas favourite, Stapleford Park) and so staff have been trained impeccably. Everyone is super down to earth, on-the-ball and seems to contain an encyclopaedic knowledge of Thornbury’s history too.

Local historian, Tony Cherry, from Thornbury & District Museum hosts bespoke tours and eases guests into the stories behind the castle with cream teas on oversized sofas next to a roaring open fire in the original great hall where suits of armour stand guard over heavy woods, original Victorian mosaic tiling on floors and contemporary furnishings.

Tony fills us in on everything from the English Civil War to the Duke of Thornbury’s family history before guiding us to trace our fingers over initials and Tudor roses carved into the enormous fireplace and which have stood the test of time.

Later, we head out on a stroll to explore the castle exterior and ancient yew-hedged garden where we spot small beehives hidden inside the thick stone walls. Most of what guests can now see – including the stone arches, crenellations and interior paneling – are later decorative additions by the Howard family (under Victorian architect, Anthony Salvin) who inherited the castle in 1824.

Suite Dreams

King Henry VIII Suite

Romance is serious business here and half the work is already done for you inside any one of the 26 plush suites you bed down in. Most offer views of the Privy Garden and Goodly Garden – two of England’s oldest Tudor Gardens.

You can see Wales across the River Severn from suites in the turrets. Standard doubles come with king-sized four posters and you’ll appreciate the lack of stuffiness in the country-style décor along with top spec smart TV’s, bottles of home-made complimentary Sloe gin and Nespresso machines.

Added grandeur can be found in the King Henry VIII suite – the same magnificent bedchamber the king shared with Queen Anne Boleyn for 10 days in August 1535. It’s one of three tower suites housed inside one of the castle’s octagonal turrets (complete with gargoyles) and which can only be accessed via a spiral stone staircase and a chunky wooden door which comes with oversized metal key.

Catherine of Aragon Suite

There aren’t lifts (owing to the listed building status) but staff effortlessly assist with luggage and room service. As the former duke’s own bedchamber – and featuring oriel windows, a chimney place and an intricate stuccoed ceiling – the four poster comes with cloud-like pillows and Egyptian cotton sheets so crisp you’ll be lulled into the deepest, most divine sleep in no time. Thick wooden window shutters and pin-drop countryside silence outside are sure to help too.

Happy to stretch the budget? Then the most opulent suite to book is the 71 square metre Catherine of Aragon Tower Suite which sits at the top of the tower which can only be accessed via a 77-step spiral staircase.

The room features stone walls, 24-carat gold gilding and the centrepiece is a four-poster hidden behind duck blue and gold velvet curtains. It’s an enormous, bespoke creation, wide enough to sleep all six of King Henry’s wives. The hotel states it’s the largest four poster in any UK hotel so worth booking the minimoon for that alone.

Food & Drink


Dining is a superlative experience with a range of modern and international fare on offer in four dining spaces. Head for the handsome library where two-story bay windows offer pretty views of the gardens and where oil portraits and grand tapestries hang on walls. Jamie serves us expertly mixed cocktails (order the Headless Mary or Skeps made from spiced rum, ginger and lapsang Souchong tea) before dinner alongside freshly toasted almonds, olives and canapes.

You book dinner for exactly this reason; the pomp and ceremonious tease of morsels and mouthfuls of exciting delights Thornbury’s executive chef, Carl Cleghorn, is famed for (we can’t get enough of canapes of goats cheese on homemade tapioca crisps).

There’s old-school glamour in the wood-panelled main dining room with brocaded chairs (Sophia Lauren and Laurence Olivier were once patrons) and where the focus is solidly on decadent yet unpretentious British cuisine.

Carl’s carefully crafted meals emphasise locally sourced and seasonal produce; you’ll savour tucking into succulent venison on winter tasting menus and mouth-watering Gigha Halibut sourced sustainably in summer. Ordering slowly is the way to do it; that way you get to cleanse your palettes with extra cocktails as you go along.

More fun can be had with a bottle of Thornbury’s own flagship white wine; a small vineyard belonging to the estate has been quietly producing wine for 500 years from Muller Thurgau grapes. Tours and masterclass tastings are on offer all year by appointment, along with grape picking opportunities for guests staying during harvest (usually late September and early October).

Plates are filled with herbs and vegetables from Thornbury’s own kitchen garden and Carl personally serves us a theatrical showstopper main of high-quality duck. The signature pudding – the chocolate fondant – is rich, smooth and creamy all at once and the chocolate crémeux with passion fruit and yoghurt sorbet is the most more-ish after dinner delight you’ll come across. Make sure to make space for it at the end (even this means forgoing the delicious sourdough bread rolls).

Breakfast is truly memorable – go for the sourough French toast topped with cinnamon, American bacon crisped and browned to perfection, silky maple syrup and fresh raspberries – it’s heavenly.

Getting Married at Thornbury Castle

Jane Seymour Suite

Fans of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall or Philippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl will absolutely fall in love with the castle; everything conspires to give brides a proper taste of princess life.

The Tudor Gardens can be hired for outdoor weddings and The North Wing which incorporates the Tudor Hall, Boyling House and the Great Oven makes an elegant setting for over 120 guests with feature walls, a grand fireplace and stone mullion windows.

It’s a fully up-to-date light-filled space for modern civil weddings and receptions and where you’ll find perfect spots for top tables and dancefloors. Thornbury also offers couples an exclusive Elopement Package where you and your beau can start the day with a room service breakfast followed by exclusive use of the library for your ceremony and a six course tasting menu dinner afterwards.

What You’ll Love

  • How Thornbury’s an idyllic country retreat at heart, guaranteed to make your honeymoon or wedding the unforgettable stay of a lifetime. The sprawling gardens means you’ve plenty of time to perfect your skills in proper regal pursuits like archery, falconry, axe throwing and croquet as well
  • With only 26 rooms, you get to amble around freely and public spaces never feel overcrowded
  • Another quirky attraction is the recent discovery by staff of a secret safe, built into the wall and stashed behind a cleverly concealed wood panelled wall in The Baron’s Sitting Room – a private event room on the second floor which is also an alternative, beautiful space to host civil weddings and cocktail receptions

How to Book

Rooms from £249 B&B. Thornbury Castle (00 44 1454 281182,, Castle St, Thornbury, Gloucestershire, BS35 1HH. Find out more on Instagram and Facebook.

Read More: