While planning a trip around the ancestral homesteads in the Cotswolds, I was informed by L that she had always wanted to sleep in a castle. Her wish being my command, (and bearing in mind that castles tend be draughty places, at least all the ones I’ve been in so far) I booked into Thornbury Castle, which happened to be on our way down to S. Wales.
Arriving, I was startled by the sheer tradition of the place. Beautifully decorated and tastefully restored, it’s set in some stunning grounds and is right next to Thornbury Church, which is a wonderful backdrop as you have afternoon tea on the lawn. The sun was shining, birds were chirping, immaculate waiters were doing their thing with the pink champers, and the whole scene was only slightly marred by two elderly Lords and their respective wives, telling dirty jokes about MPs and demanding pigeon for dinner the next night. I shall refrain from saying which Lords they were so as not to be accused of namedropping.
The chambers are enormous, and ours was up in a tower up a rather narrow and winding staircase of stone. While fully equipped with all modcons, I was able to sit in an incredibly overstuffed armchair and pretend it was still the middle ages.
Dinner was one of the best I’ve had in a long time. Mr Lee Heptinstall and his little chum Marco Mellace certainly know their stuff. I had the seared Scallops followed by Loin of Exmoor Venison, L had the Ballontine of Beetroot Cured Salmon and Taste of Local Duck. We discovered that the elderly waiter was Spanish, and had been at the castle since day one (32 years, if you’re interested). Much chatting, we discovered that his brother in law was from Almeria, and so we got an extra large helping of cheese from the trolley.
The Lords again sat next to us at dinner, and upon leaving one of the Ladys came over and apologised if they had been too noisy (they hadn’t, simply being happy in a very discreet, upperclass way). A nice touch. It must have been the handmade silk and cashmere jacket I was wearing.
The entire experience was one I intend to repeat as soon as possible, and was marred only by the bill the next morning. I should have expected it from a place that offers to fly you down from London in a private helicopter. I shall not tell you how much it was, only that for the same money 20 years ago you could have brought a house here. *
*Should anybody have a parttime job going for cash in hand, please do let me know.