For where else can you sleep in a luxurious four-poster bed on the chandelier-lit top floor of a 900-year-old Norman keep?

We arrive at dusk on a gloomy Sunday – yet despite the creeping dark and slight drizzle, nothing can dampen the excitement of seeing the castle emerge over the hill as you make your way up the drive. An impressive stone structure standing 110ft high, the keep was constructed by 1140 after William the Conqueror gave the land to his brother-in-law Aubrey de Vere in 1066. The castle has been besieged twice, survived a fire during WWI – known as “the Great Fire of Hedingham” – and King Henry VIII even attended banquets there during his reign.

Great British Life: Hedingham Castle’s new Royal Chamber suiteHedingham Castle’s new Royal Chamber suite (Image: Andy Griffin)

Well known for its many events, from adrenaline-fuelled jousting days to theatrical performances and falconry displays, Hedingham Castle is also a wedding venue, with ceremonies taking place in the candle-lit banqueting hall with Minstrel’s Gallery or on the lawns of the Georgian manor house.

It is now run by architect Demetra Lindsay and her art dealer husband Jason, a descendant of the De Veres, and the Royal Chamber is their vision and the castle’s pièce de résistance. 'The keep is such an amazingly precious and special building,' says Demetra. ;It’s lovely for weddings, but the floor at the top used to be this dry and dusty museum. These days people don’t want to just look at something in a boring glass case so we wanted to bring in something different. It really is such a unique place to stay: you can go to a hotel, but you know there are other rooms, you might hear other guests talking or walking past but here you’re the only people staying in a Norman keep. It’s an extraordinary experience.'

Great British Life: Reminiscing about our wedding day in the banqueting hall where ceremonies are heldReminiscing about our wedding day in the banqueting hall where ceremonies are held (Image: Andy Griffin)

Having married at the castle in 2019, my husband and I had high expectations and not only did the Royal Chamber meet them, it surpassed them. Set on the top floor of the keep and accessed by an exquisite – if slightly dizzying – stone spiral staircase, the suite has stone walls, tapestries and is bedecked in reds and golds. It feels so authentic – one could almost expect King Henry VIII to pop his head around the door! – and I think this is because for the most part, the modern twists and creature comforts are cunningly disguised. There’s no hiding the opulent four-poster bed, which takes centre stage on a raised dais, but an ornate chest covers a secret double bath. A sneaky flat-screen television awaits the flick of a switch to emerge while a fridge, continental breakfast and kettle are hidden in a heritage cabinet. There is also a modern bathroom tucked away, so no need to brave the staircase to the first-floor loo during the night!

Demetra and Jason have been hands on in creating the room, from initial plans and design to the furnishings: 'We’re very practical so we did all we could ourselves,' said Demetra, who sewed and painted the curtains while master carpenter Jason gave new life to some 1920s furniture by transforming it into the bath surround. 'Rather amusingly, there is a relief of a man on the bath surround but there was a bit missing, so Jason took a photo of me and then, two weeks later, there I was, carved on the chest! I’ve been immortalised in the relief on the bath!'

Great British Life: The secret double bath The secret double bath (Image: Andy Griffin)

The couple have used local materials where they can, and some of the wooden details like the bed dais and doors are even created from parts of Southend Pier after Demetra and Jason were tipped off by chef Jamie Oliver that they might be available. 'They were renewing some timbers at the pier which are just beautiful. The timbers have this amazing patina, as they have all been beautifully aged by the sea, so now there is this wonderful recycling effort going on involving two completely different types of ancient construction!' said Demetra.

Having the run of a whole medieval castle to yourself for the night is also a magical experience, a real once in a lifetime opportunity. We went for a wander late in the evening in our bathrobes – which was just surreal! – and spent time exploring each floor, admiring the incredible Norman arch in the banqueting hall and reminiscing about our wedding day. We may have had a sword fight or two. The phrase: 'This is so cool!' was genuinely repeated multiple times throughout our stay. Even going to bed was fun – in true castle-fashion, there are no curtains on the windows of the keep, so you climb into bed and pull the drapes around you to create - in Demetra’s words - a 'majestically cosy room within a room'.

Great British Life: The Royal Chamber suite offers a B&B option The Royal Chamber suite offers a B&B option (Image: Andy Griffin)

Newlyweds can spend their wedding night here, but the suite is also available to book as a B&B. A 5-course locally sourced dinner in the banqueting hall is also available, meaning guests can dine like a king or queen as well as sleep like one!

From the moment you arrive, you are fully immersed in medieval atmosphere seamlessly running alongside modern comforts. Incredibly luxurious, seriously unique and with a huge helping of history, fun and romance, the new Royal Chamber really is a diamond in Hedingham Castle’s already sparkling crown.

Great British Life: View from Hedingham CastleView from Hedingham Castle (Image: Andy Griffin)