Ferromagnetic thin films play a fundamental role in spintronic applications as a source for spin polarized carriers and in fundamental studies as ferromagnetic substrates. However, it is challenging to produce such metallic films with high structural quality and chemical purity on single crystalline substrates since the diffusion barrier across the metal-metal interface is usually smaller than the thermal activation energy necessary for smooth surface morphologies. Here, we introduce epitaxial thin Co films grown on an Au(111) single crystal surface as a thermally stable ferromagnetic thin film. Our structural investigations reveal an identical growth of thin Co/Au(111) films compared to Co bulk single crystals with large monoatomic Co terraces with an average width of 500 Å, formed after thermal annealing at 575 K. Combining our results from photoemission and Auger electron spectroscopy, we provide evidence that no significant diffusion of Au into the near surface region of the Co film takes place for this temperature and that no Au capping layer is formed on top of Co films. Furthermore, we show that the electronic valence band is dominated by a strong spectral contribution from a Co 3d band and a Co derived surface resonance in the minority band. Both states lead to an overall negative spin polarization at the Fermi energy.