I mentioned in a previous post that I will have lived in Oxford six years this September. Another thing that has been on my Oxford bucket list since moving here is to visit Blenheim Palace, one of Oxfordshire’s biggest tourist spots. P and I finally did this for the first time in June last year, during the Diamond Jubilee long weekend.
Blenheim is a World Heritage Site and a true British treasure, an absolutely stunning stately home situated in Woodstock, just eight miles from Oxford itself. The current Duke and Duchess of Marlborough still call this magnificent building home but Blenheim’s most famous son is Sir Winston Churchill, possibly the UK’s most well-known Prime Minister, who was born at Blenheim in 1874. In addition to the great house itself, there are over 2,000 acres of landscaped parkland and gardens to explore – there’s so much to see and do you definitely need more than one visit! I’m thankful that P and I were living reasonably local so we could truly appreciate everything Blenheim had to offer, though even after three separate visits I don’t think we’ve been able to see everything! 😉
You can tour the extremely grand State Rooms in the house, wander through acres of parkland or stroll through the beautifully landscaped Formal Gardens. The gardens are absolutely magnificent if you are lucky enough to visit on a day when Oxfordshire is blessed with fine weather. The gardens are one of my favourite things about Blenheim, I could spend hours (days?) walking through them imagining I’m a grand lady. 🙂 The Rose Garden and the Secret Garden are the two I like best – one because roses are my favourite flower and the other because I adored the book The Secret Garden as a child.
There’s also an exhibit on Sir Winston Churchill in the house where you can learn more about his childhood, military career and life in politics. The upper floors of part of the house have recently been turned into a new exhibit, Blenheim Palace: the Untold Story. Here you can learn about life at Blenheim over the past 300 years as a former lady’s maid acts as your virtual guide. There’s even an indoor cinema in the old stable block which shows documentaries on Blenheim throughout the day.
There is plenty to do for children – you could take a trip on the miniature train to the Pleasure Gardens, which have been designed with families in mind. There’s an adventure play area with a giant chess set and snakes and ladders, or you could try your luck in the Marlborough Maze. There is also a butterfly house to look round.
There are places to eat to suit most budgets – The Water Terrace Cafe in the main house serves various hot meals for between £7.50 – £15.00. If you really fancy luxury you could splash out on some champagne at the Champagne Bar or treat yourself to a traditional afternoon tea (£45.60 for two for the standard tea, £56.00 for two for the premier tea) with sandwiches, scones and clotted cream, cakes and pastries and a cup of tea or coffee with a flute of champagne. For the more budget conscious (i.e us!) there is the Oxfordshire Pantry, which serves sandwiches, paninis and salads to eat-in or take-away. The Pleasure Garden’s Deli is also very affordable, serving hot and cold snacks and meals for children. Kicking back in the grounds with a picnic during the summer months is also an idea if money’s a little tight. 🙂 Once a month three-course Sunday Lunches are served in the Orangery, which I recommend for a special occasion. P and I ate there on Easter Sunday this year. The food was delicious and seasonal, with most of the ingredients coming from within the estate itself. When we visited it was £28.50 per person for three courses. The portions were huge however, so we felt it was quite good value considering the beautiful surroundings and quality of the food. Live jazz is performed during the meal which makes for a really pleasant atmosphere.
Throughout the year there are lots of different events on, P and I visited in May this year to watch the jousting. This was a great day out – I’m a big history buff so I enjoy anything in that particular vein. What I also liked is that it brings to life a particular period in British history and culture, and I like the fact that these skills and traditions aren’t forgotten. Britain has a rich and varied history and as a nation we are able to embrace it and experience it by visiting places such as Blenheim or by watching performances by groups such as The Knights of Royal England. I think I’m going to miss this when I move to Australia – the grand stately homes and castles and buildings that are so old they’ve seen centuries’ worth of history. Plus, I’ve just relished the opportunity of having such a beautiful place in my “back yard”. 🙂
Admission isn’t cheap – a ticket that includes the palace, park and gardens is currently £22.00 for adults, £12.00 for children and £58.00 for a family. Park and gardens tickets alone are £13.00 for adults, £6.50 for children and £35.00 for families. However, if you live locally or are at least staying in Oxford for a significant amount of time, currently you can buy an annual pass for the price of a palace, park and gardens ticket. So, for £22.00 you can come back as many times as you like over a twelve month period. This is what P and I did and we definitely got our money’s worth. Certain events throughout the year are free to annual pass holders as well, so you can enjoy the entertainment without having to pay anything extra. 😀
If you’re ever in Oxfordshire, I’d recommend visiting! I hope P and I can go again before we leave.