Blenheim Palace

Palace

Blenheim Palace (official site https://www.blenheimpalace.com/) is the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill and a small exhibit inside the palace itself is full of memorabilia. Tours of the palace show off the state rooms with their magnificent gilt, tapestries, painted ceilings and historical artefacts. What makes this palace special is that it is currently in use and as such is well kept and organised.

Practicalities

Blenheim Palace is located in the town of Woodstock, indeed, the huge estate pretty much dominates the town and the surrounding area. The large park surrounding the palace is free to visitors and are worth a visit.

Tickets

Entrance to the palace and gardens is quite expensive but if you agree to “donate” the cost of your entrance fee to the Blenheim Palace Heritage Foundation Charity it can be converted to a free annual pass. The annual pass consists of a photo card which can be created by the annual ticket booth in the East Courtyard.

Getting Here

There is a large car park on site but note that you will be asked to purchase a ticket or show your annual pass at the entrance. You can also travel by train to train stations include Oxford, Oxford Parkway and Long Hanborough then catch a bus to the Palace (for example, the S3 and 7 buses from Oxford).

Attractions

The House

Room

Ceiling of Entrance Hall

The house is magnificent to visit with a highly recommended audio guide available. Audio guides are picked up on your left after passing through the main entrance. Non-flash photography is allowed throughout the house. They show videos in a small room behind the stables on the far side of the main courtyard but they often go un-watched…

Hall

Chapel

Only the ground floor of the palace is normally accessible to visitors. However there are (infrequent) tours of the normally off-limits to visitors private apartments (“Upstairs Tour”) and the basement (“Downstairs Tour”) that should generally be pre-booked due to the limited numbers allowed on the tour and the fact these are only offered when convenient to the current inhabitants (!). These guided tours give a fascinating glimpse into the inner workings of the palace both past and present. There is no photography allowed on these tours.

Downstairs Tour

The Grounds

The grounds of Blenheim Palace were designed by Capability Brown surrounding the “Great Lake” (and smaller “Queen Pool”). The palace map includes details of the numerous walking trails throughout the grounds including length and estimated duration.

Water Terrace

If you have time, it is probably worth your time to visit the town of Woodstock itself accessible via the “Woodstock Gate” near the main car park.

The Grand Cascade and Pump House

Grand Cascade

Boathouse

Boathouse

Pleasure Gardens

Pleasure Gardens which should be of interest to children though only the maze and perhaps the butterfly house would interesting to adults (the maze is an extra £1 and includes the maze, mini-put putting, and access to giant-size chess and checker sets). The maze is supposedly the second largest in England but I was not impressed after having previously seen the mazes at Hever, Hampton Court and Leeds (castle) which were much better kept.

Eating

There are two smaller places to eat: The small “Oxfordshire Pantry” at the main entrance, beside the (enormous) gift shop, and the “Water Terrace Café” at the back. The later, of course, is much prettier and has great views. “The Organery Restaurant” in the east courtyard is a more formal affair and generally only used for events. There is also a “Pizza Café” in the pleasure gardens.

Events

There are events year around in the grounds and in the house. See the official site for details. There are also fairly regular (free) organ recitals in the “Great Gallery”.