The Bloke and I decided to spontaneously go out on a day trip the other day – we’ve both been feeling a little low and have cabin fever from being in the house for an extended period of time, so we both took the day off and went to Blenheim Palace. As you do. It is something that has been on my UK bucket list for a while, the weather was fairly reasonable and surprisingly, it’s only a 90 minute drive away from Birmingham.
Most famously known as being the birthplace of Winston Churchill, Blenheim Palace is the principal residence of the Duke of Marlborough and the only non-royal country house in England that holds the title of ‘palace.’ Built between 1705 and 1722, it was a gift to John Churchill – the 1st Duke of Marlborough – by Queen Anne in thanks for his victory at the Battle of Blenheim in 1704, and was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
There are two types of tickets that are available for purchase – the Palace, Park and Gardens, or just the Park and Gardens. Initially, it seemed a rather expensive day out (a standard Adult ticket in 2019 is £27.00), but if you make a ‘donation’ of your ticket costs to the palace charity, these are converted into an Unlimited Annual Pass which means that you can visit as many times as you like in a year – free of charge – which is amazing. The Bloke and I also have Annual English Heritage passes, which gave us 30% off our admission.
Opening Times – Main Season
Park – 9.00am – 6.00pm
Formal Gardens – 10.00am – 6.00pm (or dusk if earlier)
Palace – 10.30am – 5.30pm (last admission 4.45pm)
Despite being lucky enough to visit many of the stately homes, castles and palaces that the UK has to offer, there is very little that can prepare you for the grandeur and magnificence of Blenheim Palace, especially when walking into the Great Court. It’s incredible, and even though we were there on a cloudy day it was absolutely breathtaking. Constructed in an English Baroque style, the Great Court is designed to overwhelm the visitor arriving at the palace, and it did just that (aside from the minor scaffolding on one small part of the building).
There are lots of thing to see and do when visiting Blenheim Palace and the surrounding grounds, but here are a list of highlights and ideas that may be useful when planning for your visit.
The Palace State Rooms
Along the southern side are a row of intricate and beautifully decorated gilded state rooms, all aligned to allow easy access from one room to the next. These were primarily designed to impress distinguished (and usually high ranking) visitors, and are decorated with priceless tapestries, paintings and furniture. To get a full view, click on each image…
The Formal Gardens
The Formal Gardens surround the Palace, including the Water Terraces, the Duke’s Private Italian Garden, the Secret Garden, the new Churchill Memorial Garden and the Rose Garden. We spent a lot of time in the Water Terraces, which were absolutely stunning, particularly with the view overlooking the Great Lake. The image below was taken by Duncan Walker – check out his Instagram here
Click on the images below for the full size for further views of the Water Terrace and the Duke’s Italian Gardens
Most of the gardens and land are available to the general public. However, the Italian Gardens are private – available for outside viewing only.
The Churchill Exhibition and Churchill Memorial Garden
The newly renovated and now permanent Churchill exhibition can be found on the south side of the Palace and includes artefacts and an insight into the life of Sir Winston Churchill, including the room that he was born in. The son of Lord Randolph Churchill and Jennie Jerome, Churchill was born on 30th November 1874. The Memorial Garden and the opportunity to ‘Walk in Churchill’s Footsteps’ with their new trail, along with the ‘Temple of Diana’ can be found next to the beautiful Water Terraces, including the spot where he proposed to Clementine Hozier.
The Pleasure Gardens
The Pleasure Gardens hosts an adventure playground, giant hedge maze and a butterfly house. A miniature train runs every 30 minutes between 11.00am and 5.00pm during the main season, transporting passengers from the main house. It is 50p per single journey, with under-fives free.
The Untold Story
The interactive Untold Story are a series of animated rooms that tell the story of the history of Blenheim through clever use of video and projections. Taking approximately 30 minutes, it isn’t suitable for wheelchair and buggy users but an alternative experience is available in The Untold Story Cinema.
The Long Library
Along the entire length of the west side of the house is the library and gallery, with the Long Library organ at the end. This famous instrument is regularly maintained and is played throughout the year by visiting organists, but its condition is declining.
Blenheim Wishing Well
All donations in the well are divided between various charities.
The Harry Potter Tree
The ‘Harry Potter Tree,’ was used in a scene in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and after the collapse of the famous Yew tree on the Ashford Estate that was famed as the ‘Whomping Willow,’ this is the only remaining Harry Potter tree available to still see. Due to it’s age and size, a team of specialist tree surgeons have attached cables to support some of the larger branches. Over the course of their lifetime trees like this one sheds branches and as a result the resulting ‘wound’ left behind needs time to heal. If it doesn’t not heal successfully, disease and rot can get into the trunk and the centre dies, causing the wound to become hollow. Despite this, the tree is still very much alive on the outside.
With 2000 acres of beautiful landscapes parkland, lakes and monuments, the Park was primarily designed by Capability Brown. For more information, click here.
Want to take advantage of the additional experiences on offer?
Private apartment tours are available from February – September and are priced at £5.00 per adult and £4.50 per concession or child. Available tours are:
The Duke’s Floor – a tour of the Duke’s private living quarters
The Upstairs Bedrooms – the Palace State Bedrooms
The Downstairs Servants Floor – the areas used by household staff both past and present
Buggy Tours (£4.00 per adult and £3.00 per concession or child) – a scenic trip around Queen Pool with a narrative about the Park’s history and monuments, or through the Formal Gardens.
Further Hints and Tips
The two main features in the palace – the State Room and the Untold Story – are on opposite sides, so once you have completed one section you will need to go back in through the main entrance again.
Audio Guides are free with a Palace, Park and Gardens ticket. Additional guides cost £2.50 and can be purchased from the Palace entrance.
Have a question? Every single member of staff was incredibly helpful, friendly and had a wealth of knowledge about Blenheim Palace and it’s history.
Photography is allowed throughout, but without the use of a flash.
On a budget? Blenheim Palace has numerous cafe’s available but they are a little pricey – take a some sandwiches with you!
Blenheim Palace is situated next to the gorgeous little town of Woodstock – definitely somewhere worth checking out!
For more information, you can visit the Blenheim Palace website here:
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Copyright: All images were taken by myself and Duncan Walker and are not available for public use without permission.