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Not far outside the prestigious city of Oxford, lies the only non-royal, non-episcopal palace in all of England. Though Blenheim Palace is the primary residence of the Duke of Marlborough, it opens its large golden gates to thousands of visitors each year.
Blenheim Palace is one of the largest homes in England, has over a 300 hundred year history, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s famous for it’s architecture, art, landscaped grounds, but most of all, being the birthplace of the great Winston Churchill.
It’s easy to combine Blenheim Palace into a trip to Oxford. We spent the morning wandering around Oxford and it’s famous campus, then headed over to the palace just after lunch.
A Little History On Blenheim Palace
Following Sir John Churchill’s famous 1704 victory in the Battle of Blenheim, Queen Anne rewarded the 1st Duke of Marlborough with the land to build the palace. The queen also provided financial support until late 1711 when the Duke fell from royal grace.
After a short voluntary exile to mainland Europe, John Churchill was able to return to Blenheim Palace under Queen Anne’s successor, George I.
In 1719, John moved into the east wing of the unfinished palace with his wife Sarah, for his final three years. However, Blenheim Palace was not complete until 1725.
Remaining in the Churchill name for 300 years, the palace is the birthplace of Winston Churchill.
The Grand Tour Of Blenheim Palace
After passing through the gift shop, they checked our tickets under the clock tower gate, before entering a second large courtyard.
Even before stepping foot into the palace, it was obvious why Blenheim is not referred to as a manor home.
The imposing palace surrounded the courtyard on three sides. The fourth side looked towards Blenheim Park.
Stepping into the Great Hall, the ceiling stretched towards the sky. We felt tiny.
Reminiscent of a museum, paintings and sculptures decorated the large archways around the room. Overhead the painted ceiling captivated our attention.
The included audio guide walked us through about a dozen stately rooms. Each decorated in period furniture and intricate tapestries.
One of the last rooms, was also one of the most stunning.
At one end of the Long Library, a statue of Queen Ann poised in front of a wall filled with knowledge. On the other end, the Willis Organ. Built in 1891 by Henry Willis, the Willis Organ is the largest privately owned organ in Europe.
The Winston Churchill Exhibition
Before leaving the main quarters of Blenheim Palace, we took a stroll through the Winston Churchill Exhibition. This remarkable display walked through the life of Britain’s most famous Prime Minister, and his connection to the palace.
We found the history of his lineage and distant relation to Princess Diana fascinating. There were also countless artifacts to bring his memory to life. Including the bedroom in which he was born.
Before heading out to the gardens, be sure to peek into the Chapel.
We entered the room via an elegant double staircase.
The chapel contains the massive tomb of the Dukes and Duchesses of Marlborough. However, the Chapel wasn’t built until 1733, 11 years after the 1st Duke’s death. Originally, buried at Westminster Abbey, he was moved to the tomb to lay next to his wife when she passed in 1744.
Through a small passageway, we entered the water terrace around the backside of Blenheim Palace. As it was a dreary day, we had the gardens to ourselves.
The Lake Walk
As the rain waned on and off, we strolled along the Lake Walk Trail. This circular .75 mile trail takes in sights like the boat house, rose gardens, Temple of Diana, and the small cascades.
There are a few other walks around Blenheim Park which we missed due to the weather.
- Queen’s Lake Walk follows the smaller lake seen as you enter the palace. This circular walk is about 1.5 miles and takes about 45 minutes.
- There are also several paths around Great Lake to be enjoyed. The path next to the lake winds past Rosamond’s Well and the “Harry Potter” Tree, a 300-year-old Lebanon cedar tree used in the movie Order of the Phoenix.
Blenheim's Pleasure Gardens
All good stately homes must have an outdoor area for entertaining. Blenheim’s Pleasure Garden with hedge maze does just that. You can take the Miniature Train for a small fee or make the 10-minute walk around the front of the palace.
Making up two miles of hedges, this windy, twisty, deceiving labyrinth is as fun for adults as it is for tiny tots. It took us around 30 minutes to complete this massive maze.
Next door to the hedge maze is the small, but lovely butterfly garden. It’s not just butterflies from around the world, keep a look out for the zebra finches.
Getting To Blenheim Palace
As Blenheim Palace is in the English countryside, it is easiest to reach by car.
- Follow roads towards Oxford.
- Use the ring road to by-pass Oxford town center.
- Follow the A44 to Woodstock, then to Blenheim Place.
- Pay or show your tickets as you approach the parking area.
- There’s a short walk from the parking area to the palace entrance.
From London by public transportation:
- Use Chiltern Railways at Marylebone Station to Oxford Parkway.
- Change to the Stagecoach #7 Gold bus, to Blenheim Palace.
- There’s a short walk to the entrance.