Having been to Woodstock on a few occasions, I thought it was about time to venture behind the grand high walls, and through the austere gates, surrounding Blenheim Palace!
Blenheim Palace is offering free entry for up to four children from the same household until the end of August; an adult Palace, Park and Gardens ticket, will qualify for up to an additional four free child entries (age 5-16), each worth £16.50. So there’s no better time to visit!
I booked our date to visit online, a really easy process and I also booked the car in, so we were guaranteed a smooth entry process. (I did have to change the date and couldn’t find quite what to do, and contacted customer services…)
The day arrived and with much excitement we packed our picnic, checked everyone was present and correct....me, Dad, Nain(age 80+!) and Rhett (age 11) and the dog, Buddy (age 3) and we set off for Blenheim!
When we arrived we joined a queue of cars and were met by a friendly lady wearing a face shield at the kiosk. The shield made it easier to understand any information she was giving us, and we tootled off to the car park.
There were portaloos before the first entrance to ensure we were comfortable before our adventure began. With having the dog, who we already knew wasn’t allowed into the palace, we split the party and Nain, Rhett and I set off to go into the palace. At the first set of gates there was a smiling member of staff waiting to direct us through into the East courtyard where the Visitor Centre, Orangery Restaurant and Oxfordshire pantry are situated.
We decided to head on through to the Palace entrance and went through an archway (see photo), where our tickets were checked and we were directed onwards.
We joined a relatively short queue; we were glad it was early-ish and the weather was kind to us, though you can see from the sky in the photos that it was touch and go! It was and is tiresome having to queue, but it gave us time to admire the wonderful architecture and to see some of the restoration and cleaning work that has already been done, and allowed me to take a selfie with my Mum!!
We imagined ourselves in our glamorous finery attending a grand society ball, being driven in our horse drawn carriage down the seemingly never ending driveway, through the gates to disembark at the front entrance and the butler announcing us as we entered!! We visualized the splendour of the occasion and the atmosphere and, as we actually entered the palace, we were not disappointed….but I’m getting a little carried away! As we neared the palace entrance another friendly member of staff talked us through the expectations, asked about our journey and where we were from and we were invited to use the hand sanitiser. We didn’t feel at all rushed as we walked through the ground floor State Rooms and we felt safe with everyone observing social distancing, even though it was busier than I had imagined it would be. It was wonderful to see where Churchill had been born, arriving earlier than anticipated, and there were even locks of his hair on display too! The paintings adorning the ceilings and tapestries on the walls are amazing and to see how the table would have been set for dinner really helped to set the scene, especially for Rhett who has no concept of this bygone age. There is even a room just for the crockery!
After touring the state rooms we walked back to the car, passing through the super shop, complete with one way system and met up with Dad who had been entertaining the dog and doing a little sketching whilst listening to the “Picnic in the park” entertainers warming up.
The weather held beautifully and we enjoyed our picnic sitting on the lawn before having a walk onto Vanbrugh’s Grand Bridge. We were lucky to see hidden rooms on the bridge not usually visible, as the water has been drained in readiness of saving the “finest view in England” and retuning it to its former, beautiful glory. I am looking forward to going back to see this. Having left our tickets in the car with Nain, we couldn’t walk right over the bridge, as we needed our tickets to get back in, and up to the monument so Rhett and I wandered down to the picnic areas by the ‘pool,’ past a den built round a tree, up round near the Woodstock entrance and back to the car.
We regrouped at the car and the younger 3 of the party decided to go on the “Untold Story” interactive experience, whilst Nain put her feet up and had a well deserved rest with Buddy. There was only 1 small group ahead of us and we had a lovely chat with an experienced guide about the house and some of the fixtures whilst we waited to set off. The “Untold Story” is a lifelike and interactive experience related by Grace Ridley, maid to Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough appealing to all ages. Using audio, video and special effects the story goes through 300 years of history, which lead us through from the Great Hall into bedrooms, through corridors and boudoirs and the "Blenheim Theatre", to name a only a few of the rooms. Littered with lots of fascinating facts about Blenheim and visuals of servant’s clothes and so much more, we really enjoyed it and I would certainly go round it again – as with many tours more can be picked up on a additional visits.
By this stage my feet were seriously aching and time was marching on so we decided to head off home, but on exiting we found the Pleasure Gardens with it’s quaint miniature village and play areas. There were bungee trampolines on the go and if we had waited a short time, Rhett could have gone on the adventure playground, but we decided to save this for another day! Happy and immersed in history and grandeur we drove home.
A fabulous day and, for some of our party, the first day out since lockdown. We felt safe and able to take our time walking through the Palace and grounds and I can’t wait to go back for another visit.
This summer there is so much on for children and adults alike at Blenheim Palace with outdoor cinema and theatre, miniature train rides, rowing boats and lots of different walks around the grounds, which we didn’t really begin to explore. If you live nearby or you’re staying in the region on holiday I’d recommend an annual pass is well worth looking into.