It was with great excitement that we set out on our visit to Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. As a family we go to lots of stately homes and country parks which we love and revisit time and time again, but being a bit further afield, this was a chance to visit somewhere which was new to us all.
Blenheim Palace is not just a stately home, it’s an actual palace! Queen Anne gifted it to the First Duke of Marlborough for his military triumphs in the War of the Spanish Succession. The Duke’s final battle took place near the village of Blindheim – from which we get the word Blenheim.
Blenheim Palace has received the official UK ‘We’re Good to go’ mark from Visit England which means a business has followed government covid 19 guidance and has processes in place to maintain cleanliness and observe social distancing guidelines.
As the palace state rooms, pleasure grounds and gardens were open we felt there would be plenty to occupy us to justify traveling the extra few miles, even with the covid 19 restrictions forcing the closure of some areas of the palace and exhibitions.
We travelled down in rain and 50mph winds as storm Francis swept across the county on 25th August 2020 so I hoped the weather would not put a dampener on our trip, especially as we had brought our cocker spaniel Rosie. (Blenheim welcomes dogs on leads although they are not allowed in the formal gardens or palace itself.) But I need not have worried, Blenheim Palace was like a jewel brightening up the dreary skies of our day! As we turned down the driveway we could see the honey coloured stone of it’s imposing entrance literally glowing before us.
We had booked our tickets online (all bookings need to be made in advance) and had selected an arrival time of 11am so all we had to do when we got there was pull up our car at a kiosk on the driveway where a staff member scanned the e-tickets and directed us to the car park. Nice and easy! Dressed for the weather we walked down to the entrance to where visitors enter the palace. We were told by a helpful mask-wearing staff member that the queue at that point was 45 minutes long and that the afternoons were quieter so we decided to set off instead on a walk around the parkland. A couple of days before you are due to visit, Blenheim Palace send you an email which has a link to their ‘app’ - really useful details about what is open, what there is to see, suggested walks, maps and audio tours of the garden and palace, so I had already planned which walk we would do before we got there. The Queen Pool walk was just 45 minutes and is dog, wheelchair and buggy friendly.
We walked around the side of the palace and our breath was taken away with a fantastic view of the stunning Capability Brown designed landscape of lakes, trees and grassy slopes drawing the eye up to a towering 41 metre high column dominating the horizon. The boys immediately wanted to walk to it to find out what it was. It is in fact a very impressive memorial to the First Duke of Marlborough. We then re-joined the path to the Queen Pool walk which offered tantalising views of the palace across the lake.
As it was lunchtime we headed up to the palace’s Pleasure Grounds where you can find an adventure play area and the Pizza Café where we tucked into 11 inch pizzas, delicious! Luckily the rain had stopped and the sun had come out so we were happy to eat our meals on tables outside as there were no tables provided inside. If you plan to eat here, walk to the Pleasure Grounds as if you take the miniature train, everyone turns up at the same time and the queue to the cafe is longer.The boys have loved trains since they were little so were keen to wait 10 minutes for the miniature train to take us back to the palace gates, a donation of £1 each. We were pleased to discover Rosie our dog could come on with us, her nose thrust high into the air to pick up all the new smells.
The queues to the palace had disappeared so we split into two groups – my husband and younger son Zach took Rosie on another walk around the parkland, while myself and my elder son Adam went on the palace tour without having to wait. The audio tour of the palace can be opened on your own phone, so remember to take earphones for everyone in your party.
You have to wear a mask and are advised about social distancing but at no point inside did we feel crowded at all, in fact the palace is so big social distancing is easy, there’s plenty of room to walk around people who may be lingering to read or those who have stopped to listen to the audio tour. The opulent interior of the palace didn’t disappoint, matching up to the glorious extravagance of the outside, with painted ceilings and shimmering golden plaster work. Our favourite room was a dining room with it’s ‘trick of the eye’ painting covering the whole room, which looked like people were looking down on you as you looked back at them.
Blenheim is famous for being the birthplace of Winston Churchill, you can see the room where he was born on the right as you go in. We were also fascinated by a Siren Suit Churchill designed for himself in 1930 which looked like a modern day onesie without the hood!
The palace rooms took us around 45 minutes. We then swapped with my husband and youngest son who went straight into the palace, while we took the dog for another walk around the parkland, where we were chuffed to discover the Harry Potter Tree seen in the The Order of the Phoenix film.
We met up with the rest of our party to swap over the dog again while Adam and I had a quick visit to the formal gardens. I’m so glad we did, the Rose Garden was the best I’ve ever seen, with so many different varieties of fragrant roses to smell.
It was around 4.30pm when we left – we felt we had enjoyed a full day out and the dog really enjoyed her time there too.
SPECIAL OFFER: Blenheim Palace is giving families a huge summer boost by offering free entry for up to four children from the same household until the end of August 2020, so be quick if you wish to take up this great money-saving offer. All tickets must be pre-purchased online prior to arrival. Visit www.blenheimpalace.com/tickets