Set in over two thousand acres of landscaped countryside, Blenheim palace is for many visitors the only UK attraction that truly deserves the title Palace.
Designed in the Baroque style and built between 1705 and 1724 by renowned architect Sir John Vanbrugh, Blenheim Palace was originally intended as a gift from the nation to the 1st Duke of Marlborough, John Churchill, as a reward for victory over the Bavarians and French at the Battle of Marlborough. However, its construction soon became the source of much political controversy which lead to the Duke’s exile and damage to Vanbrugh’s reputation.
The Churchill's name continued to run through veins of Blenheim, and it was here in 1874 that the great British wartime leader, Sir Winston Churchill, was born to Lord Randolph Churchill, the third son of John Spencer-Churchill, the 7th Duke of Marlborough, and Lady Randolph Churchill. It is this connection that makes Blenheim Palace a favourite UK attraction for visitors from both the UK and abroad.
However, visitors to Blenheim Palace soon find out that this most majestic of UK palaces has much more to offer than simply being a place of pilgrimage to a man who saved a nation.
Visitors are taken on a tour of the Palace by a virtual guide in the form of Grace Ridley, the 1st Duchess's favourite maid. Grace appears and reappears as a ghostly figure in mirrors and windows to take you beneath the glamour and splendour of the Palace and reveal its hidden history. Grace she tells some of the lesser known stories about Britain's Greatest Palace and its fascinating inhabitants, such as the 1st Duke's affair with the mistress of King Charles II; and the 8th Duke's pioneering scientific experiments.
For many it is the beauty of the gardens at Blenheim leaves a lasting impression with the beauty and tranquillity of renowned eighteenth century landscape architect, John 'Capability' Brown's landscaped parkland, created in the 1760's, setting the Palace like a jewel in the English countryside.
The Formal Gardens were created in the 1920s by the 9th Duke of Marlborough with the help of French landscape architects, and these provide much of the splendour that greets visitors today along with the Water Terraces, Cascades, Rose Garden, Arboretum and Secret Garden.
Blenheim Palace is still home to the Dukes of Marlborough, the current one being John George Vanderbilt Spencer-Churchill, 11th Duke of Marlborough, who lives for part of the year in the Palace in the same suite of rooms as the very first Duke and Duchess.
Attractions open to the public in the grounds of Blenheim Palace include a butterfly house, a maze, a plant centre, adventure playground, fishing and a cafeteria, but these are set apart from the Palace itself, thereby helping it maintain its palatial grandeur and place as one of the most loved UK attractions.
Blenheim Palace is open daily from mid-February to mid-December.
Blenheim Palace Admission:
Palace, Park and Gardens: adult £18, child £10, concessions £14.50, family £48
Park and Gardens: adult £10, child £5, £7.70, family £26
Getting there: Blenheim Palace is in Woodstock, 8 miles from Oxford on the A44 Evesham Road. It is easily accessible by car, coach and by train from Paddington. Blenheim is 12 miles from junction 9 of the M40 and is signposted from the motorway.