Our family recently spent a little under a month traveling around England. We planned to stay in three separate sections of the country during that time, the majority of which was carved out for exploring Oxfordshire. We selected the historic town of Woodstock for our first “home base” which is right next to Blenheim Palace. Blenheim Palace was high on our list of places to visit while in country, given a certain admiration for Winston Churchill.
At Blenheim I took two very important decisions: to be born and to marry. I am content with the decision I took on both occasions. ~ Winston Churchill
One of our first expeditions on our trip was the 5 minute walk over to the Palace grounds which we promptly began exploring. We discovered straightway that you can purchase a family pass and upgrade it (for free!) to an annual pass if you wish. We wished! Thanks to this fabulous deal, we were able to explore the grounds whenever we had time to do so during the course of our stay in the area. Ultimately, we visited the Palace and grounds about five times and had a different experience each visit. There are a lot of things to see and do at Blenheim Palace!
If you are traveling with children, here are some things to make note of:
- Touring inside the palace is a real treat. To make it more meaningful to them, read a book about Winston Churchill before you go. There are middle grade biographies and picture books available to help educate your children as to one of the reasons this home is so important. Do not underestimate your child’s ability to comprehend the history! Our four year old daughter declared that her favorite part of the tour was seeing “Winston’s things” and the “room where he was born.”
- Upon entering the palace you will be met by very friendly guides who will offer your children pamphlets which contains an “I Spy” game, encouraging the youngest visitors to locate various animals which appear in the decor throughout the Palace. Clues are given as to the animals’ whereabouts and, if you have multiple children, then you’ll understand the competition which naturally develops in seeing who can find which animal first.
- There are multiple gardens to be explored out-of-doors. If the weather is nice, all the better! If you read your children the story of The Secret Garden before traveling then they will be delighted to explore the Palace’s “Secret Garden.” (They’d probably enjoy it quite well without having read the story, but it certainly enhanced our experience!) Then, you really must check out the Children’s “Pleasure Gardens” which are accessible by car, foot or by a miniature train ride (50 pence per person, one way). We took the train because, well, how could we not? Check out the Blenheim Palace website for a full list and description of their gardens.
- We highly, highly recommend that you trek out to the Pleasure Gardens if for no other reason than to visit the Butterfly House. Young and old alike will thrill in this beautiful house full of exotic butterflies.
- In the Pleasure Gardens you will also discover a 1.8 acre hedge maze is available to get lost in. Our kids were the most excited about checking out the hedge maze. On the day we went out to the Pleasure Gardens there were “scattered showers” that were keeping all guests guessing. We sent our kids off into the hedge maze right before a major downpour. We, the parents, decided it was probably wisest to go, find them, and bring them out again. Ultimately what happened was that our entire family spent some time hanging out in the middle of the maze until we deemed in necessary to get out before a huge puddles made the path less passible. This was one of their favorite memories of the day.
- Take a guided tour. Whether or not your children will enjoy it is a matter for you decide. We are of the opinion that children will enjoy tours more if they go in with a basic understanding of the history or importance of a place or thing. We took one short tour which worked well. There are multiple tour options available.
Tours and exhibits are changeable at the Palace. Before you go, take a good look around the Blenheim Palace website which offers a calendar of events, as well as notes of special tours.
- Plan to shop and eat at the palace. Normally we wouldn’t highlight a gift shop but of the various shops we went to over the course of our stay in England, our family collectively agreed that the shop at Blenheim Palace offered the most unique, high quality items at very decent prices. There is a little something for everyone. We stopped for a light snack (of cake) in the courtyard area. You’ll find gluten-free dessert options available and everything we tried was delicious.
- Walk the park! We took a few evening strolls in the park which surrounds the Palace. The kids enjoyed seeing sheep wandering the area and walking around the lake. The landscape is a feast for the eyes and is so calm and peaceful.
Here is a shot we captured of the Palace and lake at sunset:
We thoroughly enjoyed our times at Blenheim Palace and are so happy to have chosen Woodstock as our home base. It was relaxing stay with phenomenal palace grounds to be explored just nearby.
Would we suggest a visit to Blenheim Palace with the family? YES!