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As a lover of heritage sites across the world, it’s difficult to hold back my excitement for a place like Blenheim Palace. This UNESCO World Heritage site is the only British palace to be awarded the title of ‘palace’ without any royal connection at all. Built in the extremely rare English baroque style of architecture, this exquisite and gallant structure hosts some amazing seasonal events. Blenheim Palace events include autumn walks through Blenheim gardens (of which you’ll see a few photos below), as well as plenty of Blenheim palace Christmas events. Christmas at Blenheim is romantic and beyond picturesque, what with the Blenheim Palace lights transforming the place into a winter wonderland.
Beyond the majesty of the building itself, as well as all the Blenheim Palace events, there’s also the town of Woodstock UK (I clarify UK since its US counterpart is equally famous, and among one of our favourite towns in the US northeast, as we’ve mentioned before). Woodstock UK – specifically Woodstock Oxfordshire – is the quintessential English town. Stone houses, quiet streets, old English pubs and hotels with sweet names like The Feathers, a delightful bookshop, and of course Blenheim Palace itself. All of these things make Woodstock UK one of the finest English towns to explore. Let’s dive into what makes visiting Blenheim Palace and Woodstock Oxfordshire such a perfect English day trip!
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Blenheim Palace: What to See and Do
Before we get to all the Blenheim Palace events, like the autumn walks, Christmas at Blenheim, the Blenheim lights, and so on, let’s take a look at what to expect on a normal day trip to Blenheim Palace: the building, the grounds, and the Great Lake.
First, a history less: Blenheim Palace was constructed in 1722 and is the ancestral home of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, built by his ancestor John Churchill, 1st Earl of Marlborough. Winston Churchill was born, married, and buried in Blenheim Palace, and a lot of anecdotes about his childhood can be learned from the staff at the palace as you explore (I’m certainly not the biggest Churchill fan in the world, but the info is welcome and enlightening nonetheless!) Blenheim Palace being one of the largest stately homes in the UK, it’s got enough rooms and acreage to fill up a full day of exploring. And everything has remained untouched and as pristine as when the palace was first built 300 years ago.
Blenheim Palace Building
When you first arrive up the long driveway to Blenheim Palace, pay for your tickets (prices below), you’ll arrive in an open quad in front of the palace proper. This will be your first big photo opportunity, with the palace on one side and the grounds spread out across the other three. It’s a thrilling sight. From there, you enter the palace building and will be given a free audio guide. While Blenheim Palace tours are available to book, making your own way around with an audio guide to lead the way is also a perfect experience.
A journey around the house visiting the gilded State Rooms including the chapel and the library (Churchill’s favourite room), will take you a minimum of 45 minutes, but we recommend you really take your time and soak it all up. Photography and filming/vlogging is fine; just be polite about it. These State Rooms are filled with priceless portraits and heirlooms depicting British royalty, dukes, and duchesses from the past 300 years, as well as antique tapestries and furniture to marvel at.
Blenheim Palace also has the Churchill Exhibition, a special Blenheim Palace tour which shines a light on the life of Winston Churchill, even down to the very room he was born in, back in 1874.
Beyond touring the palace, you can also visit the gift shop (officially called the East Courtyard Shop): a delightful space filled with Churchill-themed books, trinkets, and memorabilia, as well as British souvenirs and even some very fancy Barbour clothing (woollen scarves, hats, jackets etc). On top of that, Blenheim Palace also boasts more than one café for you to relax in and soak up the atmosphere. The Orangery Restaurant, with views of the ornate Italian Gardens, is open from 11:00am to 5:30pm. And the Water Terrace Café (our favourite) has outdoor seating that spills out onto the incredible Water Terraces; and this café serves quintessential English tea and cakes.
Blenheim Palace Grounds
The grounds of Blenheim Palace actually stretch on for 2000 acres of parkland, but for a single day at the palace there’s more than enough natural beauty to behold in the Formal Gardens, which you’ll find out the back of the palace once you’ve finished your Blenheim Palace tour.
The Formal Gardens are made up of the following: The Water Terraces, Rose Garden, Churchill Memorial Garden, and Temple of Diana. There’s also the Great Lake, which we’ll come to in a moment.
The Water Terraces will be the first thing you find when you leave the house. And the best way is through the Water Terrace Café. There, you’ll find an enormous fountain cornered by Greek statues and with wings of the palace on either side. Take a quick stroll around the Water Terraces and then you’ll see the lake stretching out into the distance beyond. The walk we recommend takes you along the lakeside and then away from it in a small circle, passing by the other features of the Formal Gardens: the Churchill Memorial Garden and the Rose Garden.
So, once you’re done taking photos and taking in the Water Terraces, stroll on down to the left side (not sure which actual compass direction it is so just go left when facing the lake). There, the lake will be on your right and you’ll begin an hour-long stroll through the rest of the Formal Gardens. Peaceful wandering with the sound of birds and flowing water. You’ll eventually reach a small but stunning waterfall, and the path will veer on to the left and then back on itself, returning you to the palace via the Rose Garden (which you can enter and is at peak beauty in the summer months) and the Churchill Memorial Garden, which features a lifelike (and thus terrifying) bust of the man himself. Beside the bust is also the Temple of Diana, a tiny but majestic Greek-style temple built fifty years after the palace itself. This is the site where Winston Churchill famously proposed to his wife.
Blenheim Palace Prices and Opening Times
Adult (palace, park, and gardens): £27
Adult (park and gardens only): £17
Child (palace, park, and gardens): £16
Child (park and gardens only): £7.60
Blenheim Palace opening times: 10:30 – 17:30
Park opening times: 9:00 – 18:00
Formal Gardens opening times: 10:00 – 18:00
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Blenheim Palace Events
Blenheim Palace plays host to an extraordinary number of events all year round. Many of these are once-off events such as art exhibitions. For example, during our own visit, one of the Blenheim Palace events was an exhibition of the modern art of Maurizio Cattelan, an Italian modern artist known for dark and satirical art installations with a wink at the dark side of modern society. His artwork was placed strategically around the palace’s State Rooms and features such installations as a hanging man, several pieces of taxidermy (including the world’s oldest taxidermized animal: a 400 year old Spanish crocodile, suspended from the ceiling), a representation of the Pope crushed by a boulder, and even a dead Pinocchio floating out in the Water Terraces.
So, depending on the month or season of your visit, the Blenheim Palace events available may differ. There may be history tours, art installations, Shakespeare performances, seasonal experiences such as Halloween and autumn walks, literature festivals, and even more besides! Keep up to date by visiting the Blenheim Palace website. But below is the very biggest and best of the seasonal Blenheim Palace events which might interest you when you visit Blenheim Palace.
Christmas at Blenheim
While the dates may differ slightly, the Blenheim Palace Christmas event is a staple of the palace, and usually takes place between late November and early January (before the twelfth day of Christmas). Christmas at Blenheim involves several exciting events and activities, including a Christmas market and an illuminated light trail. The Blenheim Palace Christmas lights have to be seen to be believed. The entire palace home, as well as the Blenheim gardens nearby, are illuminated by magical Christmas lights in a symmetrical, mesmerising fashion. Christmas at Blenheim is the best way to experience a traditional English Christmas in a kind of regal, Victorian, baroque, effervescent, traditional, exciting, magical (I could go on) way. Needless to say, seeing the Blenheim palace lights and experiencing a Blenheim Palace Christmas is one of the absolute best ways to experience Christmas in England, and one of the very best Blenheim Palace events.
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Woodstock UK: What to See and Do
Woodstock Oxfordshire is, as we’ve said, one of the most downright delightful little English towns. If you’ve ever visited Oxford or Bath and marvelled at the stone buildings and elegant, regal architecture, then you’ll be fascinated by the way that all of that royal and baroque beauty has been captured in this singular little village town of Woodstock Oxfordshire. So, once you’ve finished visiting the palace itself, the Blenheim gardens, or taken part in one of the Blenheim Palace events (such as Christmas at Blenheim), what’s there to do in the town of Woodstock? Well, here are a few suggestions.
Given that we always search for the nearest bookshop of whatever town we find ourselves in, we were elated to find such a quaint and sweet bookshop in this quiet English town. Woodstock Bookshop is a darling little local independent bookshop that stocks all the latest releases in both fiction and non-fiction, as well as a wide selection of classics and bestsellers. It’s remarkable, honestly, how much variety of stock can be found in this tiny little (but bright and charming) booksellers. The best bit, for us at least, was the section near the back which organises some of its literature by continent. So that, if you’re so inclined, you can specifically search for Chinese or Japanese literature, or Latin American, or Russian literature if that’s what you want (and it is what we want). Woodstock Bookshop is one of the very best bookshops we’ve come across in the UK, and it’s a must-visit stop on your tour of Woodstock UK – almost as impressive as any of the major Blenheim Palace events!
Woodstock Coffee Shop
This little café is a fantastic place to relax after a day of exploring the palace grounds or attending one of the Blenheim Palace events. It’s a traditional English café with a focus on providing delicious cakes and pastries to have with your tea or coffee. You can enjoy freshly made Danish pastries and French croissants of all kinds, as well as English cakes and deserts or American cookies. If it’s sweet and soft and fresh, they have it. And, of course, the coffee is excellent to boot!
All the Good Pubs!
This being a traditional English town, Woodstock Oxfordshire has no shortage of good pubs, all of which can be found in old 17th or 18th-century buildings, adding to that warm and rugged atmosphere. Working fireplaces, exposed stone walls, creaky wood flooring, low beams, the smell of ale, and the sound of blustering laughter. Every pub in Woodstock is a charming place to visit, have a pint or a glass of wine, some quality English food, and possibly find a bed for the night. When we visited, we perused them all end settled on The Star Inn, one of the options for accommodation near Blenheim Palace. The food (ham, eggs, and chips for Jess and a veggie burger with fries for myself) was excellent, and the ale was very reasonably priced and refreshing after a few Blenheim Palace tours!
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Hotels Near Blenheim Palace
If you’re planning to spend a full day enjoying some Blenheim Palace tours or enjoying any of the numerous exciting Blenheim Palace events, as well as enjoying a stroll through Woodstock UK, then you might want to consider spending a night at one of the Blenheim Palace hotels. Woodstock offers a wealth of accommodation near Blenheim Palace for you to choose from, and here are a few suggestions, all rustic and charming and reasonably priced!
The Star Inn
We’ve already mentioned how much we loved the food and the beers at The Star Inn, but this inn is also one of the most perfectly located hotels near Blenheim Palace. A five minute walk from the palace grounds, and down a quiet street off the main Oxford Road, this is an ideal choice of inn where you can get a great evening meal with a drink (which we can attest to) as well as a room with breakfast included! A fantastic choice of accommodation near Blenheim Palace and a local favourite pub!
Macdonald Bear Hotel
For an ever so slightly more upmarket (but still affordable) option when looking for Blenheim Palace hotels, Macdonald Bear Hotel offers large rooms, a gorgeous and spacious dining hall, a modern décor that retains a bit of rustic charm, and a menu of traditional British foods made with local seasonal ingredients. For around £100 per night, you can’t go wrong with this choice of accommodation near Blenheim Palace.
Going upmarket a little bit more again, one of the fanciest hotels near Blenheim Palace is The Crown. Another rustic and traditional English inn-style hotel that features those cool bathtubs with feet (I love those tubs), The Crown is the perfect place to stay if you want to splash out to around £150 per night. Definitely ideal for couples, this is the most splendid of Blenheim Palace hotels, and given how close it is, it definitely makes for the most ideal accommodation near Blenheim Palace.