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After our day trip to Leeds Castle, I thought that I had found my new summer home. I didn’t think it was possible to be more charmed by an estate and it’s grounds.
I was wrong.
On our way out to Stratford-upon-Avon, we decided to make a stop at Blenheim Palace. Nestled in the rolling green hills of Oxfordshire, Blenheim Palace is a spectacular site to behold. The hours we spent there were peaceful, inspiring and informative. And really made me wish that I could live there!
If this national treasure is not already on your radar, let me tell you 3 reasons why you should visit Blenheim Palace.
Blenheim Palace has a long and rich history. A history that, before coming, I actually learned about through a play.
See, I’m a total theatre lover. So while in London, I made sure to see lots and lots of plays. One of them was the amazing Queen Anne by Helen Edmundson. Queen Anne tells the story of the of the friendship gone wrong between Anne (who became Queen in 1702) and her confidant Sarah Churchill.
Sarah’s actual job? Keeper of the Privy Purse. Which means she was responsible for the Queen’s finances. That’s how much trust there was between these two fascinating women.
One of the play’s subplots goes into the story of how, at the height of their friendship, Anne grants Sarah’s husband the title of Duke (turning them into the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough). In order to help them live the lifestyle befitting of that social class, she also bequeaths them a plot of land that is considered to be the prettiest spot in England. That land, and the “house” they built upon it, is Blenheim Palace.
The house, which really is a palace, is stunning. Large and spacious, it commands a sense of respect and awe.
We had a private tour lined up and our tour guide was tickled pink that we knew about Lady Sarah (as most people know Blenheim because it was the birthplace of her great-great-nephew Sir Winston Churchill). It was amazing walking through the rooms and hearing all the stories (and all the money!) that was spent building a home that would befit the woman who sat at the right hand of the Queen. Until their major falling out that is. Seriously. You should read the play.
Since most people haven’t just seen (or read) a play about Lady Sarah, there is also an exhibit in the house dedicated to the life of Winston Churchill, which gives a fascinating look at the man who would be so instrumental in England’s history. While I did enjoy walking through that exhibit, I was personally more interested in all the information about Lady Sarah.
Blenheim is not just a gorgeous house. I can totally understand why Anne thought it was the prettiest spot in England. Set above the banks of the River Avon, the grounds are extensive.
If there is one thing that the British upper class do well, it is their gardens. And Blenheim has several, all created in different styles. There wasn’t enough time to go through each one, but the ones that we saw were perfectly manicured.
The view of the Avon was so pretty. I could just see Sarah taking a turn in the garden before supper or entertaining her guests with a garden party. I know that I personally would have spent a lot of time in them.
The Secret Garden
Of course, it’s not just the gardens near the house. The grounds of Blenheim are extensive, and there is a charming “secret” garden located on the far end of the estate. For about the cost of a quarter, you can take this delightful little train across the expansive fields to this hidden jewel.
The first stop at the secret garden was the butterfly house. This structure houses a wide variety of butterflies that are allowed to fly freely within the space. Which means you have the chance to walk amongst them. If you’re lucky, one will even land on you! Just be careful to make sure that they are all off before you exit so they don’t have the chance to escape.
The second stop was the garden maze. Now, I’m a sucker for a good garden maze. I love wandering through and getting lost. This maze is quite large, and the sign tells you to plan for at least 20-25 minutes to find your way through. Which was accurate.
The only problem with Blenheim is that we didn’t schedule ourselves enough time! Had we known all the delights that were there, I would have made sure that we had a good portion of the day to explore it. With only about 2 hours, I definitely felt rushed. But, luckily, when you buy entrance to the park you actually receive admission for a full year. So I just have to find a way to get back there before my year is up!
Beyond My Three Reasons
If those three reasons aren’t enough for you, there is more to take into consideration. Blenheim Palace is a World Heritage Site, so while they go to great lengths to preserve the original history of the place, they also like to have some fun. We were at Blenheim on a normal day, but there are all sorts of events that happen throughout the year. Activities range from car shows, to open air movies, to garden parties, to theatrical productions, and more. If you want to plan your visit around an event, you can check out their calendar of activities.
And just one more thing. The food. Now, I am not usually one to say anything about the food in a historical site cafeteria. But the cafe they have on site is spot on. I had the most amazing mac and cheese. Yum.
Blenheim is a little bit off the beaten path, but it’s definitely worth your time. It’s somewhere I can see myself returning to whenever I am in England.
What interests you the most about Blenheim Palace?
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Another great pin for my travel map!