Ever wondered how the other half live? Take a peek inside lifestyles of the rich and famous with a tour of Blenheim Palace in England’s Cotswolds.
Blenheim Palace, with its intricate staterooms and ambitious architecture, is stuffed full of centuries of family portraits, exquisite tapestries and ornate furniture. Even the ceiling is a feast not-to-be-missed.
The birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill and a World Heritage Site, the imposing 18th-century Baroque architecture of Blenheim is home to the 12th Duke and Duchess of Marlborough. The gardens were designed by Capability Brown.
None of the furnishings looks very comfortable, although some appear to have been well used, there is the sense that beyond the finery this palace has also been home to a family.
However, it doesn’t look like the sort of place where you would slop around in your tracky dacks with a tinnie while you are watching Netflix either.
More about the lifestyles of the rich and famous
- Winston Churchill
- Dining at Blenheim
- Exploring the gardens
- Where to stay
Birthplace of Winston Churchill
Set around the very unassuming room where he was born, the dedicated exhibition to Winston Churchill, brings a touch of realism and humanity to this larger-than-life figure.
Eating at Blenheim
Of course, the food on offer at Blenheim’s six food outlets is fabulously British.
Expect to find Cotswold beef on your burger, Severn smoked salmon with your champagne, handmade Gloucestershire Old Spot scotch eggs and oh-so-light Victoria sponge with a thick layer of strawberry jam and cream in the middle.
Exploring the palace gardens
If only Mother Nature were as clever as Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown and correctly placed serpentine rivers around gentle, rolling green hills bounded by peaceful lakes and avenues of trees, Blenheim Palace would not have needed ‘landscaping’.
Instead, under the deft hand of England’s greatest gardener, ‘Capability’ Brown, Blenheim Palace’s 2000 acres were pushed and primped from 1764 to become a more aesthetically pleasing parkland. He moved hills, made lakes, avenues of trees and cascading waterfalls, improving nature to create the magical green landscape that still delights today.
Blenheim is the sort of place that deserves an extended visit, but if your schedule only allows a couple of hours, you will have enough time to tour the palace and walk through the Water Terraces and Italian Garden. Book ahead, and you can throw in afternoon tea in the Indian Room overlooking the Water Terraces. They serve champagne, ribbon sandwiches and teeny tiny cakes.
With more time available, you can explore the Secret and Rose gardens, and wander down to the Blenheim Dam and Cascade. It’s here that Capability Brown achieved his greatest feat at Blenheim according to the experts, by covering the bottom layer of an oversized bridge over the dammed River Glyme’s lakes. Today the bridge reflections are a most picturesque addition to the landscape.
There’s a miniature train ride that can take you over to the Pleasure Garden, an area designed to delight families. With a giant maze, an adventure playground and a butterfly garden, there is plenty to enjoy here.
Take your walking shoes
Do take your walking shoes for a Blenheim visit as there are several gentle circular walks, about an hour in duration, which will take you over large parts of the estate.
For souvenir hunters, Blenheim has a very well stocked Visitor Centre with everything from wine, jam and locally produced crafts to the memoirs of American railroad heiress Consuelo Vanderbilt who had an unhappy marriage to Charles, 9th Duke of Marlborough in 1898. Consuelo’s dowry is said to have replenished Blenheim’s fortunes.
Royals in Australia
If you want to follow the footsteps of Harry and Meghan on their visit around Australia, take a look at Fraser Island.
Where to stay
You can walk to Blenheim Palace and access many of the garden paths from the town of Woodstock. Stay at The Feathers, which has 16 bedrooms and suites that are the very antithesis of uniformity. Capability Brown would no doubt have arranged it differently, but the convoluted layout and contorted staircases are immensely charming. The rooms are the epitome of English elegance and comfort.
Woodstock and Blenheim Palace are located 60 minutes’ drive from London in Oxfordshire.
For more information visit www.visitbritain.org
Disclaimer: Kerry Heaney travelled with the support of Visit Britain.