If you are in the Northwest of London area, you will undoubtedly visit Oxford, home of the “dreaming spires”. And a day spent exploring its lovely gardens and buildings is always delightful. Venture just a bit further west and you can spend a day exploring a truly magnificent palace: Blenheim.
The family seat of the Duke of Marlborough, and the birthplace of Winston Churchill, this enormous palace and its surrounding 2000 acres are full of delights for every Anglophile. The palace was built in the early 1700’s by the first Duke of Marlborough: tours of the staterooms will amaze with furnishings of the highest order and loads of art. An exhibition of Churchill memorabilia will appeal to those interested in his history and formative years. We had a special tour (sign up at admissions) of the basement, which gave interesting insight into the workings of this huge household, including industrial size heaters, refrigerators, coal cellars, and flower storage rooms.
The formals gardens are delightful and perfectly maintained, but my favorite part was exploring the landscape gardens designed by ‘Capability’ Brown: so peaceful and serene strolling through the meadows and trees and along the stream. Blenheim has the most ancient oak trees in England: over 60 are estimated to be over 1,000 years old! They are gnarly and short, and home to their own very particular ecosystem of plants and bugs. They are the remains of a hunting wood planted for King Henry I in about the year 1000. Thankfully, they are now protected and recognized as unique survivors: it is humbling to stand next to these relics and contemplate the history they have seen.
Horse and buggy tours of the gardens are available also, if you need to rest your feet after a full days exploring! Take a break from exploring in one of the excellent on-site cafes. A cup of tea and a cake is always good, or enjoy a full meal at the restaurant.
Get all the details on this delightful palace at www.blenheimpalace.com. and be sure to check for special events: we happened to visit on the jousting tournament day.