Plan a Visit to Blenheim Palace

North front of Blenheim Palace. Courtesy of The Blenheim Estate

Winston Churchill's birthplace was Blenheim Palace by happy accident. That's just one of many reasons to plan a day at this amazing place.

Blenheim is more than another one of England's stately homes. The home of the Dukes of Marlborough, an easy day trip from London, is:

  • a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • a stunning example of 18th century English Baroque style
  • a memorial to a great British hero and the birthplace of Winston Churchill
  • One of the finest examples of the work of 18th century landscape architect Launcelot "Capability" Brown.
  • a wonderful backdrop for family activities, virtually year round.
New since 2016, tour the upstairs and downstairs life of Blenheim Palace with new areas opened for guided tours for the first time. And visit the private apartments, where the Duke of Marlborough and his family live. Find out more about the new guided tours on the Blenheim Palace website. 

A Home of British Heroes

John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough, led British troops to victory against the combined might of the French and Bavarians at the Battle of Blenheim in 1704.

Grateful Queen Anne rewarded him with estates at Woodstock in Oxfordshire and £240,000 to build a house. Sarah, his ambitious wife, brought in the finest craftsmen (and spent another £60,000) to create a monument to her husband's heroism and to the glory of the Queen.

Many generations later, one of the 20th century's greatest figures, war time Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, was born at Blenheim. It happened by chance. His mother, a granddaughter of the 7th Duke of Marlborough, was visiting family when little Winston decided to make his debut, a few weeks earlier than expected.

Trouble With the Builders

The designers and builders of Blenheim Palace were among the finest and most famous of the 18th century. Architect John Vanbrugh, a Renaissance man who was also a playwright, assisted by Nicholas Hawksmoor, architect of many of East London's most important 18th century churches began the building. Carver Grinling Gibbons did much of the decoration and painter James Thornhill adorned the ceilings.

But Sarah, the Duchess, balked at their prices and fell out with most of the builders.Vanbrugh left in 1716 and was never allowed on the estate again. Thornhill never painted the ceilings of the long library. I guess having the builders in hasn't changed very much.

See Pictures of Blenheim Palace:

Things to Do at Blenheim Palace:

The palace is a family attraction with more than enough to see and do for a very full day trip.

  • guided tours of the state rooms of the palace,
  • regularly scheduled special interest tours
  • self-guided tour of Blenheim Palace: the Untold Story, a new "visitor experience" featuring animated figures and sound effects
  • The pemanent Churchill Exhibition, including the room of Churchill's birth and, charmingly, some of his baby curls.
  • Several formal gardens including the Italian Garden, the Water Terraces, and, in season, a stunnng rose garden.
  • The Pleasure Gardens, reached from it's own small parking lot or, between April and October via the estate's own narrow gauge railway. The attractions include a maze, a children's adventure playground and a butterfly house.
  • special events of all kinds scheduled throughout the year.

Blenheim Park and Grounds

The 2,000 acres of Capability Brown parkland is some of the most beautiful landscaped parkland in Britain. It includes views of Vanbrugh's Grand Bridge and the lakes Brown created. The grounds can be visited on a cheaper ticket without visiting the palace.

Blenheim Palace Essentials

  • What: Home of the Dukes of Marlborough, birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill and a masterpiece of English Baroque
  • Where: Woodstock, Oxfordshire OX20 1PP
  • Telephone: +44 (0)1993 811091. In the UK - 24-hour, recorded information line 0800 849 6500. Fishing information +44 (0)1993 810520
  • Open: From mid February to mid December. The house and gardens are open daily, between 10:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. to the end of October and from Wednesday to Sunday to mid December
  • Admission: Child, adult, family and senior tickets upgradable to season passes.
  • Visit their website for more about tickets, hours and events.
  • Getting There
    • By car: About 65 miles northwest of central London, via the M40, A40 and A44.
    • By train or coach: There is excellent rail and coach service to Oxford, less than 10 minutes away by local bus. Get directions from London by rail or coach to Oxford or use National Rail Enquiries to plan a rail journey from elsewhere. The local S3 bus runs frequent trips from Oxford Rail Station and Gloucester Green Coach Station in central Oxford, reaching Blenheim in less than 10 minutes.