If you are near Oxford it is well worth heading to the market town of Woodstock to visit Blenheim Palace. The Palace sits in 2000 acres of grounds containing several Sites of Special Scientific Interest, and the whole site became a World Heritage Site in 1987. Even if you’ve never seen Blenheim Palace, you may recognise parts of the building and grounds because it is often used in films and television shows including Transformers: The Last Knight, SPECTRE (James Bond), Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Cinderella and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
We were recently invited* to visited Blenheim Palace so we can share what it is like for a family day out.
Woodstock is in the north of Oxfordshire and is easy to access from the A34, which connects M4 and M40. For most of the route, the drive is along dual carriageways, but remember you are approaching a small town so the roads get smaller the closer you get. I have heard on popular days there can be traffic jams so make sure you add time to your journey. The day we visited there was a vintage car display so there were more cars than I’ve seen previously, but we only had to queue once we were on the Palace grounds.
It is also meant to be easy to travel by public transport with buses leaving from Oxford train station.
Family things to do
Blenheim Palace has done a good job of creating different activities for different groups of people so I think there will be something to appeal to most families whatever the children’s age. Younger children will enjoy the Pleasure Gardens while older children may enjoy the tour of the Palace which includes talking mannequins to tell its history, trails you can download including one focused on the TV and film locations. And of course, don’t forget the space – there is loads of it.
I wanted to see more of the grounds on this visit so we walked out to the Grand Cascades, passing the Churchill Memorable Garden and Rose Garden. On our way back we took the train to the Pleasure Gardens (additional cost each way) where we visited the Butterfly House, adventure playground and Marlborough Maze, which my children love.
There are regular events at Blenheim Palace so it is worth looking at their calendar to plan your visit to coincide, or avoid events. Unfortunately, my children are away for most of the summer events but one that particularly catches my eye is the Christmas at Blenheim festive trail of lights – I think I may enjoy that more than the children!
Places to eat
This time we brought a picnic and ate it watching the train. There are picnic areas, but I didn’t want to carry the lunch far, so picked an open area fairly near the car park and helped build up the anticipation as we didn’t go on the train until near the end of our visit.
On previous visits, we’ve eaten in some of the cafe and restaurants. They have recently refurbished the cafe in the Pleasure Gardens so it is now the Pizza Cafe, and if I’d known that I may not have taken the pack lunch as I love pizza. The Water Terrace Cafe is a good choice for sandwiches and hot meals, however my favourite is the Oxfordshire Pantry because it is a great interlude offering ice cream for the children and cake for me.
There are two types of tickets; access to the Park and Gardens, or access into the Palace, Park & Gardens. Family Tickets are available for 2 adults and 2 children (£41.00 for Park & Garden, £59.90 for Palace, Park & Gardens July 2017), and children under 5 go free. If you get a Palace, Park & Garden ticket and donate your entry fee to the Blenheim Palace Heritage Foundation Charity you can convert your 1 day ticket into a 12 month ticket for no extra charge.
Things to note
I highly recommend visiting Blenheim Palace and I will make more effort to return there more often.
However, there are a few things you may find useful to know when you’re planning your visit.
- It is not possible to walk around the whole of the park which may increase the distance you walk; for example you can’t walk from the Cascades to the Pleasure Gardens without going through the Palace courtyard
- There are no toilets in the park, so make sure you use the ones in the Palace and Pleasure Gardens
- There is not a lot of shade in the Pleasure Garden, particularly the Adventure Playground
- The Pleasure Gardens are a popular location for families so the cafe and picnic area can get busy
- There are just two shops, one in the Pleasure Gardens and on in the Palace (where I’ve bought some of my favourite Christmas baubles in the past).
*Disclosure – we were given free entry into Blenheim Gardens for the sake of this review, but all views are my own
More information on Blenheim Palace can be found at their website: www.blenheimpalace.com