What to expect on a trip to Blenheim Palace near Oxford
Neil Simpson takes a sightseeing day trip from London to Blenheim Palace – find out what he thought and how to get there yourself.
I have wanted to visit Blenheim Palace for a long time: if you’re looking for a sweeping, Downton Abbey-style English country estate to visit, this eighteenth-century World Heritage Site is the place to go. The seat of the Marlborough dukedom, Blenheim Palace is near Oxford and just beside the town of Woodstock.
I travelled there using the Oxford Tube, a comfortable coach service that runs daily return services from London Victoria to Oxford. London to Oxford takes about two hours, after which I caught a bus directly to Blenheim Palace, which takes approximately 40 minutes (ask the driver to tell you when to get off). There’s quite a lot to see so, to make the most of the journey while avoiding getting back to London too late at night, I’d recommend setting off as early in the day as you can. That way, you might even have a little bit of time to explore Oxford on your way back, too.
You might know that Donald Trump was hosted here by Theresa May during his first official visit to the UK as US President. When I stepped into the gravelled entry courtyard and fully beheld Blenheim Palace in front of me, I understood why: it’s a seriously impressive sight and much prettier than Buckingham Palace (all opinions my own!). As you approach the long entry staircase, the estate’s pretty lake and verdant park unfolds towards the horizon behind you. The setting is beautiful, all of it carefully planned out by Lancelot Brown (better known as ‘Capability’ Brown), who was a visionary eighteenth-century landscape architect from Northumberland.
Inside, the palace is as preserved, grand and old-fashioned as you might hope. You have the chance to see room after room of treasured artefacts, including the bed that Winston Churchill was born in and a wonderfully detailed and imposing statue of Queen Anne (the monarch upon whom the 2018 film The Favourite is based).
Another reason to arrive as early as you can from London is to be able to enjoy Blenheim Park at a leisurely pace. You’ll discover a beautiful variety of carefully planted trees, gardens, a babbling waterfall and stunning views over the lake and beyond.
The main pupose of my trip to Blenheim Palace this summer was to watch a show at Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre. A similar structure to Shakespeare’s Globe in London, this Elizabethan-style, open-air theatre has popped up on the lawn alongside Blenheim Palace for a limited time only. I watched a thoroughly entertaining version of Romeo & Juliet, but there’s also Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream or Richard III to choose from. It looks spectacular in this setting, especially because it includes an ‘Elizabethan village’ outside, where you can get a drink or a bite to eat from Oxford Fine Dining.
Every day there’s a matinee (2pm) and an evening performance (7.30pm), until Sat 7 Sep. So, if you’re visiting London this week, now’s a good time for a day trip and a classic show in a truly unique setting.
Daily 10.30am-5.30pm, park daily 9am-6pm, formal gardens daily 10am-6pm.
Palace, Park & Gardens adult £27; child £16. Park & Gardens adult £17; child £7.60. Free entry for under-fives.
Woodstock, Oxfordshire, OX20 1PP | 01993 810 530
Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre – to 7 Sep 2019
Tickets £15-£70 Combined ticket packages with Blenheim Palace entry and/or dinner in The Orangery available
Time and prices correct at time of publishing
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