Churchill, mazes and history – visiting Blenheim Palace with children, Oxfordshire

Blenheim Palace with children - copyright: www.globalmousetravels.com

Stepping into the home of the current Duke of Malborough is a rather unique experience. We have visited many country homes and historic houses across England but Blenheim Palace, with its connection to the Churchill family and the thread running from the 18th century to the present day makes this house and home feel special in a different way.

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Entering the palace through the courtyards and the expansive Great Court you really get a sense of the grandeur of the building. My children were open-mouthed at the size of the home, with its huge doors and grand pillars at the entrance.

Inside you will find a mix of self guided and guided tours, some of which are included in the admission ticket price. We started our visit by walking through the stunning state rooms, many of which were laid out as the families of the home would have used them.

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The huge and impressive rooms are filled with endless portraits, furniture and tapestries – our children really enjoyed this part of the visit, particularly as there was so much to see and spot as we walked through the property.

Blenheim mixes the modern and historic in a really effective way, telling the stories of its beginnings and the recent families who have lived in the home over the centuries with tradition and technology mixed throughout the property so that young and old can really engage in the visit.

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By far one of the most powerful parts of our visit was exploring the story of how Sir Winston Churchill came to be raised at Blenheim and his life at the palace. Featuring many of the stories, images and items which were key to his early years, the short exhibition dotted across a number of rooms was really fascinating and culminates in a visit to the room where he was born in 1874 in, complete with a small glass case containing ringlets of his hair!

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Heading upstairs we joined the small groups taking ‘The Untold Story’ tour. This 45 minute experience – a walk through many of the rooms uses interactive exhibits complete with videos, sounds and short pre-recorded pieces by actors to take you through 300 years of the palace, with Blenheim’s first maid Grace Ridley acting as your guide. We thought this would be really interesting for the children, but it actually felt a little clunky and slow-paced in places and was one of our least favourite parts of our visit.

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There are many other tours to take at Blenheim including the new ‘Upstairs’ and ‘Downstairs’ tours which showcase the Palace’s bedrooms upstairs and the areas used by household staff to keep the home running throughout the years.

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The work of the celebrated 18th Century landscape architect Capability Brown, his creation of the Great Lake and his designs of the gardens at Blenheim Palace are also part of the exhibitions, and you can also take a formal gardens tour if you’re keen to learn more about the history of the sprawling grounds. There are many walks you can take around the gardens which are filled with follies and lovely spots to let your children run and enjoy the river and woodland.

At the far end of the gardens, reached by a lovely miniature train ride, or a short walk if you’re feeling energetic are the Pleasure Gardens which is home to a Butterfly House and Lavender Garden as well as an adventure playground. But by far the most popular part of the gardens with my children was the huge Marlborough hedge maze which is one of the largest in the world, made up of three thousand yews!

 

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It was the perfect way to end our visit to Blenheim into which we packed so much, but we left knowing there was so much more to see and do, so I know we will be back soon to explore even more of this wonderful home and celebrated palace.

You can find out more about Blenheim Palace here.

We were guests of Blenheim Palace for the purposes of this visit, but our views are our own.

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