A UNESCO World Heritage site and the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, the magnificent Bleinheim Palace is a national treasure situated just a few miles from Oxford.
The Palace was originally built as a gift for the 1st Duke of Marlborough after he led his troops to victory at the Battle of Bleinheim in 1704. The palace buildings are situated in over 2,000 of beautifully landscaped gardens but don’t be fooled into thinking it is just a stately home and gardens – Bleinheim Palace is much more than that and offers a variety of things to do to fill all or just a part of your day.
What to see and do: Park and Gardens
If your family thrives on being outside, start with the Park and Formal Gardens. Beautifully presented and cared for, the Formal Gardens comprise the Water Terraces, the Italian Garden, the Secret Garden and the Rose Garden; granted, these might not be of great interest to all children but they are a fine example of how colourful the English countryside can be. The Formal Gardens also form part of the larger landscaped gardens, with a lake, trees and rolling gentle hills.
Catch the diesel locomotive-hauled narrow-gauge train to the Pleasure Gardens, where you will find the world’s second largest hedge maze, complete with two vantage points from which you can spot family members as they strive to find the centre of the maze, marked with bushes spelling out the word ‘Bleinheim’. Family members of all ages love the maze – it is always hugely popular but given its size it doesn’t feel busy. Other family fun includes a miniature putting green, giant chess and an adventure play area.
If the ‘Marlborough Maze’ doesn’t capture the imagination, the Butterfly House certainly will as it affords tropical butterflies the chance to fly freely as well as breed. It’s a fascinating sanctuary and the colours and sizes of these remarkable creatures can be seen up close.
A nice touch to keep your children interested is a selection of trails that can be printed at home in advance of your visit, all of encourage seeing many of the highlights at Bleinheim Palace – choose from Geography, Maths (aimed at Key Stage 2), Secret Garden or Tree Trails.
What to see and do: The Palace Buildings
Stand in the courtyard and take in the inspiring architecture before you enter the Great Hall, with its artwork on the ceiling and beautifully carved stonemasonry. Building the Palace began over 300 years ago and you cannot fail to be struck by the imposing nature of both the interior and exterior of Bleinheim Palace. There are so many different rooms containing portraits, tapestries and porcelain it is difficult to know where to begin – there are guided tours to help you choose if you wish.
We recommend the Green Writing Room, where the Bleinheim Tapestry hangs depicting the Battle of Bleinheim that ultimately led to the creation of the Palace. We also wouldn’t miss the State Rooms and the West Wing, or the ‘Long Library’ with its portraits and magnificent Willis organ.
What to see and do: The Churchill Exhibition
Housed in part of the palace near where he was born, but included in the lower cost Park and Gardens only admission ticket, the Churchill Exhibition tells the story of Sir Winston Churchill. Ironically, Bleinheim Palace was never actually his own home for more than a few years when he was temporarily its heir. The exhibition charts Churchill’s life, complete with examples of his letter-writing skills, his paintings and his speeches as a politician.
Events at Bleinheim Palace
Our most recent visit to Bleinheim Palce was over the Easter weekend, with the ubiquitous Easter Egg hunt laid on for families. Clues were presented and the answers could all be found outdoors, with a chocolate gift awaiting at the end of it. Again, a great way to encourage even the least interested children to enjoy the gardens!
Bleinheim also plays host to a Jousting tournament, Battle Re-enactments, equestrian events and Kid’s Activity Camps during school holidays.
How to get to Bleinheim Palace
Bleinheim Palace is located about 8 miles north-west of the beautiful university city of Oxford, just off the A44. Car parking is plentiful, but bear in mind in wet weather or the autumn / winter seasons that is can get quite muddy or slippery.
For more information, visit the Bleinheim Palace website.