A monumental Italianate mansion built in exuberant Baroque style, Blenheim Palace was the brainchild of John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough. He was awarded the estate and the funds to build his colossal new home by Queen Anne, following his victory over the French at the Battle of Blenheim.
Today, Blenheim is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and its history and secrets can be unlocked on a private half-day tour of the palace and its vast grounds. The tour looks into why the construction of the palace was mired in difficulty, why relationships between the family and their architects were fraught, and what financial woes ensued after a royal change of heart midway through the project.
The tour begins at the palace entrance, where you meet your professional guide for a private tour of the palace.
Blenheim has remained in the same family since it was awarded to John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough in 1705 and today the 12th Duke and Duchess and their family still live in one wing of the imposing house.
Over the years Blenheim has had many public faces and was used as hospital for wounded soldiers during World War I and a home for evacuees in World War II.
It has been returned to its former glory however, and remains one of the most notable stately homes in the country and the only non-royal and non-episcopal house to retain the title of palace.
During your visit your tour takes you through the ornately gilded State Rooms, which are decorated with portraits, tapestries and fine furniture. Your guide will highlight interesting aspects of each and elaborate on the stories behind them.
Blenheim was also the ancestral home of Sir Winston Churchill and you also get to visit the room where he was born and can view a small exhibition dedicated to his life. After the State Rooms is the magnificent Long Library, a massive room lined with bookshelves housing over 10,000 books, many of which are of great importance.
Your tour ends after approximately an hour in the private family chapel. You’re then welcome to explore the formal gardens, including the Water Terraces, the intricate Italian Garden and The Churchill Memorial Garden, among others. Alternatively, if time permits, you may wish to take one of the walking trails around the parkland or visit the Pleasure Gardens with its giant hedge maze and butterfly house.
There are several cafés and restaurants on the estate should you wish to have lunch (not included).