When I have a flexi day off I always try and visit somewhere I want to go to that N would say no to. This time I decided to make use of my Blenheim Palace annual pass and check out the new Baroque and Battlefields exhibition.
The night before I was researching what to see that was new, and decided to do one of the tours. These cost extra – £5 for the ‘upstairs’ private apartments, and the same for the ‘downstairs’ servants quarters. I wasn’t sure I’d have time to do both and be back for the school run, so decided to book the upstairs tour.
It was lucky I chose a lunchtime tour slot because my morning was delayed thanks to a food delivery arriving at the end of the hour slot instead of the usual ahead of, or dead on time I usually get. Then the lane to pick up my prescription was blocked due to a sand/gravel delivery. So I didn’t arrive at Blenheim Palace until 11, and was right near the end of the car park.
The good thing about Blenheim is that the car park may seem busy, but because there’s such large grounds you can walk around, it still didn’t feel very busy.
I had about 40 minutes before I needed to be at the tour entrance, so decided to walk around the formal gardens first, and see what else I could fit in beforehand.
Walking through the palace courtyard was a treat in store. Thanks to an event (presumably a wedding) the next day, the front entrance of the palace was being decorated with stunning flower displays. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. It was definitely a treat to see.
I stopped on the walk past the stables to see the Blenheim Fire Engine and find out more about it. I’ve seen the stables exhibition on my last daytime visit, and it’s worth seeing if you’re there for the day.
The formal gardens are split into different areas, although I stuck with the water terraced which had the fountains going and over look the lake with the palace behind. It was nice and quiet so there were some great photo opportunities.
Going in the back door by the toilets meant I was at the start of the Churchill exhibition. He was born at Blenheim, and while I’ve seen Churchill displays at Bleheim before, this one was more comprehensive and impressive. With audio, video and actual historical pieces, it was a really interesting view into the man, his life and marriage, and his work.
I didn’t know he was a painter (evidently he painted over 500 pictures), and he was a prolific writer too. I even got to meet him in front of the palace!
‘Upstairs’ tour at Blenheim
The tour was really interesting. As it was in the private apartments you can’t take photos. The current Duke of Marlborough (no. 12) and his family live there, so it’s strange to see all the beautiful old beds, furniture, tapestries and artwork alongside their modern family photos, tvs, and family things around. It must be strange for them to know people wander around their house.
We heard about how the servants travelled around, saw the bolt on bathrooms that were built to persuade one of the previous duke’s intended to marry him. And heard about the shenanigans along the ajoined rooms in the bachelor’s wing, where there was no corridor.
The guides who took us round were very good, and with only 10 of us in the tour we could ask questions and really see everything there was. It was a whistle stop tour, but I definitely want to come back again to do the downstairs tour.
Palace and State Rooms
After the tour I had time to go into the palace. I’ve been round many times before although it always looks strange without all the Christmas decorations. There’s a baroque and battlefields exhibition on through the rooms, so it was interesting to find out more about the era and about the different noble titles that have always been a mystery to me.
The best part of the displays was the new exhibition showing costumes from the film The Favourite. These were beautiful costumes, with some information about their creation. The ‘Brian May’ style wigs did make me laugh though.
The dining room was set up for a spring feas with roast swan, and beautiful floral displays which must have been hard to converse around. Being invited to dine at Blenheim amongst the stunning art and decor must have been some sight.
I emerged to a beautiful day, a quick bite to eat before heading back home.
It was a really nice few hours. Hopefully next time I’ll get a bit more time to walk the grounds as well, as I did miss a decent walk around.
Find more Oxfordshire days out ideas, or further afield in the UK
Have you been to any of the exhibitions at Blenheim Palace?
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What a great visit you had and what a treat to see the entrance looking so pretty. The grounds really are pretty.
I had no idea that Churchill was a painter either. How interesting. The tour upstairs sounds fascinating too. x