Blenheim Palace: The Only Non-Royal Palace in Britain
Blenheim Palace is the only non-royal and non-clergical house in England to be designated a palace. Since 1722, Blenheim has been the home of the Dukes of Marlborough. The palace was a reward from Queen Anne to the first Duke of Marlborough, John Churchill, who led British and allied forces to victory in the 1704 Battle of Blenheim during the War of the Spanish Succession. The palace is also the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, whose paternal grandfather was the 5th Duke of Marlborough. Designed in the English Baroque style, Blenheim is still the home of the 12th Duke and his family, although the magnificent state apartments and expansive gardens are open to tourists.
Blenheim Palace’s formal gardens and over 2,000 acres of parkland were transformed by noted landscape designer Lancelot “Capability” Brown from 1764-1774 into the masterpieces that they are today. The landscapes look completely natural, but they were completely engineered by Brown, including the gigantic Great Lake and Grand Cascades waterfall. Other than the elaborate interiors of the palace, my favorite part was the grand formal gardens, especially the water terrace shown in the photograph. Other highlights of the grounds include the Marlborough Maze, Victorian Rose Garden, Temple to Health in the Secret Garden, and the Butterfly House. You can spend an entire day at Blenheim Palace and its expansive, beautiful grounds.
Getting to Blenheim Palace
The palace is located outside the town of Woodstock in Oxfordshire, only 20 minutes from the city of Oxford. Blenheim can get very crowded with tour groups, so buy your tickets online and arrive when they open. Take the earliest tour of the inside of the palace, and then explore the gardens and grounds after. If you don’t have a car, take the S3 bus from Oxford Train Station right to the gates of Blenheim, like I did. Click on the map below for directions.
After your visit to Blenheim, consider a day in Oxford. Here’s my guide to the medieval city.