Blenheim Palace, England
Blenheim Palace is a privately owned estate (Yes, private! And real people are still living there.) near Oxford, England, that was included in UNESCO World Heritage list in 1987. It was presented to John Churchill, the 1st Duke of Marlborough in recognition of his victory in 1704 over French and Bavarian troops. The current living Duke is the 11th Duke of Marlborough.
If Churchill name sounds familiar, that is because Winston Churchill, Team GB hero in WWII, was the son of the 7th Duke of Marlborough (surprise surprise! well at least for me). Winston Churchill was born and lived there for a big part of his life. I always assumed he was some random guy that climbed up the ladder to become Britain Prime Minister, but nooo, he had blue blood running in his royal vein!
It doesn’t negate anything that he’s ever done of course, but it was just a big revelation that he was descended from a very fine line of ancestry, therefore never had to work for money in his whole life. I could only imagine the things you could do if you don’t have to spend all your time earning wages. Winston Churchill is known, apart from his political activities, for his writing and painting. Not to say that I’d achieve anything that is even close to what he’s achieved, but if I could spend all my time and energy on anything I want, I would love to do some Churchill-inspired activities, writing and painting in my World Heritage home.
Uhum moving on…
Blenheim Palace is about 40 minutes away by bus from Oxford, which is about an hour away by train from London. And that’s the path I was taking. On a hindsight, car would definitely a better option, if you could drive and get a car. Going in wasn’t a problem, but leaving the site was such a PAIN. They closed the main gate after 4:30pm or so and you’d have to go in a freakishly long roundabout way designated for cars to leave the premise. It was a November day and the day was short that it fell dark by 5pm. My companion and I followed a three-generation group of grand, mom, and daughter, walking along very dark road seemingly in the middle of nowhere – the type you find in countryside, for a long long time. It was a very grumpy hour for me.
On a good note, the site was very beautiful in autumn. Apart from the fine palace, the site also consists of a huge garden. In fact we didn’t have time to go through all the gardens. You can buy ticket to either palace+garden, or just the garden. So the garden is a big part of the site and I guess people do come back for more.
My main concern at the time though was the palace, and that’s where we spent the big chunk of our time in. There’s a Churchill exhibition at the beginning of one wing, then you could go with a free guided tour for the rest of the palace rooms. There are lots of paintings of the Marlborough family, and some photos of the modern descendants. Lots of treasures, French furniture, and tapestries. Then on the other wing of the palace you would find sort of like a theme-park rail thing that goes from room to room with mechanical mannequins and stuff, but without the rail. So you walk on foot from room to room to be told the stories of the palace, from the moment it was built, the 1st John Churchill, his wife and descendants, narrated by the wife’s maid ghost. It was a rather nice “ride”.
There are a few restaurants and cafes on the site. We had a very nice lunch of British burger with magical pickle. I was planning to have afternoon tea in the pretty Indian room but apparently you need to book well in advance to go in, since it is such a small room. They didn’t say that on the website, so that was a bit disappointing.
All in all, Blenheim Palace was a nice daily outing from London, and it was great for me to cross off another World Heritage site from my list. A successful venture! If I go back again I’d love to go in the summer to see how it fares under the summer sunlight. The red, orange, yellow melancholy colors of autumn though was simply beautiful.