Blenheim Palace is renowned as being one of the most majestic of Britain’s historic homes and somewhere that we have always wanted to visit when in the Cotswolds to see what it offered to families.
This 18th century home to the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough is such as special national treasure that it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987 and was where wartime prime minister Winston Churchill was born.
Blenheim Palace might not be top of many parents to-do lists when visiting the Cotswolds, but it should be – there is plenty here at Blenheim Palace to keep children and parents occupied for hours.
When we arrived we couldn’t believe just how enormous the estate is, spread across 2,000 plus acres of the Oxfordshire countryside.
Parking is free and plentiful so if you are arriving by car, like we did – parking is not a problem even on a busy and warm sunny weekend. Located in Woodstock, Oxfordshire it’s just a 25 minute drive away from the city of Oxford and was less than an hour to our hotel in Chipping Camden, Cotswold House and Spa (read our review of our stay here).
We spent over six hours at Blenheim and managed to cover most of its highlights. Here are some of our favourites that kids will love.
Visit the Palace
On arrival we headed straight for the palace for a self-guided tour of its impressive state rooms. The wow factor started in the courtyard on the approach to the palace where a gigantic walkway made up of Union Jacks led us to the doors of the palace.
As you enter the palace, pick up the free audio tour which was interesting and engaging for the girls as it made sure we stopped to take in the detail and history of each room that we visited in the palace, giving us a fascinating insight into the world of the British upper class.
Starting at the magnificent Great Hall, the tour takes you around the impressive state rooms, with their priceless collections of portraits, tapestries and furniture, before the tour ends at the very informative exhibition on Winston Churchill.
Kids might notice an item of clothing resembling a onesie which was Churchill’s ‘siren suit’ designed by Churchill for use in the second World War, which I felt brought a good balance and history as the kids could relate well to this.
What made the visit to the Palace even more fun and engaging was the bizarre art exhibits that we came across in many of the state rooms. We later learned that this was an exhibition by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, known to some as the “prankster” of the art world.
Enjoy the Formal Gardens
After the palace, we headed out to the beautiful Formal Gardens with its water terraces, rose garden and Churchill Memorial Garden which complement the palace perfectly.
There is a lot to see and explore here but one of our favourites was checking out the giant Disney character Pinocchio face-down in a fountain another one of Maurizio Cattelan pieces of controversial artworks. The Water Terrace Café is a great place to stop and relax with a hot drink and cake overlooking the beautiful water terraces.
Explore the 2,000 acres of Parkland
Even on a busy day, the grounds at Blenheim are so vast that you can always find a quiet area with acres of green grass to run around, have fun and explore. We saw lots of families with kids on scooters that are allowed in the gardens (not the palace) so it’s really family friendly and the perfect place to let off steam after the palace.
The beautiful gardens of Blenheim Palace were designed by Capability Brown and are spectacular, with inspiring views, monuments and wildlife. For Disney fans the gardens might look familiar as some scenes from the Cinderella movie were filmed here, such as the Palladian style Grand Bridge just below the Palace.
Visit the Harry Potter Tree
When you are exploring the gardens use the free map to find the magnificent ‘Harry Potter Tree’, a 300 year old 55ft tall Cedar tree which sits by the lake and was in the fifth Harry Potter movie “Order of Phoenix’ .
Take a Buggy Tour
One fun way to see these vast gardens is to take a Winston Churchill Buggy Tour £4.00 an Adult, £3.00 Concession and Child and run 3 times a day, and can be booked at the visitor information centre.
Family Pleasure Gardens
I would recommend visiting the Palace with kids first, because once they visit the Family Pleasure Gardens, they won’t want to leave – this is where we spent the majority of our day. Chloe and Holly loved it here.
Take a ride on the miniature train
The best and most fun way to get from the palace to the Pleasure Gardens for kids is to take a ride on the miniature train (50p per person, under 5s free) Not only will the train save you 10-15 minutes walk, it’s a great way to rest tired legs after walking around the palace and its formal gardens.
Have lunch at the Pizza Cafe
The grounds of the palace are perfect for a picnic (which we didn’t pack) but luckily there are some great places to stop for lunch here.
At the Family Pleasure Gardens is a really nice cafe called the Pizza Café, that I would highly recommend for lunch.
We had delicious freshly made sourdough pizzas from the pizza oven and is reasonably priced – if you are visiting Blenheim Palace with kids this is the best place for lunch.
Conquer the Marlborough Maze
After lunch we all loved the Marlborough Maze, the second largest maze of its type in the world. This is one challenging maze with two miles of tapered yew hedges to explore, so expect a few wrong turns as you try and complete it.
When you get to near the middle of the maze the viewing platform not only provides great views of the magnificent maze but also gives an insight of how to complete it – expect to spend at least 20 minutes trying to conquer the maze – if you are lucky!
Have fun at the Adventure Playground
There are two playgrounds to enjoy, a small play area with swings and monkey bars along with an area for younger kids and the adventure playground located in the walled garden next to the maze, which has slides, rope bridges, climbing frames and swings.
After the adventure playground, we checked out the miniature village of nearby Woodstock high street, used our body to tell the time on the sundial before playing giant chess and challenging ourselves to the maze mat puzzles.
Next to the Blenheim Bygones exhibition we found a lovely little toy shop, stocked with unique products which was a big hit with the kids.
The butterfly house is full of tropical flowers and if your children are like ours, they will have fun spotting and photographing the variety of butterflies from across the globe that fly around you.
Tickets, discounts and how to get a free annual pass
A family ticket for 2 adults and 2 children is not cheap at £67.00, but this allows you into the palace, gardens and the park. Better still you can convert your ticket to an annual pass at no extra cost when you choose to donate the cost of your entry to the Blenheim Palace Heritage Foundation Charity, so it’s actually really good value. You can redeem your ticket for an annual pass when you arrive.