After moving into my new flat last year and during the period of unpacking, I decided to take a break and visit Blenheim Palace in a spectacular accomplishment in procrastination. My floor was still full of boxes that I kept tripping over, I still had no bed (where would we be without air mattresses?) or wardrobe for that matter - and yes I was going all wrinkly to work in the mornings, but what the heck, it was high time for another edition of Day Trips from London.
I spent 6 hours (no, that is not a typo) travelling to Blenheim Palace and back. Blenheim Place is the current home of the Marlborough family. As it happened, only a few days before my trip, the 11th Duke of Marlborough passed away, but the house was open as per his wishes.
Blenheim Palace is most famous for being the home and birthplace of Winston Churchill. Walking around the Palace and its gardens, its hard to imagine this being a current home for anyone.
My first reaction on seeing it from the outside was that it reminded me of Versailles (no doubt, if i'd seen Blenheim first, I'd have thought Versailles looked like Blenheim). It is a grand structure built from Oxford sandstone, its russet colours deepening and lightening as the clouds scuttled across the sky. From the forecourt, I saw the first Ai Weiwei installation in the Great Hall - a massive chandler held up by a support beam overhanging the hall.
|Ai Weiwei chandelier in the Great Hall at Blenheim Place|
Inside the Palace
When I first walked in, it was hard no not gaze upwards and take in the height of the Great Hall and the painted ceiling. Ai Weiwei's chandelier installation dominated the space and glowed with light.
I wandered through the Churchill Exhibition, through halls with painted portraits of current and previous members of the Marlborough family, through the room Churchill was born, state rooms and a grand dining room. It was really hard to imagine this Palace as a home. Some of the more modern family portraits did help but it still seemed strange to me.
Ai Weiwei's art installations were sometimes glaringly obvious and some not so much. Modern art is not really my thing so I think the impression was lost on me sadly.
|See the flag? That is the 'rent' paid to the Queen each year.|
The Palace grounds
The grounds are unending. I confess that I only saw a small part of them opting instead to make a beeline for the cafe and indulge in a cup of tea and some yummy scones while looking out at the formal gardens with the fountain tossing and turning in the wind. When I headed back out, the rolling hills, lake and bridge were so picturesque, I couldn't help but stop to capture the scene. Can you see why Churchill was inspired to paint here?
How to get to Blenheim Palace
Blenheim Palace is just outside of Oxford in the small village of Woodstock. Oxford is about an hour and 30 minutes from London Paddington rail station. From Oxford station you can catch the S3 bus which will drop you just outside Blenheim Palace gates. The bus ride can take about 40 minutes depending on traffic. On weekends the bus comes 10 past and 40 past the hour.
If you don't fancy the long trip, driving there will take you about 1.5 hours and there is parking on the grounds of the palace.
|The Long Library - during times of war, this was turned into a recovery room for injured soldiers - just like Downton Abbey.|
A little money-saving tip
Buy your ticket to Blenheim Palace on the bus to get 30% off! And if you fancy visiting Blenheim Palace again, convert your ticket into an annual pass for free return visits. I LOVE it when places do that because 1) it encourages a repeat visit and because of that it 2) allows you to take your time and explore bit by bit instead of rushing around trying to fit everything in.
Whats the most extreme thing you have done to procrastinate?
P.S In case your curious, here are a few other day trip to Windsor Castle, Henley-on-Thames and York.