On Banbury's doorstep - the historic visitor attraction with events and activities for all ages

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Blenheim Palace – a world heritage site on Banbury's doorstep - is gearing up for a busy summer with events and activities for all ages.

The estate is the seat of the Dukes of Marlborough and is the only non-Royal property to be called a ‘palace’. It was built on gifts of land and with money bestowed on John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough by Queen Anne for his part in winning the 1704 Battle of Blenheim.

A tour through the extraordinary rooms of the palace is a fascinating experience. Visitors may accompany a guide who will share the family stories and explain the provenance of antiquities and paintings, or use a headset guide, available in a selection of languages. You may also take a virtual tour on the website.

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The Churchill – later Spencer-Churchill – history and the succession to the Dukedom is a complex and fascinating story. From room to room – even the cloakroom in which Winston Churchill was unexpectedly born while his parents attended a society ball – there is wonderful detail in the description of the generations.

Blenheim Palace, a world heritage site along with East Africa’s Serengeti, the Pyramids of Egypt and the Great Barrier Reef in AustraliaBlenheim Palace, a world heritage site along with East Africa’s Serengeti, the Pyramids of Egypt and the Great Barrier Reef in Australia
Blenheim Palace, a world heritage site along with East Africa’s Serengeti, the Pyramids of Egypt and the Great Barrier Reef in Australia

The stories would have provided acres of newsprint today. At one point in history, the estate was near-bankrupt and its deterioration was halted only by the enforced marriage of a teenage American rail heiress, Consuelo Vanderbilt, to the 9th Duke of Marlborough (they ended up divorcing).

The present incumbent is Charles James (Jamie) Spencer-Churchill, 12th Duke of Marlborough.

Other fascinating titbits, among many, include how a boarding school was moved into the palace during the Second World War. Cricket matches in the huge library resulted in damage to a priceless statue of Queen Anne. And one pupil stole three small pipes from the enormous organ in the same hall. His widow returned them to Blenheim when they were found in the loft after that boy’s (her husband’s) death.

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Many who have seen the Palace like to return to Blenheim to spend time in the beautiful Capability Brown landscape or to enjoy some of the regular events.

Garments by John Galliano - among many styles by fashion icons includine Jean Muir, Stella McCartney and Vivienne WestwoodGarments by John Galliano - among many styles by fashion icons includine Jean Muir, Stella McCartney and Vivienne Westwood
Garments by John Galliano - among many styles by fashion icons includine Jean Muir, Stella McCartney and Vivienne Westwood

All sorts of activities go on at Blenheim throughout the year, from the Blenheim Palace Food Festival taking place from this Saturday - Monday, the Flower Show from Friday – Sunday, June 21 – 23 and Game Show (July 26 – 28) to sporting events such as the Blenheim Palace Triathlon (Sat-Sun, June 1-2) and the Blenheim Horse Trials (September 19 – 22). There is always a seasonal event in the offing – the Christmas at Blenheim is very popular.

Children are provided for too. Blenheim has its own Adventure Play area – an amazing network of tunnels, bridges, cargo nets and hidden chambers.

The palace’s rooms are currently the focus of a major exhibition, Icons of British Fashion. Garments made by some of the most famous British designers are displayed in the magnificent setting of Blenheim’s rooms. The exhibits include work by Vivienne Westwood, Jean Muir, John Galliano, Zandra Rhodes and Stella McCartney.

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A day in exploring Blenheim and its outstanding grounds builds up an appetite and visitors can take refreshments at a number of eateries including the recently refurbished Orangery – where afternoon tea is a special treat – as well as the Oxfordshire Pantry. There are also the Stables Cafe, the Walled Garden Pizzeria and The Snack Shack.

To plan your day, or your year of outings to Blenheim for events, the website offers a superb guide to this outstanding visitor attraction within a stones’ throw of home.

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