This post was written before the LOST GARDEN adventure play opened at Blenheim Palace. I have reviewed the adventure playground separately HERE
I’ve been holding off the review of Blenheim Palace for so long, as I dont know where to begin and where to stop. We visit here regularly as we live close by and have annual passes. This is one place where you can convert your palace ticket to an annual pass for free (basically buy one day, get 12 months free) and then visit as many times as you want (Under 3s are FREE). NHS Staff, Blue Light Card Holders and members of the Armed Forces can enjoy 20% off the cost of entrance to Blenheim Palace and if you get here by train, bus or bike, then you can use the code GREEN30 for discount during online checkout and show your proof of travel by bus, train or bike on arrival. Palace, Park and Gardens tickets purchased with these discounts are still eligible to be converted to an Annual Pass. So it is well worth looking into if you live nearby and plan to visit again and again (like us!)
Home to the 12th Duke of Marlborough and his family and the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, Blenheim Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site boasting a long and diverse history. Blenheim Palace was built as a gift to John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, from Queen Anne and a grateful nation in thanks for his victory at the Battle of Blenheim on 13th August 1704.
Blenheim Palace is stunning to say the least and a fantastic place for adults, families and kids alike. There are huge gardens, lovely play areas with an adventure playground, a giant maze, butterfly house and miniature train to name a few and they offer plenty of FREE and paid seasonal activities throughout the year.
There are a number of ways to start exploring, depending on what you want to do. If you want to visit the palace first, then head straight from the car park in that direction. You will be at awe at the grandeur of the place. Do not forget to visit the tiny bedroom where Sir Winston Churchill was born. The Formal Gardens surround the Palace, and they include the majestic Water Terraces, the Duke’s Private Italian Garden, the tranquil Secret Garden with all of its hidden treasures, the Churchill Memorial Garden and the beautifully delicate Rose Garden.
Now if your kids just want to play, you can head straight to the walled garden! You can either park at the pleasure gardens, in which case, instead of parking in the main car park, keep following the road towards the exit in your car until you reach the walled garden. There are limited spaces over here though, and if you can’t find a space, you will have to exit the palace and enter via the main gates again. A nicer alternative is to Take the Miniature Train from the Palace which runs daily between 10.30 – 15.45 pm. It is charged at £1 each way to ride the train (under 5’s are free). Currently the capacity of the miniature train is limited due to social distancing measures, so you may have to queue. The train ride is not very long but my son loves it as it goes through a small tunnel and often nearby people wave and cheer as you pass them. Another alternative is to skip the palace and walk from the car park to the walled garden, which is in the opposite direction from the palace and takes about 10-15 minutes. You can admire and peep into the numerous hollow Oak trees as you walk the path. Sometimes sheep are also grazing the grass.
As you enter the pleasure gardens, you will see a sundial, small model village and a small pond near the entrance. The Marlborough Maze is on your left. The maze is the world’s second largest hedge maze (true as of 2017, not sure if someone else has built something in the interim, but irrespective, it must still be in top 5 atleast). The maze is two miles in length and made up of hundreds of yew trees in a design inspired by the history of Blenheim Palace. It celebrates the Duke’s victory at the Battle of Blenheim in 1704 over a combined French and Bavarian army during the War of the Spanish Succession, ingeniously incorporating cannonballs, trumpets and flags. It also includes a V sign in honour of Winston Churchill, who was born at the palace. The word ‘Blenheim’ is spelled out in low hedges in the centre.
Now, this maze is not just for the kids. You will see lots of couples, adults and families on it and I can assure you its not easy! My top tip is to not let your little ones do this on their own as they will get lost for sure and so will you when you go to find them, so better stick together. There are viewing platforms in the maze, which you can climb up to try to find your way out. It is a lot of fun though
Watch our video HERE:
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The small playground at the far end of the walled garden with a climbing frame, slide, swings and floor games have now been replaced by the LOST GARDEN ADVENTURE PLAY, which I have reviewed separately HERE. You have to pay extra to get into LOST GARDEN ADVENTURE PLAY, but I will continue to the free bits.
If you followed the wall of the garden behind the maze, away from the entrance of the Lost Garden, you will come to the older (FREE) adventure playground which has a pretty cool and long wooden frame and a sandpit with a toddler frame in it. The major downside, however, is that this area is quite narrow overall, so it can get crowded very easily and there are not many seating places for parents apart from the two benches in the corner with the sandpit.
Watch the video for the adventure playground HERE
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You can give yourself a well deserved treat in The Walled Garden Pizza Café after this, which serves refreshments indoors or on the outdoor terrace. The food is not cheap, so it is better to have your picnic with you which you can enjoy on the picnic benches or just sitting on the grass.
The butterfly house is on the right of the walled garden and is home to butterfly species from all around the world, including Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines as well as several zebra finches. It is hot and humid in there but there are so many beautiful butterflies in there, you wouldn’t want to miss them.
If you want to enjoy the gardens, then there are a number of trails to choose from, depending on how long and short you can manage. The place is HUGE, so make sure you know what you are doing or you will end up walking for ages!
I have uploaded the map of different walks HERE. For your first visit, I will recommend you walk around the palace walls (start from the right), see the water terraces, follow the path to the rose garden, then cross the formal gardens and enter the walled Garden from its back. It can take you about 40-60 minutes depending on how you pace it. If you followed the Great lake all the way to the far end, you will find the great cascades and bridge with a waterfall, which was so lovely, but this is currently closed due to refurbishment, so there is really no point going that far.
If your kid is a Harry Potter fan, they will love to see the tree that was used when Snape was bullied by James Potter. This is near the bridge, area marked no. 22 on the map between the Queen pool and Great Lake. If that’s your aim and this is your first visit, then my tip is to cross the bridge to see the tree but then come back towards the palace again as most things are on the palace side of the lake.
The advertised walks on the map are as follows:
The Formal Gardens: A 1.5-mile walk taking 1 hour suitable for wheelchair and buggy users.
The Lake: A 0.75-mile circular walk taking 35 minutes. Wheelchair and buggy users are recommended to return via the Rose Garden after reaching the Cascade.
The Queen Pool: A 1.5-mile circular walk around the lake taking 45 minutes. A dog-friendly route and suitable for wheelchair and buggy users.
The Park Perimeter: A 4.6-mile walk taking 2 hours with some steep slopes. A dog-friendly route and suitable for wheelchair and buggy users.
Formal Gardens Audio Tour: A 2.2-mile walk taking 1 hour. Follow the numbers and listen to the Audio Guide at app.blenheimpalace
🚘 Free Parking on site, though they charge for their Christmas and Halloween events. They have also started the “Travel the greener way” initiative. If you can get here by train, bus or bike, you can receive 30% discount by using the code GREEN30 for discount during online checkout and show proof of travel on arrival. Visit Good Journey page to learn more.
🚻 Toilets and Baby changing facilities are located at the back of the East Courtyard toilet area, Churchill exhibition toilets in both the men’s and women’s toilets, Walled Garden toilet area, and in Stables café toilet area.. There are no toilets in the gardens, so make use of these before starting your walks.
🍕 Refreshments available- Check out the dining options HERE
🦽Mostly Buggy accessible but some park walks cover uneven terrain- Details HERE
🐕 Only guide dogs and registered assistance dogs are allowed within The Palace but are welcome on the grounds
🚲 Cycling is not permitted by adults or children in the Blenheim Palace courtyard, Walled Garden or Formal Gardens. Children are permitted to ride push-bikes, balance bikes and tricycles in the Park only (but not in any other area) and must be supervised at all times. The use of skateboards, rollerskates and ‘hoverboards’ by adults or children is not permitted anywhere in the Palace grounds or wider Park area.
Blenheim Palace offers a lot of activities throughout the year which we have reviewed separately:
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