I have to be honest, before my son was born I’d only been to Blenheim Palace once, although I’ve lived within 30 miles of it for the best part of 25 years. I’d been missing a trick and now it’s a venue I recommend to anyone looking for a family friendly destination in Oxfordshire.
Blenheim Palace is so much more than a Stately Home and it became a regular haunt for us and my NCT group from the time our babies were 3 months old. For the first few years of our children’s lives we met there every Monday from Spring through to Autumn. Since those days, it’s become a regular meeting point at weekends and during the school holidays. It’s familiar, but with so much to offer, every trip is slightly different.
There are various ticket options available depending on whether you want to visit the Palace itself or not. Top tip if you are planning regular visits to Blenheim Palace and have a Tesco Club Card – exchange £5 of points for a £20 Days Out voucher. When you arrive at the Palace, buy a Palace, Park and Gardens ticket using this voucher plus £3, and then exchange that for an annual pass! It’s also worth liking Blenheim Palace on Facebook, as they often run ticket competitions too. I have either won tickets (twice) or used Tesco clubcard points to gain my annual pass for the last 5 years.
There is ample parking within the Palace Grounds – if you are planning on spending your day around the Palace, lakes and formal gardens then park close to the main entrance. For the Pleasure Gardens depending on the time of day you might find parking spaces by that entrance, (ask at the ticket office when you first visit).
When my son was still in a pram or pushchair we spent most of our visits enjoying the formal gardens and lakeside walks. All are easily accessible and offer various views of the estate.
We’ve spent many happy days picnicking under ‘our tree’, watching the resident Heron by the Cascades and following the ducks around Queen Pool. In Spring we wander through the daffodils and come summer we breathe in the fragrance from the Rose Garden.
There are various eateries around the grounds but we still prefer the picnic option whenever possible.
Once children can escape the confines of a pram the Pleasure Gardens await.
It’s heaven for children. There’s a large sandpit with integral climbing frame, a couple of wooden climbing frames, giant chess, the Marlborough Maze, Butterfly House and Bygone Age museum. We never tire of this area, although I still struggle to get out of the maze without a 5 year old’s help!
To top any visit to Blenheim Palace off for children, the railway linking the Pleasure Gardens to the Palace is a must.
Priced at 50p for adults for a single fare (children are free) the train ride is something we never miss. Be warned though that if it’s not a sunny day, you might need to keep your coat on, it can be particularly chilly. There are always buggy carriages running, although the queueing system could do with some work – it becomes a free for all in busy times which can be frustrating if you’ve queued with little ones and then lost your place to over enthusiast visitors.
It’s worth noting that if you have an annual pass you also get free access to a number of events throughout the year, including the Easter festivities and the bi-annual Jousting displays. Both have become firm dates in our diaries.
All in all, we love Blenheim Palace, it’s family friendly and each visit is different. It’s somewhere we never tire of.