From opulent state rooms to tree-lined lakeside paths, visiting Blenheim Palace and Gardens is a delight in any season. But once you witness the grounds decked out in red and gold foliage, it’s easy to see why autumn is the ideal time to plan your visit.
Nestled between Oxford and the eastern Cotswolds, Blenheim Palace is one of England’s grandest country houses. Built in the early 1700s, the palace holds several claims to fame, including being the birthplace of Winston Churchill. The expansive grounds surrounding the residence are truly glorious, and the panorama of the palace and lake is regarded as the “finest view in England”.
This Blenheim Palace day trip guide covers the highlights in three to four hours. However, you could easily spend an entire day here, especially if you’re visiting with young children.
Visiting Blenheim Palace from London
Unlike other English countryside attractions, you don’t need a car to reach Blenheim Palace! You can use a combination of public transit and a short walk to get there within 90 minutes from central London. It’s definitely one of the easiest London day trips by train.
Chiltern Railways operates trains from London Marylebone Station to Oxford Parkway every 30 minutes or so. If you buy your train tickets on the same day as your visit, you can present them at the Blenheim ticket counter for 30% off admission!
From Oxford Parkway, you can either take the #500 Park and Ride Bus from right outside the station, or the #7 Gold bus at street level, to the Marlborough Arms stop in Woodstock village. If you plan to take the Park and Ride back to the station, be sure to buy a return ticket, as they don’t sell singles at non-parking lot bus stops.
From the Marlborough Arms bus stop, it’s a short 10 minute walk west down Market Street and Park Street to the arched entrance to the grounds. Simply follow the walking path south towards the car park and palace.
Blenheim Palace Day Trip Itinerary
Arriving at Blenheim
While it’s tempting to rush inside the palace, I suggest taking a few minutes to walk around the northern lawn. From here, you’ll have fantastic views of the entire palace, complete with red ivy-covered walls.
After you’ve finished admiring the stunning exterior, follow signs for the main entrance and ticket counter. If you took the train and bought your rail ticket the same day, be sure to show it when purchasing admission for the 30% discount! Also, take care not to lose your ticket, as it will be checked multiple times as you move through the palace.
The Great Court
One of the best things about visiting Blenheim Palace in autumn (on a weekday) is how massive everything feels without pressing crowds. And nowhere is this feeling more apparent than The Great Court.
As you approach the palace entrance, the elegant carvings and towering columns give off an awe-inspiring atmosphere. Having been to other impressive residences like Versailles and Schonbrunn, I can say with confidence that Blenheim’s exterior radiates grandeur like no other.
Luckily for me, my Blenheim Palace day trip coincided with a special art exhibit by Maurizio Cattelan. The Union Jack flag runner seen above is not part of the usual scenery, so if you want to snap a similar photo and see the rest of the exhibits, plan your visit before 27 October, 2019.
Audio tour of State Rooms
Admission to Blenheim Palace comes with a free audio tour, which you’ll pick up from the desk as you enter the Great Hall. Remember to look up at the beautifully painted ceiling before you continue on with the tour!
It’s a linear path through the State Rooms. If you follow the entire audio tour, it takes approximately 40 minutes from start to finish.
The rooms are lavishly decorated with rich fabrics and intricate woodwork. I was especially fond of the Long Library, with its floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and pipe organ.
Just off of the library, you’ll find the permanent Winston Churchill exhibit, which offers insight into the famous prime minister’s personal life. Here, you’ll find everything from wartime letters to paintings (did you know Churchill was a talented artist?).
As you wrap up the audio tour, check out the chapel where the first Duke of Marlborough is entombed before you proceed out into the courtyard. Note that the birds in the image below are part of the Cattelan exhibit and won’t be on display after the curren season.
From here, follow signs for the water terrace and formal gardens.
Save me for later!
Just outside the palace, you’ll find the manicured hedges and pools of the water terrace. This area offers lovely views towards the residence’s exterior, as well as the lake opposite.
If the weather is pleasant, I recommend stopping in the Water Terrace Cafe for a warm drink to enjoy at an outdoor table. The cafe also sells sandwiches and pastries from 10:30am-12:00pm, and serves hot meals beginning at noon.
Continue down the path leading away from the rectangular pools of the water terrace to reach the formal gardens.
Blenheim Palace’s formal gardens are magical during autumn.
The walking paths are strewn with brown and gold foliage, and leaves drift down with every gust of wind. Squirrels and grouses weave across the lawn, hunting for food before winter arrives. And if you visit during a weekday, you might get lucky like me and have the whole place mostly to yourself!
Highlights of the formal gardens include the Temple of Diana, where Winston Churchill proposed to his wife, Clementine, and the fragrant rose garden, which was still in bloom at the end of September.
As you follow the walking path through the gardens, be sure to stop by the charming pump house near the cascades. There’s a path that runs behind and above the house, and it provides gorgeous views over the falls and pond, where you’ll likely spot a few swans.
From here, continue following the path along the lakeside. It will eventually lead back to the water terrace, where you can exit through the gift shop.
An essential part of visiting Blenheim Palace is walking a bit of the estate grounds. Depending on how much time you have, you could walk a very long circuit through the farm fields and around the Column of Victory.
But if you’re short on time (and energy), I suggest following the straight path leading from the palace towards the column, veering left towards the farm, and turning around once you’ve had your fill of cute, fluffy sheep.
Other things to do at Blenheim Palace in autumn
Autumn days out at Blenheim Palace offer plenty of fun for adults and kids alike. If you have children (or like hedge mazes), head to the Pleasure Gardens, where you can also visit the butterfly house and enjoy afternoon tea at the Orangery. For an extra bit of fun, skip walking and instead take the miniature railway that runs from the palace to the gardens.
Blenheim also puts on Half Term Halloween Entertainment, which includes spooky palace decor and Halloween-themed treats and tours.
And on November 1, 2019, visitors can enjoy fairground rides and fireworks at the Star Wars-themed Lasers, Lights, and Fireworks event.
With cooler weather, fewer visitors, and festive seasonal events, late Setpember through October is perfect for visiting Blenheim Palace. I can’t think of a better place to escape city life for a day in the English countryside.