One of the country's greatest stately homes, Blenheim Palace is a monumental baroque fantasy designed by Sir John Vanbrugh and Nicholas Hawksmoor, and was built between 1705 and 1722. The land and funds to build the house were granted to John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, by a grateful Queen Anne after his decisive victory at the 1704 Battle of Blenheim. Now a Unesco World Heritage Site, Blenheim (pronounced blen -num) is home to the 11th duke and duchess.
Inside, the house is stuffed with statues, tapestries, ostentatious furniture, priceless china and giant oil paintings in elaborate gilt frames. Visits start in the Great Hall, a vast space topped by 20m-high ceilings adorned with images of the first duke. Next up is the Churchill Exhibition, which is dedicated to the life, work and writings of Sir Winston Churchill, who was born at Blenheim in 1874. The British prime minister was a descendant of the Dukes of Marlborough, as was Princess Diana.
From here you can choose to wander through the various grand state rooms at your own pace or wait to join one of the free guided tours, which depart regularly throughout the day (except Sundays). Highlights include the famous Blenheim Tapestries, a set of 10 large wall hangings commemorating the first duke's achievements; the State Dining Room, with its painted walls and ceilings; and the magnificent Long Library.
Afterwards, head upstairs to the 'Untold Story', where a ghostly chamber maid leads you through a series of tableaux recreating important scenes from the palace's history.
If the crowds in the house become too oppressive, retire to the lavish gardens and vast parklands, parts of which were landscaped by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown. A minitrain takes visitors to the Pleasure Gardens, which feature a yew maze, adventure playground and butterfly house. For quieter and longer strolls, there are glorious walks leading to an arboretum, cascade and temple.