Lonely Planet review
One of the country's greatest stately homes, Blenheim Palace is a monumental baroque fantasy designed by Sir John Vanbrugh and Nicholas Hawksmoor 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 and giant oil paintings in elaborate gilt frames. Highlights include the Great Hall , a vast space topped by 20m-high ceilings adorned with images of the first duke in battle; the opulent Saloon , the grandest and most important public room; the three state rooms , with their plush decor and priceless china cabinets; and the magnificent Long Library , which is 55m in length.
From the library, you can access the Churchill Exhibition , which is dedicated to the life, work and writings of Sir Winston, who was born at Blenheim in 1874. For an insight into life below stairs, the Untold Story exhibition explores the family's history through the eyes of the household staff.
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. To the front, an artificial lake sports a beautiful bridge by Vanbrugh, and a minitrain is needed to take visitors to a maze, adventure playground and butterfly house. For a quieter and longer stroll, glorious walks lead to an arboretum, cascade and temple.