I’ve been waiting for so long to go back and review Blenheim Palace. We regularly visited for family days out a few years ago when we had annual passes but stopped when biggest child got too old to be free. I’ve been waiting for smallest child to be old enough to appreciate it and she finally is!!!!
Blenheim palace is simply stunning and it’s a fantastic place for children. There is so much for them to do and with tickets valid for a year there will be plenty of opportunities to explore it all. Highlights include a butterfly house, maze, incredible playground area, parkland, miniature train, formal gardens, rose garden and even a waterfall.
Your visit can start in one of two places; either the pleasure gardens or the palace itself (which leads onto the formal gardens). If it is your first visit I’d recommend starting in the palace so you can convert your tickets to an annual pass (see note below re amission). They have lots of events going on throughout the year so keep an eye on their website.
***Important note re pushchairs – make sure you read the final paragraph of the Formal Gardens section***
If you want to take advantage of the free annual pass upgrade made sure you follow the instruction in the admission cost section below
The Pleasure Gardens
This is the area your kids will love the most. You can get the miniature train that travels between the palace and pleasure gardens (50p for adults, under 5’s are free) or take the shortish walk. The train ride takes about 5 minutes and even includes a tunnel. They decorate this at Halloween to make it a ghost train which is really fun. If you do decide to walk then have a look at the numerous hollow Oak trees along the path. They’re really cool. The centres are completely hollow but the trees are still alive. It’s a great place to do some bug hunting. You can also park by the pleasure gardens but it can fill up pretty quickly and if you get there and there’s no spaces you cannot just turn around and go back to the main car park.
Within the pleasure gardens you can find the maze, adventure playground, smaller playground area, giant games cafe, exhibition, a small model village and the butterfly house. The butterfly house has always been a favourite with my family, despite me not being the biggest fan of things flying at me. You can get so close to so a range of wonderful butterflies. Some of them are huge (have a look at the photo below and compare this one to a brick). It is really warm and humid in there because that’s what Butterflies like and it’s their house!
The seemingly never-ending adventure playground is one of the best I know. It’s very long and there’s a smaller section at one end with a sandpit and toddler frame. You can very easily lose the children in here for hours.
The maze is really good, and also really big, and surprisingly hard, and maybe still has some people lost inside it! I’d actually forgotten how hard it is. Unlike other mazes (like the one at Cliveden) it is possible to go wrong. If you do then you’ll just go around in a very big circle but if you’ve been distracted by a grumpy toddler who wants to drink from the adult water bottle herself but isn’t old enough to do it and so smalls allllllll the water everywhere you might not noticed you’ve gone round in a circle until you spot a familiar weed. Can you tell this is based on real events??
The Formal Gardens and WATer Terrace
These are also massive, with so many things to do. The size of the gardens is one of the may reasons you might end up needing that return visit. Make sure that you get a map so you don’t miss things like the waterfall or rose garden. It was in these gardens that Sir Winston Churchill proposed to his wife. There are various different parts to the garden; the water terrace, wide open space, rose garden and the waterfall. There is so much space to explore and let the children have fun in. It is also in the formal gardens that the medieval jousting takes place twice a year. I highly recommend you attend at least one of these, they’re great.
***Important note re pushchair access*** The only negative about Blenheim Palace is that they’re crap at advertising how you access the formal gardens with a pushchair. You used to be able to just walk around but now they’ve stuck a locked gate with a code in the way. Sadly I ended up getting stuck behind the gate with no code because I didn’t know this. You can take a short cut to the water terrace and formal gardens in the corner of the palace courtyard but it’s up a few steps and then there are a lot of steps once you’re on the terrace. This was the route I had entered but didn’t fancy bumping back up all the steps with smallest child. When got home I had to email customer services to ask about access because I genuinely didn’t know. Before you go into the palace get the entry code from visitor information. If you want step-free access you don’t go into the main courtyard in front of the palace, you follow the road as if you were going over the bridge but then curve ’round to the left. It’s known as the Fisherman’s Gate.
This is less child friendly and I only went in by myself. It is fascinating and the dining room table has to be seen to be believed. Make sure that you join one of the guided tours to get the most out of it. You can see the room where Winston Churchill was born, visit the state rooms and learn more about the history of the house and how it was built.
Within the park there are two lakes, a monument and numerous walks. Despite the number of times I visited Blenheim I never really explored the wider park because there was so much to do elsewhere. It has always looked very busy and when I buy my next annual pass I will explore this properly.
Social distancing information
You now must pre-book tickets, including annual pass holders, and you have a 45 minute slot to arrive. They are significantly reducing the number of people who are allowed on site. At the time of writing only the formal gardens and park are open but as government rules change they may open up the pleasure gardens. They have temporary toilets at the coach park and wider parking spaces.
Adult (£27.00), Child (Age 5-16) £16.00, FREE for under 5s, Family (2 Adults and 2 Children) £67.50
Tickets are valid for a full year but **IMPORTANT INFORMATION** In order to get the annual pass you MUST 1) by a gift aid palace and grounds ticket. If you buy one of the cheaper tickets you won’t be able to exchange it 2) you must upgrade to the annual pass either at the kiosk in the courtyard on the day or online within 14 days. Again, if you don’t do this you cannot take advantage of the upgrade.
Parking / How to get here
Parking – plenty on site, free.
Address – Woodstock, Oxfordshire. OX20 1PP. I have always found it really annoying but as you come into Woodstock there is a brown sign for Blenheim Palace that has a straight ahead arrow but the entrance to the car park is a matter of meters away. I found it really confusing when I first visited.
In the main palace area and the pleasure gardens. I have always found these to be in an excellent condition. Whenever they put on special events they always have extra loos, including adapted changing facilities.
Various cafes and restaurants and kiosks dotted around. There’s a pizza restaurant in the pleasure gardens how. They’re all made to order and not excessively expensive. Kids boxes are £4.95 though.
5 / 5. I loved Blenheim Palace when we had tickets before and I loved it going back
I’m Vicky and I am a mum of three living in Aylesbury. I set up Free Time with the Kids to review free and cheap family days out in Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire, mainly because I kept forgetting all the fabulous places that were recommended to me!! I love getting out and about with the kids (and hubby of course) and we have adventures all over the place. My reviews tell you all the things you need to know about the family days out and activites we’ve done such as how much it costs, if there’s parking, toilets and if there’s a cafe or if picnics are allowed. I really hope you find the reviews helpful. If there’s anywhere that you’d recommend please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch via Facebook