Monday, May 2, 2022—Blenheim Castle and Stratford-upon-Avon

We were up early to repack and place luggage outside the room, eat an early breakfast, and load on the bus for the short drive to Woodstock, Oxfordshire, and tour of Blenheim Palace and its grounds.

A bit to small for our tour

On the way, the scenic drive took us through the picturesque Cotswolds, passing through quaint towns and villages nestled among the rolling hills and valleys.

We arrived at Blenheim Palace, unknowing that this bank holiday, combined with jousting contests, would generate gigantic crowds. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the palace. A country house, Blenheim Palace is the seat of the Dukes of Marlborough and the only non-royal, non-episcopal country house in England to hold the title of palace. The palace, one of England’s largest houses, was built between 1705 and 1722, and designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. The palace was originally intended to be a reward to John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marborough for his military triumphs against the French and Bavarians in the War of Spanish Succession, culminating in the Battle of Blenheim. The land was given as a gift, and construction began in 1705, with some financial support from Queen Anne. The palace was designed in the rare, and short-lived, English Baroque style, The project soon became the subject of political infighting, with the Crown cancelling further financial support in 1712. After some three years, construction was resumed. Following the palace’s completion, it became the home of the Churchill (later Spencer-Churchill) family for the next 300 years, and various members of the family have wrought changes to the interiors, park and gardens. At the end of the 19th century, the palace was saved from ruin by funds gained from the 9th Duke of Marborough’s marriage to American railroad heiress Consuelo Vanderbilt. It is unique in its combined use as a family home, mausoleum and national monument. The palace is notable as the birthplace and ancestral home of ir William Churchill.

From Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, the tour took us to Stratford-upon-Avon. Stratford is situated on the River Avon, 91 miles north-west of London; the town is the southernmost point of the Arden area on the edge of the Cotswolds. The town is a popular tourist destination owing to its status as the birthplace and gravesite of playwright and poet William Shakespeare. The Royal Shakespeare Company resides in Stratford’s Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

We continued northward, overnighting in York.

Windsor to York