Our main goal for the day was to enjoy Blenheim Palace. Blenheim was built by John Churchill in the 1600s. He was the first Duke of Marlborough. (You might recognize the lake above from a Harry Potter movie.)
The Palace is gorgeous inside and out and the exhibits are extensive. We took a tour through the Winston Churchill exhibit. Baby Winston was born here, and the exhibit covered the highlights of his life and was really interesting. Then we toured through the State Rooms which were hosting a "Fashion through the Ages" display. And finally we went through the Untold Story- which was an animatronics and video thing that the kids enjoyed (it reminded me of the Hall of Presidents at Disney World) which explained the early history of the house and the Churchill family as you moved through about a dozen rooms. There were even more possible tours, but we were worn out after these.
My favorite random item in the fashion exhibit- Mr. Darcy's pants... as worn by Colin Firth when he proposed to Elizabeth Bennett at the end of Pride & Prejudice. They also had an evening dress of Lady Diana's which I didn't take a photo of, so clearly you see where my priorities are.
Anyway, after all of our interior tours, it was time to walk the gardens and grounds.
It really is incredibly beautiful. And the place was crawling with pheasants everywhere, so novel for us Americans.
The Water Terrace.
We ate lunch at the Water Terrace Cafe with a view of this lovely courtyard.
What a beautiful place.
Before we left Blenheim altogether, we had to visit the Pleasure Gardens. The first stop was the Butterfly House. So much fun!
Then we took on the Hedge Maze. The world's second largest symbolic maze. Supposedly, they estimate it will take 45 minutes to complete. Thanks in part to a very tall Rob who could just see over some of the hedges, and a maze enthusiast named Toby, we were through it in about 15 minutes.
Yard size chess and the playground finished up a pretty full day at Blenheim. I honestly think we could happily move in to this palace with no problem, which is not something I say about just any castle or palace.
It was time to seek out an ice cream cone we'd been promising the kids all day. On our way, we came across this sign for the Rollright Stone Circle, so of course, we had to stop and investigate.
This Neolithic stone circle is made of limestone, which has obviously eroded quite a bit in roughly 6000 years. I confess, we didn't see the sign saying not to climb on the stones until we were on our way back to the car.
This part is called the Whispering Knights and is believed to be a marker for a burial place. We love the things that you can just stumble upon in England! And the location and weather were just perfect.
We finally made our way to Stow-on-the-Wold and purchased the promised ice cream cones. (And a packet of fudge for later.) We walked past The Bell Inn, which reminded Rob of Lady Catherine de Bourgh in P&P when she tells Lizzie, "Mention my name at The Bell and they will attend to you." Clearly, I'm not the only nerd in this house.
We also noticed this neat place. The Porch House claims to be the oldest inn in Britain, dating from about 947 AD. That's more than 100 years BEFORE the Norman conquest of England. Craziness!
After a VERY full day of sightseeing, we headed back to our airbnb and made some Tikka Masala from Tesco for dinner, did laundry, and gave the kids baths. Many more adventures to come!