Of England’s countless country houses, Blenheim is justifiably the most celebrated. Its size and opulence are testimony to its wealth of history: it was a gift of a grateful Queen Anne to General John Churchill.
First Duke of Marlborough, after his crushing defeat of the French in 1704 at Blenheim, a small Bavarian village on the Danube. Deserving of a victorious general, the lavish palace—impersonal in scale, but undeniably impressive—is England’s answer to Versailles, and was where Sir Winston Churchill, Britain’s WW II leader, was born in 1874. Regarded as the finest true Baroque manor in Britain, it stands amid 2,000 acres of what once were royal hunting grounds for the Saxon kings. Although the manor has changed little structurally since its completion in 1722, the park and gardens, originally laid out by Henry Wise, Queen Anne’s gardener, were transformed in the 1760s by Lancelot “Capability” Brown, the great landscape gardener, who also added Blenheim Lake. Still spectacular, the grounds are a major drawing card and include the famous Marlborough Maze, the world’s largest hedge maze. Within walking distance of Blenheim Palace, and predating it by many years, the timbered Feathers Inn promises an outstanding meal in atmospheric surroundings. Roaring fireplaces, beamed ceilings, and a lovely outdoor courtyard invite overnight stays in a lovely countrified setting that belies London ’s proximity.