Driving up the gravelly, crackling driveway, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were approaching yet another dull, beige country house basking in ‘local’ history that you’ve no interest in nor understand any of its relevance to your being there. There’ll usually be a great-aunt or ‘one of your nan’s mates’ to your left in the passenger seat – the driving force behind your visit – whilst nan herself is orchestrating from the back seat which parking space to use, as she already checked it out last week in a ‘trial run’ with gramps.
Blenheim Palace, however, is a different beast altogether, and you can tell almost from the offset. Yes, big and beige it may be, but, taking the time to delve a little deeper than mere aesthetics, I discovered there was far more behind the arresting exterior than tour guides with coffee breath and a lack of places to grab a glass of the hard stuff.
It is indeed steeped in history, but the good, juicy kind! Located in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, Blenheim Palace is the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, is the only non-royal, non-episcopal country manor in the country to hold the title of palace, and is nicknamed the ‘real Downton Abbey’. So get googling before you head up there!
If hitting the history books isn’t your thing, maybe food is? In just a couple of weeks, MasterChef: The Professionals winner Steven Edwards will be hosting an exclusive dining experience in the glorious Orangery Restaurant, overlooking the Italian Gardens, and there’s a champagne reception to boot!
Also, keep an eye out for the Battle Proms picnic concert and The Wizard of Oz show in July.
If that wasn’t enough to whet your appetite, in just about a month’s time, Blenheim will once again play host to this year’s Nocturne.
Nocturne, the four-day open-air festival played out on Blenheim’s stunning Great Court, launched last year on the palace grounds to huge success, pulling in the likes of Van Morrison and Grammy award-winning American jazz vocalist Gregory Porter.
But, this year, it seems the organisers have gone a step further, having announced a plethora of global stars to headline the concert series.
Not only have they bagged Sir Elton John to close the festival on the Sunday (26th), Nocturne has also announced that The Corrs will be headlining the Friday night show. And if you’re not already salivating over the inevitable nostalgia binge the Irish siblings’ performance promises, they’re bringing along uber-talented Jack Savoretti, just to get your juices flowing that little bit more.
The Anglo-Italian singer-songwriter can seem to do no wrong at the moment, and is currently haunting us daily on pretty much every radio station going with his Rod Stewart-esque vocals. If you’ve been living under a rock for the past six months and aren’t yet au fait with the man, I’d recommend you check out songs Catapult and The Other Side of Love from his Top 10 album Written In Scars (he’s not bad to look at either, ladies, so I’ve been told…). It appears his time is now, and so it should be. So, for a bit of everything and anything, Blenheim seems to have it covered!
- Tickets for Nocturne are available now, starting at £45, and you can also check out some of the extra-fancy VIP packages on www.nocturnelive.com