Winston Churchill: Tours, walks and holidays

It's the 50th anniversary of the death of the wartime prime minister – so follow in his footsteps around the world, from Kent to Cuba, writes Nicola Trup

This weekend marks 50 years since the death of one of the UK's best-known politicians. Winston Churchill, who led the country for half a decade during the Second World War and was re-elected to power just six years later, died on 24 January 1965, at the ripe old age of 90. With walks, exhibitions and tours around the country, there are plenty of opportunities to commemorate Churchill close to home, or you can choose to holiday like the leader in Europe and beyond.

Early years

Where better to get an introduction to the legendary leader than his Oxfordshire birthplace, Blenheim Palace (01993 810 530; blenheimpalace.com; £22.50)? The Baroque country pile re-opens to visitors on 14 February with a revamped Churchill exhibition featuring photos, diary extracts and other previously unseen memorabilia. And in June a new memorial garden will be unveiled.

If you can't wait that long for your Churchill fix, on the anniversary this Saturday there will be a guided walk around the existing formal gardens, led by a historian (£13.50 Park and Gardens ticket, plus £3).

After visiting Blenheim, make the short trip to see the leader's final resting place at St Martin's, the church he attended in the village of Bladon.

Home sweet home

In Kent, Chartwell (01732 868 381; nationaltrust.org.uk/chartwell; £13) was home to the leader and his family for more than 40 years. The Death Of A Hero exhibition (included in entry price) is being held here until 22 February, exploring the latter part of the leader's life, his funeral and legacy.

The main house re-opens after its winter closure on 28 February, with rooms that have been kept much as they were 50 years ago. On certain days visitors will also be able to take a guided tour of the grounds, including the lakes Churchill created and his wife's rose garden, or you can explore solo.

Capital idea

Gain an insight into Churchill's political career in the underground bunker used by his government during the Blitz. Located in Westminster, the Churchill War Rooms (020 7930 6961; iwm.org.uk; £18) feature an interactive museum in which you can hear extracts from the prime minister's wartime speeches and read letters exchanged by him and his wife, Clementine. Don't miss the Transatlantic Telephone Room or the Map Room, which remains as it was in 1945.

In Parliament Square stands a statue of the leader, while in Westminster Abbey (020 7222 5152; westminster-abbey.org; £18) lies a marble memorial stone, which was unveiled by the Queen eight months after his death.

Viator (020 3478 5933; viator.com) has a two-hour guided Second World War Historical Walking Tour, taking in key sights including the Houses of Parliament, the Abbey and the Churchill statue, concluding at the War Rooms. From £42 per person including entrance fee.

Stay the night

Churchill regularly holidayed abroad, spending his time painting and writing. In Madeira – according to legend – he would drive around in a Rolls-Royce with a makeshift bar in the boot. Check in to Belmond Reid's Palace (0845 077 2222; belmond.com), where the leader stayed. Doubles cost from £247 a night, B&B, but for the prime ministerial treatment splash out on the Churchill Suite, which will set you back £1,844.

Another hotel with a Churchill Suite is La Mamounia (00 212 524 388 600; mamounia.com) in Marrakech, Morroco, whose gardens he is said to have called one of the most beautiful places on earth. Enjoy a nightcap at the hotel's Churchill Bar, with its original 1930s décor of leather and wood panelling. The experience doesn't come cheap though; doubles start at MAD6,500 (£458) a night, room only, while the suite starts at MAD22,000 (£1,548).

A family affair

For a more personal introduction to the prime minister, go on holiday with his granddaughter. Celia Sandys is hosting a 10-day Chasing Churchill cruise and tour around Cuba, which her grandfather visited in 1895 and 1946. The trip, with Baway Holidays (020 8248 2355; baway.co.uk) starts in Havana and stops at sites around the country that have a connection to the leader, including restaurants at which he ate and a factory that produced his cigars. From £3,579 per person, half-board; 4-14 February. Flights extra.

Celebratory events

Churchill Central

A new website, launched with the help of 30 organisations connected to Churchill and his legacy, provides a "warts and all" account of Sir Winston's life. churchillcentral.com

Churchill's Scientists

This exhibition at the Science Museum, London, opens tomorrow. It explores his passion for science and his championing of technological breakthroughs that helped win the Second World War.

30 January Service in Parliament

To mark 50th anniversary of his funeral. Evening at Westminster Abbey.

30 January Commemorative flotilla of boats

Led by Havengore, the vessel that carried Sir Winston's body down the Thames in 1965, the flotilla will pass along the river and lay a wreath in the waters opposite the Houses of Parliament.

30 January National Railway Museum in York

The museum will display newly restored steam locomotive Winston Churchill, the Southern Railways parcels van S2464S and the Pullman carriage Lydia that took the Churchill family and Sir Winston's coffin from London Waterloo to his final resting place in Oxfordshire.

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