Daytripper: Blenheim Palace Pleasure Gardens

Do the maze - it will be your finest hour

What is it?

An enormous palace built for the first Duke of Marlborough, John Churchill. This was his reward for consistently wiping the floor with Louis XIV's army. It is also where Kenneth Branagh filmed his five-hour Hamlet. The palace is so big that you need a day to do it justice. So why not do as the locals do and just enjoy the grounds?

Where is it?

Woodstock, Oxfordshire (01993 81132; www.blenheimpalace.com). Blenheim occupies the whole west end of Woodstock - you really cannot miss it.

Something for the children?

Take the little train, Sir Winston Churchill, to the Pleasure Gardens which house the hedged maze, Butterfly House and Adventure Play Area. Here you can enjoy the putting greens, play giant chess or draughts and play Gulliver in a miniaturised Woodstock High Street. The Marlborough Maze covers an acre and will take you 30 minutes to get out, if you are lucky. Anxious parents can stand on two high wooden bridges to check where their children have got to.

Something for grown-ups?

The grounds where Winston Churchill proposed to Clemmie contain water terraces, an Italian Garden, a rose garden and arboretum. Or why not visit the Butterfly Housewhere tropical species can be seen in free flight. The hatchery contains pupae of species such as the North America monarch and the South America owl. Children will probably prefer the praying mantis and giant millipedes.

I'm hungry

The Pleasure Garden Café has sandwiches and baguettes for around £3 and a pot of tea or a Ribena for around £1.25. Blenheim Palace ice-cream is £1.25.

Can we buy a souvenir?

The Palace Dairy, its original 18th-century butter-cooler still on display, is now a gift shop, which sells "home-made" produce as well as touristy essentials such as maps, films and batteries. Or try the Pleasure Gardens Gift Shop which offers children's souvenirs including butterfly badges, erasers and slides, The World's Best Bug Viewer, or Blenheim cuddly toys.

How do we get there?

By car: Woodstock is eight miles north-west of Oxford on the A44. Approaching Oxford on the M40, exit at junction 9 and follow signs to Woodstock or Blenheim Palace. From other directions take the A44 exit from the Oxford by-pass. Parking is free.

By public transport: the nearest mainline railway and National Express stations are in the centre of Oxford. Go to Woodstock on the number 20 bus.

Will there be queues?

Occasionally, there can be congestion entering, but Blenheim is so big that once inside you should not have to queue long for anything.

Admission: Park tickets cost £10 per car, or pedestrians £3.50 adults, £1.50 children. Park tickets include entry to the maze and adventure play area, plus rides on the train, entry to the butterfly house and the herb garden and access to 2,000 acres of park.

Open: daily, 10.30am-5.30pm until 2 November.

Disabled access: Blenheim Palace welcomes those with disabilities and will do all it can to ensure that they can enjoy as much as possible.

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