Last Updated on September 2, 2020 by Fiona Maclean
Enjoy an indulgent afternoon tea in the Orangery Terrace by Searcy’s with Perrier-Jouet Champagne
Award-winning Blenheim Palace is a sparkling diamond amongst the fabulous jewels of England’s grand stately home collection. Less than two hours from London by car, and nestled within the verdant Oxfordshire countryside it is an oasis offering calm, culture and currently, courtesy of Searcy’s and Perrier-Jouet, a memorable champagne experience.
Throughout September, Thursday to Sunday, visitors can sit in a specially created, socially distanced, terrace adjacent to the magnificent Orangery, and celebrate summer in style. The terrace overlooks the pretty Italian Garden and is an idyllic spot to enjoy the perfect afternoon tea.
Blenheim is home to the 12th Duke of Marlborough and his family and boasts over 300 years of history (including being the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill). It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and normally attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors from across the world. With fewer visitors than normal, there’s the opportunity to take your time, to stop and stare and truly immerse yourself in this magnificent environment.
The Palace is back open to the public seven days a week and although some exhibitions are closed, to ensure social-distance is maintained, the fabulous Palace State Rooms are open and the beautiful Formal Gardens and the extensive “Capability” Brown designed landscape are available to explore. Until the end of September, you even have the chance to hire out a rowing boat on the Great Lake, for the first time in forty years.
For first time visitors, the opulent English baroque Palace and its superb collection of furnishings is the obvious main draw. The setting for so many historical events, Blenheim has also acted as the backdrop for a great number of film and TV shows. A scene from “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” was filmed by the Great Lake and nearby you’ll find a dead ringer for a Whomping Willow. For those on a return trip to Blenheim, a walk through the grounds will take you through some truly magical scenery.
The Formal Gardens include the Water Terraces, the Rose Garden and the Churchill Memorial Garden. You’ll come across fabulous floral displays, intriguing statues and sculptures, the Temple of Diana where Churchill proposed to his darling Clemmie and the most beautiful lawn imaginable (forget the infinity pool, here you have an infinity lawn!). For families, there’s a miniature train to take you to the Pleasure Gardens to enjoy an adventure playground, giant hedge maze and butterfly house. For those with tired legs or less able to walk a range of buggy tours are available so everyone can discover Blenheim Palace at their own pace.
If you’re wanting to stride out and explore the 2000 acres of beautifully landscaped parkland, two trails have been laid out; the longest is the Park Perimeter: a 4.6-mile walk which takes about two hours to complete. This was the route we chose burning off 800 calories in advance of sitting down to a well-earned afternoon tea.
Sipping a glass of perfectly chilled Perrier-Jouët from their iconic hand-painted flutes in the exquisite Blenheim Orangery is a real treat. If like me, as the designated driver you drew the short straw, the lovely staff will find you a delightful substitute. Seated in our marquee pods, we observed the contented faces of other happy tea takers.
The Savoury tier was delicate and delicious: a table-spoon of crayfish caesar served on a crisp salad leaf; a tablet of rich toasted Welsh rarebit muffin with roasted tomato; a canape of rare roast beef vol-au-vent; a lime crème fraîche brioche topped with Cotswolds gin-cured salmon and an open bagel with cream cheese, pickled cucumber and chopped chives. The plate of afternoon cakes was dangerously decadent. A perfect passion fruit posset with peach and mango salsa; divine dark Amedei chocolate and raspberry tart; the lightest of strawberry cheese-cakes and a rosemary biscotti. Sandwiched between the courses are two excellent scones with cool clotted cream and strawberry jam.
In addition to deciding whether you’re going to go Devon or Cornwall (cream under or over the jam), you may need to consider whether to ask for a take-home box. This is a true feast for the eye and the tum! You’ll be equally pleased with the accompanying tea. The Earl Grey I chose (Assam and China black tea, bergamot and cornflower petals) was the most refreshing I’ve drunk in a long while.
Tea service finishes at 16.45 and, as the Gardens close at 18.00, there’s still time to meander through the roses breathing in the late afternoon scents before leaving. The great news is that an entry ticket to Blenheim can be converted into an annual pass at no extra cost. With an ongoing programme of excellent events, you can plan your next visit on your journey home.
Blenheim Palace is open daily from 09.45 – 16.30 (last entry 16.30). The Park & Gardens are also open daily from 09.30 – 18.00 (or dusk if earlier).
It is essential to book a date and time slot prior to visiting (necessary for all existing ticket and pass holders too). blenheimpalace.com/tickets-booking
The Afternoon Tea in The Orangery Terrace by Searcy’s costs £28pp. Perrier-Jouet Grand BrutNV is served at £19 per glass, £86 per bottle. For information and bookings click here.
Blenheim hosts a programme of events and exhibitions throughout the year. From 17 September Blenheim Art Foundation are showing a major solo exhibition of new works, inspired by the Palace’s collection, by acclaimed British Artist Cecily Brown. For information on this and other events click here.
Jenny was a guest of Blenheim and The Orangery Terrace by Searcy’s.