Blenheim Cottage

Oxfordshire, Cotswolds & Chilterns, United Kingdom Book from

Live the English country idyll at this gorgeous riverside cottage for 2-4, on the edge of Blenheim Palace Estate near Oxford
The sense of discovery starts when you turn down a woodland track marked "Blenheim Palace - No Public Access". Is this really allowed? Where does it lead? The answer is an age-old, two-storey cottage of mellow Cotswold stone, shaded by oaks and horse chestnuts, whose lawns slope down to a languid river spanned by a handsome stone bridge. For centuries the lodge guarded the back entrance to the vast Blenheim Estate; later it was home to the Duke of Marlborough's groom. Now it's reborn as a cosy country hideaway for a couple (or a couple with 1-2 younger children) wanting to top up on birdsong and British pastoral bliss.

The dynamic New-York-born leaseholder, who runs a luxury lifestyle company in London, has furnished it with hand-restored vintage pieces - from chandeliers to campaign dressers - as well as Zoffany wallpapers, hunting trophies, designer fireplaces and a burgundy slipper bath. It's all highly indulgent. A British theme runs throughout, from Jubilee tea towels to superb local goodies in the honesty larder. In the garden, she added an airy timber summer house - a touch of New England, perhaps - for afternoon tea or morning massages. And, icing on the cake, she has raided her bulging black book to offer every concierge service, from luxury hampers to childcare to pre- or post-wedding flowers and beauty treatments.


  • You're in the glorious Heart of England: handsome Woodstock town is on your doorstep, Oxford 20 mins away, yet it's only 1.5 hours from London
  • We loved the gardens: rainbows of flowers and shrubs, croquet lawn, private stream banks, and sheltered outdoor dining/BBQ area
  • Come winter, you'll be heartened to find DVDs and books (including children's titles), open fires, parlour games and in-bathroom underfloor heating
  • The small kitchen is beautifully kitted out with Welsh slate worktops, top-spec white goods, an honesty larder - and a chef on request!
  • A real feeling of privileged seclusion: bring a loved one for a special occasion, bring the kids for family downtime, bring the dog too!


  • The rooms are compact (as you would expect), and some might find them dark - but we found it romantic, and perfect for a weekend away à deux (ou trois)
  • Restricted space means that both bedrooms have double beds (neither can be twin), making it less suitable for a couple with 2 children (but fine for 2 couples)
  • You can't walk across the bridge into Blenheim Palace, but have to drive in via Woodstock: frustrating but understandable, given the entry fee (and the risk of meeting a hunting party)
  • Don't plan on wild swimming: the stream is for gazing (and fishing) only
  • It is on the pricey side - but you'll see why when you get there

Best time to go

The cottage is open in all seasons, and each has its charm. Summer - especially if sunny - is perfect for lazing in the garden, walking or cycling through the woods, perhaps a picnic in Blenheim Palace Estate. Spring and autumn are good times to visit Oxford - it's less busy with language students than in high summer. Winter in the cottage is cosy and warm, thanks to eco-fires (downstairs), underfloor heating (in the bathroom) - plus central heating, of course. If you're really lucky it might snow, and being at the end of a private track you would have every right to phone work and say you're snowed in!

Our top tips

My wife raved about the fantastic bath salts - after her long soak, she said she had not felt so relaxed for years (this may have been helped by a glass or 2 of champagne - which all i-escape guests receive as a thank you for booking through us).

To find out what's on in Oxford when you're staying, visit Daily Info, which includes listings for theatre, music, festivals, lectures and more. For example, if coming in May, try and make it to Magdalen Bridge for the May Morning singing at dawn (1st May), or head to the Isis Tavern to watch the Summer Eights rowing races (normally last week of May).

Great for...

Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Cottage
  • 2 double bedrooms
  • Self-catering (restaurants a short drive away)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
  • Concierge Service
  • Laundry Service
  • Cleaning every 4 days


Step through the welly-lined porch and you find yourself in a fun and fanciful sitting room, with peacock-patterned Cole & Son wallpaper, floor-length silk curtains, a deep Chesterfield sofa and a quirky chandelier-in-a-birdcage. The effect is sumptuous and sexy - dark perhaps, but we loved it, especially with the sleek black-framed eco-fire flickering in its burnished silver surround. Everything is of the finest provenance - Ben Whistler chairs, Andrew Martin fabrics - but you don't need to know the names to feel the quality. Even the flatscreen TV manages not to look out of place, and there's an appetising range of DVDs to sink back and enjoy (you can also stream them to the second bedroom upstairs).

Next door, the cosy dining room continues the silvery-gold theme, with studded banquettes for lazy breakfasts with the papers, and a deer's head staring somewhat disarmingly at you from above the gold framed fireplace. There are more carefully chosen books and games on the shelves, and some huge balloon glasses in case you're cracking open a long awaited Chateauneuf du Pape.

Steps climb from the kitchen (see Eating) to the first-floor bedrooms - both double bedded - and the bathroom, with its glorious rolltop bath, separate walk-in shower, and underfloor heating. Both bedrooms are compact but extremely comfy. There's space in the master for a queensize bed (superb mattress, warm down duvet) as well as a gleaming rosewood campaign dresser (whose pull-out chair conceals a hairdryer in its flanks) and a huge matching wardrobe. Heaven knows how they got it up the stairs. The second bedroom (normal double bed) is simpler, with leafy views from the window seat, fresh flowers on the bedside tables, and perfectly chosen books and toys on the shelves (how did they know our son loved Roald Dahl?). He, by the way, slept like a log until 9am, thanks to the total silence and the blackout of the drapes.

At the bottom of the garden path is a lovely timber summer house, filled with light from 4 French windows and a skylight, and wrapped around by a sun deck. This is where we spent much of our time, shifting our gaze between books (no shortage of reading matter here) and the darkening greens of the lawns, chestnut trees and river pools outside. It's also a great space for a massage - just say the word, and they'll fix someone to come.

Features include:

  • Barbeque
  • Central heating
  • Coffee maker
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Dishwasher
  • Dvd player
  • Fireplace
  • Food blender
  • Fridge
  • Full kitchen
  • Hairdryer
  • Hob stove
  • Honesty larder
  • Ipod dock
  • Microwave
  • Oven
  • Phone
  • Picnic kit
  • Radio
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • Terrace
  • Toaster
  • Toiletries
  • Tumble dryer
  • Washing machine
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet


The kitchen - like the rest of the cottage - is small but perfectly equipped. For example: a Siemens dishwasher, Dualit toaster and Nespresso machine; a pro knife block set and masses of crockery; Welsh slate surfaces with 3 bar stools to perch at. But if you come in summer, as we did, you'll sit outside on the dining terrace - especially as it has a barbecue round the corner, and a powerful radiant heater to help you extend the al fresco feeling into the night.

Best of all, the honesty larder is stocked with some of loveliest goodies we've seen on our research trips, and at the most reasonable prices: pure Chegworth Valley apple juice (3 varieties), 'scrumshus' granola (they aren't lying), and rice from the Real Basmati Rice Company, just to give you a flavour. You'll find complimentary wine chilling in the fridge, as well as some breakfast staples (eggs, butter, milk, that sort of thing). If you're feeling lazy, or trying to impress, or both, book their private chef - he'll give you a range of seasonal gourmet dishes to choose from in advance - or pre-order a food hamper, so you can picnic in style and without effort.

When it comes to eating out, their info pack contains meticulously researched suggestions in Woodstock (5 mins' drive), Oxford (15 mins) and further afield - from gastropubs to organic cafés to the multi-Michelin-starred Manoir aux Quat'Saisons. All are spot on. I'm not sure how they compiled them so fast (I lived in Oxford for 10 years, and my knowledge barely matches theirs); but I sure would love to have been part of their research team.

Features include:

  • Chef on request
  • Coffee maker
  • Coffee tea making
  • Food blender
  • Fridge
  • Full kitchen
  • Hob stove
  • Microwave
  • Oven
  • Shopping service
  • Toaster
  • Honesty larder


  • Don't plan to do too much - the cottage itself is a beautiful spot for whiling away a long weekend, with lovely gardens, books, games, convivial meals and perhaps a spot of sunbathing, pampering or fishing
  • But do explore Blenheim Palace if you've never been: there are gilded state halls, impressive artworks, and the room where Winston Churchill was born, while outside are 2,000 acres of 'Capability' Brown landscaped parkland, including a huge lake, formal gardens and a butterfly centre reached by mini-train
  • Afterwards, stroll through neighbouring Woodstock - nothing to do with the festival, but one of the handsomest towns in the Cotswolds: honey-stoned houses, art galleries, an unexpectedly interesting museum (child friendly and free) - and a fantastic deli
  • The world-famous university city of Oxford is also on your doorstep (20 mins), and this is a good base from which to explore its stunning colleges, riverside meadows, ivory-towered backstreets and truly astounding museums (just watch where you park - or use the Park & Ride)
  • It's 20 mins' drive to Charlbury or Burford, 2 quintessentially Cotswold towns packed with olde-worlde charm, and not much further to the tiny but idyllic 'Slaughter' hamlets
  • If you've done all those, I love the atmospherically crumbling ruins of Minster Lovell Hall (15 mins) - perfect for picnics, and even wild swimming if it's sunny
  • And if not, you could do a lot worse than browse the cut-price designer outlets at Bicester Village (30 mins)

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Hot air ballooning
  • Museums / galleries
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Private guided tours
  • Shopping / markets


This is a great place to come with a younger children: we think 5-10 is the ideal age range, so they can enjoy the riverside garden and the surrounding woods, as well as the children's activities on offer at Blenheim Palace. Parents of toddlers should be aware that the garden slopes down to a small river - though there is a safe enclosed garden opposite the dining terrace, so you can keep an eye while relaxing with a drink or meal. Teenagers might find the location a bit too quiet.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

Cots Available


CRB-checked babysitters can be booked for you

Baby equipment:

Available on request:

  • High chair
  • Maclaren stroller
  • Baby monitor
  • Bottle warmer
  • Safety gates

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Kids Activities on site:

The house has some kids' DVDs, books and toys (our son loved playing with the 'Zoob' kit)

Kids Activities nearby:

There are lots of family-friendly activities at Blenheim Palace, including a maze and a butterfly house in the Pleasure Gardens, craft workshops with the lovely Marcella (ceramic dog-painting was a real hit with our 5 year old), and a miniature train which shuttles you there from the main palace. The almost-car-free lanes are great for scootering or cycling. See the Blenheim Palace website for more

Families Should Know:

Apart from the proximity of the river, you should be aware that the house has not been child-proofed with socket protectors, drawer locks etc. Also, mobile coverage on some networks is patchy - though there is a landline which you can use


  • Hospital: 20 minutes
  • Shops: 5 minutes
Kid Friendly:

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