Gandalf the VW Campervan is parked on a fairly quiet Caravan and Motorhome Club Site on the outskirts of Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire. We are sat here pinching ourselves, quite amazed that we’ve managed to make this trip. The odds seemed so against us fulfilling a trip that we booked months and months ago, we’ve barely dared mention it, let alone think about what to expect.
When we booked this back in July I think, we were just coming out of lockdown #1. Christmas seemed ages away and talk was that we’d be near enough through the end of this awful pandemic by then. It seemed a good idea to not book a European Xmas market trip, but we felt sure a trip to Blenheim Palace Christmas Light trail would be an easy escape. The days and months ticked by, new restriction upon new restriction came and then changed. We quickly realised that things weren’t as close to returning to normal as we’d hoped so shelved any further plans and just let this little trip to Blenheim sit in our diary, not daring to think about it at all. Lockdown #2 came and went, and then came the tiers. The chances of us and our destination being in tier 2 to enable us to make this trip seemed unlikely, but here we are. We were immensely lucky to be able to grab a change of scenery and we were going to enjoy it as who knows when we will manage it again.
The C&MC club site on the outskirts of Blenheim Palace is great (Bladen Chains). It’s walkable to Blenheim Palace and the pretty small town of Woodstock, where every building is built in Cotswold Stone.
On arrival to the site we enjoyed a quick set up and cracked open some fizz. The weather gods were shining down on us, and although it was cold, the sun was out, so we wrapped up and had half an hour sat outside the van, watching the day visitor cars exit the Blenheim estate.
We enjoyed Mulled wine and amaretto before walking to nearby Bladen, and The White House pub where we’d pre booked a table for dinner. The White House was allegedly Winston Churchill’s old local- I hope the food and service was better for him – we had a so-so meal and left underwhelmed. We walked in the footpath towards Woodstock (20 mins) where we saw 4 or 5 much prettier pubs – but sadly tier 2 restrictions on having to have a meal meant they were largely empty.
We continued into Blenheim estate for our timed entry to the light show. Immediately we knew we were in for a treat- the projection/light show on the house alone was absolutely sensational.
The rest of the trail did not disappoint- in fact it completely overwhelmed us and we both ended up crying several times on the circuit. Each section was carefully constructed with its own theme/song. The lights utilised the landscaping of the grounds, and the mix of Christmas music used was fabulous. It was atmospheric, tasteful and just utterly mesmerising. By the far the best Christmassy experience we’ve been on in the UK, and we’ve done a few now- nothing ever has surpassed Kew Gardens, until we visited Blenheim.
We took our time, making a couple of stops at the festive bars of course and drinking the atmosphere in. We were pleased to see that although it was fairly busy, everyone was making an effort to adhere to social distancing throughout.
After we exited we walked the short distance alongside the estate exit road back to the campsite, where we enjoyed a dram under the stars, watching the meteroid shower that happily was peaking this weekend.
Sunday dawned wet and grey but this wasn’t going to dampen our spirits. We’d got timed tickets for the inside of the house thanks to our Tesco Clubcard points so after a bacon butty and a hot shower in the heated block we made our way back to Blenheim Palace.
The Christmas tree display inside was stunning and we enjoyed our visit – although sad that we couldn’t see the room in which Churchill was born, it gives us an excuse to return another day.
After our self guided tour we headed back into Woodstock for lunch at a pub, before making our way back to Gandalf for mulled cider and a big chill. It felt wonderful to be away and enjoying chill time in Gandalf as so far our trips since getting him have been more jam packed and faster paced.
Sunday night we were treated to another wonderful display of the meteroid shower- I’ve never seen so many shooting stars. They were like natures own light show.
Monday morning soon arrived and we had set our alarms bright and early as we had to return in time to begin work.
We arrived home feeling re charged, thankful to have escaped for a couple of days and ready to face whatever comes next.
We’re supposed to be away for New Year but that’s looking unlikely so for now we’re hunkered up at home keeping ourselves and our family safe.
Christmas is going to be different for many of us this year, but whatever you end up doing, keep safe and well. Fingers crossed there is light at the end of this dark and gloomy tunnel.
And until next time