Living on a boat and cruising the Oxford Canal means that we are usually within family cycling distance of Blenheim Palace for most of the year. And although it’s on our doorstep, so to speak, we have rarely visited, but when I saw on a poster in Oxford Bus Station a few weeks back that they were offering 50% off ticket prices if you arrived by bike, train or bus, I thought we should give it a go.
The importance of Active Travel to Blenheim Palace
Anyone who lives close to Blenheim or who has visited on one of the days when they have one of their many events throughout the year will more than likely know of the gridlock that can ensue as drivers beat their path to the palace entrances in their fossil-fueled cacoons.
Increasing the number of people who travel there by bike as well as by train and reducing the number of cars making the journey will go a long way to helping local pollution levels as well as the worsening climate emergency.
Our cycling route to Blenheim
We cycled along the A4260 Banbury Road then along the Straight Mile, across the A4095 and along Shipton Road into Woodstock where we entered Blenheim Palace via the Park Street entrance.
Had we been coming from Oxford then our entire journey would have been car-free as we could have cycled from Hythe Bride Street along the Oxford Canal until Kings Bridge (A44 bridge) and then along the A44 cycle path all the way to Blenheim – this section of the route is also the National Cycle Route 5 or NCR 5 which is on of the UK’s major cycle routes linking Reading to Holyhead.
For a family from Oxford that would be around a 45-minute gentle cycle ride with some pretty good views along the way.
Our family frolics at Blenheim Palace
We had a fantastic day at Blenheim. We started with a walk down and across the bridge to visit the Cedar of Lebanon which was featured in one of the Harry Potter films. The view of the palace here was stunning. We then popped into the shop for lollipops before going to see an exhibition on Winston Churchill who was born at the palace.
Early in the afternoon we then cycled to the Pleasure Gardens, got lost in the maze a few times, had a picnic, played games and then when it rained we took shelter in the butterfly house before heading home. It was a lovely way to spend the day.
Is the ‘Go Green & Save’ deal all it’s cracked up to be?
In short, no. I don’t think it is as it is playable. Let me explain. The thing with Blenheim is, for years they have been allowing people who visit just for the day to upgrade their tickets to a yearly ticket for free. For many people, like ourselves, we never see the admission fees as a daily price, but as a yearly one for that reason. This is where it can be played.
We asked the chap on the gate when we got our discount if our yearly ticket, when upgraded, would mean that each subsequent visit to Blenheim had also to be made by bike, bus or train – his answer was no.
We already knew this to be the case as we were told by a chap that he took the bus into Blenheim to get his family yearly ticket for cheaper and will next time be using his car to pollute his way to the palace.
What would have been better is that if Blenheim was to offer a truly ‘Go Green & Save’ ticket that promoted green and active travel throughout the year and not just for that day of the original purchase.
Ooh and by the way. This current promotion only includes tickets bought before March 31st 2020, so if you haven’t got yours for the year yet then get pedalling!
Cycling provision at Blenheim Palace
Cycling provision at the palace is sparse and dated and at the Pleasure Garden’s although there is space for many cars, cycle parking is nonexistent.
The palace cycle parking are those horrible wheel buckling types which have damaged many a bike in the past. You can see one such casualty in my tweet here.
Leaving Blenheim Palace
Leaving the Palace is also difficult by bike as you are directed to leave on the A4095 and rejoin the NCR 5 at the Bladon roundabout. This is a fast-moving road even though it is through a village! We opted to cross the road here and cycle steadily up the footpath to get us back onto the cycle path.
What would be better is for cyclists to be directed to leave via the gate on the Oxford Road in Woodstock which has the NCR 5 running straight past it.
Our conclusion on Blenheim Palace going green
We came away thinking that this promotion was a little empty of substance. Yes, it was great that Blenheim was encouraging people to come to their site in a more sustainable way, but we feel that if the ticket would have encouraged people to do this year-round it would have had a much greater impact. We’d also love to see this promotion ran year-round and not just for a few months in late winter. Encouraging people to cycle in the spring and summer would be a much easier ask.
We also feel that the promotion is more than a little empty when we took into account the lack of thoughts gone into cycle parking and infrastructure when leaving the park. It wouldn’t take much to get some proper Sheffield type stands in to make a big difference.
Happily though, we will be back – by bike! I’ll keep you updated also as Blenheim hopefully becomes more cycle-friendly.
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