How to do afternoon tea at the palace

Can I crook my pinkie without dropping the cup? Milk first or after the tea? Start with the sandwiches or the cakes?

Forget about the bank balance, these are the important questions in life when one dines at a palace.

Located next to the historic town of Woodstock in Oxfordshire, England, Blenheim Palace oozes wealth, age, and history.  There are life-size portraits, antique furniture, and precious china at every turn.  Even the ceilings are decorated with glorious art.

Drop a couple of Aussies into this setting, and there’s sure to be a few faux pas, but I didn’t see any grimaces. Instead, everyone was unfailingly polite and welcoming.

We sat down for afternoon tea in the Indian Room under watchful eyes in the vibrant fresco-covered walls.  The table view looked over a stunning formal garden filled with large ponds, fountains, and statuary.  It’s a slice of the good life.

Afternoon tea started with a flute of Pol Roger champagne and finished with an exquisite cup of tea with all manner of sweet treats in between. Delicate macarons, mini chocolate ├ęclairs filled with Chantilly cream, smoked salmon rosettes on blinis and ribbon sandwiches, there was enough food for lunch as well as dinner.

Fabulously fresh, all the food at Blenheim is sourced locally and made on site each day. It’s all real food, even the cream which had been freshly whipped a little too enthusiastically and was just on the turn to butter!

Home to the 11th Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, Blenheim is a World Heritage Site and also the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, who was a cousin of the ninth Duke. The Churchill Exhibition, set around the room where he was born, shows a personal side to this great man.

Outside the palace is over 2000 acres of landscaped gardens designed by Capability Brown, while inside is awe-inspiring 18th century Baroque architecture.  You can wander the halls by yourself or take a tour and hear the history behind the stunning portraits and exquisite furniture that fills the grand rooms.  While it’s hard to take your eyes off the d├ęcor, look skyward and there’s even more to see with decorated ceilings and ornate stonework.

Blenheim Palace is just one of the gems of the Cotswolds, an area that is so picture card perfect that it seems impossible that it’s real and not some sort of giant theme park.

The room and bed was the birthplace of Winston Churchill.

You can drive here in about two hours straight from London.  We stayed at The Feathers, the first English hotel to establish a Guinness World Record for the most varieties of gin commercially available on the planet.  It has a large courtyard and gin bar.  The building has been a feature of Woodstock since the 17th century.

For more information on the Cotswolds visit their Travel Guide
or Cotswolds Tourism.

Disclaimer:  Kerry Heaney stayed and travelled as a guest of Visit Britain, and flew from Australia with Cathay Pacific.