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How royal properties across UK will welcome visitors this summer holiday

By Kenneth Allen, CC BY-SA 2.0,

School holidays are starting this week, and royal-related sites across the UK are preparing to welcome families with activities and features for all ages. There are many different programmes and events happening throughout the summer, with something for everyone. 

Blenheim Palace

Although Blenheim Palace was never a royal residence, it has very close royal connections. Located in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, it is the only non-royal/non-episcopal residence to hold the title of palace; it is the seat of the Dukes of Marlborough. John Churchill was the first Duke of Marlborough, with a long and dedicated political and military career. His wife, Sarah, was the best friend of Queen Anne, and John was given the gift of the land and money to help start construction on Blenheim as a reward for his services. While Sarah and Anne’s friendship fractured and disintegrated, Blenheim Palace still stands. 

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Blenheim offers activities of all ages this summer, in addition to the house and grounds tours. Camp Wilderness is a 3-5 day camp for 8-14-year-olds, there are Bushcraft Activities for everyone 8+, and the Walled Garden includes a play area and trails. On Wednesdays, visitors can meet Bella the Horris Hawk, who helps protect the Palace stonework, and on Mondays to Fridays, children can go on pony rides at the Walled Gardens.  

Royal Yacht Britannia

While the Royal Yacht Britannia used to be The Queen’s royal yacht that the Royal Family used for vacations, honeymoons, and official visits, it is now permanently docked in Edinburgh. Visitors can explore the yacht, learn more about its royal history, and even stay in the small luxury hotel on the yacht. 

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Britannia is ready to welcome families for the school holidays. They offer separate audio guides for adults and children and have a Cuddly Corgi Treasure Hunt to spot corgis throughout the five decks. There are children-friendly options in the Tea Room and an 11-foot replica of Britannia made entirely of Lego. 

Hillsborough Castle

Just outside of Belfast, Hillsborough Castle is the official residence of the sovereign in Northern Ireland. From 1924 until 1973, it was the home of the Governor of Northern Ireland. Now it serves as the residence for the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, as well as The Queen’s home when she is visiting. Since 2014, it has been managed by Historic Royal Palaces and is partially open to visitors (like Kensington Palace, also managed by HRP). 

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HRP has created a new Imaginary Menagerie at Hillsborough, a nature and animal-inspired trail throughout the Gardens. It helps children learn about all of the animals that live around and on the Hillsborough grounds. It includes historical animals, like Lady Salisbury’s horses and Governor Lord Erskine’s tropical fish, as well as those currently living there. Families can either buy tickets to the Castle and the gardens to explore both or a Gardens-only ticket. 

Hever Castle 

Hever Castle has links to different Tudor queens. Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, grew up at Hever Castle, and he gave it to his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, as part of their annulment settlement. Located in Hever, Kent, the oldest part of the castle dates back to the thirteenth century, with a major renovation in the fifteenth century. William Waldorf Astor bought and restored Hever Castle in the early twentieth century, and after the Astor family sold it in 1983, it has been open for visitors for several decades.

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From 1 July to 31 August, Hever Castle is offering several different activities for children to enjoy. They can complete the Mythical Creature Quest throughout the castle and the Shield Hunt through the gardens and the grounds. And from 22 July to 31 August, younger visitors can learn about magical creatures, how to cast different spells, and about different witches and wizards. 

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