Oxfordshire [England, UK]

We started the day by heading to Minster Lovell Hall and Dovecote in the small village of Minster Lovell to view the ruins of a 15th century manor house. A very pretty rural place that was a bit hard to find, we had to ask a local jogger for directions!

After spending some time there, we drove over to Blenheim Palace, birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. The family tree of well known English figures is probably not well known to most Americans, including ourselves. It turns out that the this branch of the Churchill family is actually Spencer Churchill. The Spencer branch being the same family as Diana, Princess of Wales, formerly Diana Spencer. They would have been fairly distant relations. As for the palace, it is quite impressive!

We ended our day by taking a walk around Oxford. There were graduation ceremonies taking place at some of the colleges that make up the University of Oxford. It was quite busy. After the last few days of being in relatively remote places, it felt like we were in a big city!

Minster Lovell Hall and Dovecote

Dovecote is a word that was unfamiliar to us. It is a type of structure used to house pigeons. They were raised for food here. Thus, at this site, there was a manor house and a dovecote. Some manor houses are also castles, this one was not.

We missed the recommended parking location for the ruins and found ourselves on a single track road headed away. We stopped in a pull out, or lay by as they call them here. Another car was already parked so it seemed OK. We tried to find path in the immediate area to the ruins but failed, everything seemed to be private property. A jogger happened to be coming in our direction so we asked him. It turns out there was a walking path though a gate. After passing through the gate, we found ourselves at the corner of a large grassy field. We walked in the direction of the ruins, hoping that there was actually a route there.

Soon, we could see the ruins in the distance. But there seemed to be fences in the way. One thing we did not realize at the time was that the circular structure on the right is the dovecote. At the time, we noticed some doves on the roof but didn’t think anything of it. We only learned what a dovecote was after reading a sign later on in our visit!

We found a gate further down and entered the ruin site. The remains of Minster Lovell Hall were in front of us.

We walked closer to the main structure. There were outlines of other rooms and buildings on the ground.

There was just a bit of the building left on the opposite corner. The entire square shaped site consisted of buildings on three sides and a wall on the fourth.

We went into the main building to take a look. There isn’t much there. Just some rooms open to the elements.

Was this the main entrance?

While walking around, we noticed this small bird. A European Robin, or just Robin as they call them here. No actual relation to the American Robins that we have back home. They don’t look similar at all!

A few more sections of wall that were standing.

There is a church right next to the ruins. The official suggested parking area is at the church. We didn’t have too much time so didn’t take a closer look.

We walked south along the west side of the ruins.

There is a river just to the south of the ruins. We saw some locals swimming in it! They were over to the right, maybe a few hundred feet away.

A nice view of the main building and church from the river!

By now, we had learned what a dovecote is. The sign made it sound like it was possible to get closer. We tried to see if we had missed something on our way in.

We found a gate and a narrow path!

There was a 90 degree turn that headed straight for the dovecote!

The dovecote appears like what one would expect from a circular tower. There is a small entrance for people but it was closed. The space around the dovecote is very narrow as it is surrounded by private property.

We backtracked and returned to the field to walk back to where we parked.

We noticed that there were many doves.

Many doves, like this pure white one, were flying around.

We also saw other species, like this Common Wood-Pigeon.

We also saw quite a few swallows flying around. The ones that we examined were Barn Swallows, the same species that we have back in the US.

We also saw at least two Red Kites soaring above. They are in the same family as the Cooper’s Hawks and Sharp-Shinned Hawks that we have back home. This isn’t our first time seeing a Red Kite though. We first noticed one at Windsor Castle on our previous trip to the UK.

It was harder to photograph birds perched on trees unless they happened to stay put like this Common Wood-Pigeon.

Blenheim Palace

After returning to our car, we drove over to Blenheim Palace. This palace is named after a battle in Europe, won by a member of the Churchill family. The Duke of Marlborough was created after this battle. The Churchills were eventually joined by the Spencer family, resulting in Spencer Churchill. The famous prime minister of the UK during World War II, Winston Churchill, is a Spencer Churchill. He was born here.

After parking, we walked to the palace. The grounds are huge and open to the public. There is a rather large lake which was being dredged.

It was quite busy even though we arrived at around opening time. There were many individual tourists as well as bus tour groups.

The palace building is quite grand and very impressive!

The view looking out towards the main gate.

The view in the opposite direction.

This curved section reminded me of the curved section of the London County Hall.

It was a bit confusing as to what was open. We eventually figured out that it seems they hadn’t opened all the doors yet.

We ended up in the chapel. It is a small space but with a beautiful interior.

After going through a door, we ended up at the Water Terraces on the west side of the palace building. It was a beautiful outdoor garden with lots of water.

We went back into the palace’s gigantic courtyard area, intending to visit the Churchill exhibition, and found that the main door was open. We went inside. Unlike royal palaces, photograph was permitted!

Just a random corridor that was closed off. It was extremely busy inside the palace with tour groups clogging the rooms, making it impossible to get by.

This is the room where Winston Churchill was born! We couldn’t tell if it was decorated to look like it would have when he was born or if it was for some other time period.

A painting of Winston Churchill.

We passed under some deer heads…

There was quite a bit of Chinese porcelain on display.

The ceilings were quite ornate, just like royal palaces. Blenheim seemed to be in much better condition than any of the monarchy buildings that I’ve visited though.

Although Blenheim isn’t a royal palace, there were examples of royal clothing. From Netflix! The last piece was used in The Crown to depict Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation.

There was an extremely impressive library in the palace.

There was also an impressive organ, like one would find in a cathedral!

After finishing the tour route, we headed to the Churchill section. The entrance is down and to the right in this photograph.

Churchill’s hair from when he was a boy! The look makes me think of a French king.

Churchill was successful at proposing for marriage on the 4th try. All we know about marriage proposals during that time is from Downton Abbey. Maybe it worked the same way for him?

A wax statue of Churchill. It’s good enough to be in Madame Tussauds!

The final room we saw inside the palace was the Indian Room. Very different from every other room!

After exiting the palace, we went back to the west side by the lake.

We were one level below the Water Terraces. The palace building is impressive from every direction!

We went back to the palace’s courtyard. The exit, where we initially entered, is on the opposite site.

After exiting, we decided to walk over the bridge in front of the palace towards the tall column in the distance.

The scenery was quite beautiful. The other direction was directly into the sun so it didn’t look as good.

There is a tree on the opposite side that was in one of the Harry Potter movies.

Look familiar? It was in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. We’ll have to watch it again!

We backtracked and headed back to the parking lot, passing by the palace’s front gate on our way.


Our next and final stop of the day was Oxford. We didn’t have any particular plan other than to just walk around the University of Oxford area.

Oxford seems to have a complicated way of doing commencement. We saw part of one ceremony taking place in one of the colleges. The collegiate system used here is very different from what we are used to in the US. As far as we can tell, it is basically like Harry Potter. The primary difference is there is no magic hat. Prospective students apply directly to the college of their choice rather than having it chosen for them.

One of the colleges, Christ Church, was used for some scenes in the movies. And the dining hall in the movie is based upon the real dining hall at Christ Church. We tried to visit but it was closed to visitors due to commencement.

The Bridge of Sighs, a nickname given to this bridge based upon its similarity to a bridge in Venice. It links two buildings of one the colleges, Hertford College.

We continued walking, eventually heading east.

We walked for a bit on the Magdalen Bridge. Rather than having something common like paddle boats, they rented out Venice style gondola boats. But instead of having a gondolier, the customer does the job! They did actually have pedal powered gondolas that seemed to go much faster!

We turned around and headed back west to end our visit and to find dinner!

Minster Lovell Hall and Dovecote Map

Blenheim Palace Map

Oxford Map

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