Woodstock's claim to host one of Britain’s best literary festivals will be boosted by the line-up for this year’s five-day feast, announced today.

The festival, which runs from September 12 to 16 has been renamed the Blenheim Palace Literary Festival At Woodstock.

Among this year’s highlights are former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Ashdown, novelist AN Wilson, historian John Julius Norwich, chef Ken Hom and poet Roger McGough.

Other big names are expected to confirm over the next few weeks.

Festival deputy chairman Jill Dunsmore said: “We are very proud that once again Blenheim Palace and Woodstock will be hosting many of the best writers this country has to offer. The new name acknowledges that festival events take place at venues both inside Blenheim Palace and in the centre of the town.

“It also recognises the big contribution the palace makes to the festival and that, ultimately, the festival takes place in Woodstock.

“In every other respect, it is the same event. Ours is a very intimate festival. It is a great opportunity to meet and talk to your favourite writers, to join in the debate and to socialise, all in the magnificent surroundings of both the palace and the town.”

Lord Ashdown, a former member of the Royal Marines’ elite Special Boat Service (SBS), will talk about his new book A Brilliant Little Operation, the story of the Second World War ‘cockleshell heroes’ who paddled canoes 100 miles up the Gironde estuary to sink German ships in Bordeaux.

Liz Earle, who has won a huge following for her health and beauty products based on natural botanical ingredients, will talk at St Mary Magdalene Church about her new book Skin Secrets.

Hannah Rothschild, a member of the famous European dynasty, will tell the fascinating story of her great aunt, Pannonica Rothschild, who left her French baron husband and five children to live among the jazz musicians of New York in the 1950s.

Other speakers will include the ‘greatest Jesus scholar of his generation’ Geza Vermes, who will discuss his new work Christian Beginnings, in which he explains how an anti- conformist Jewish sub-sect rose to become the official religion of the Roman Empire.

The festival will also feature dinners, including one prepared by Ken Hom, tastings, performance, debates and literary discussions.

The publishing director of Penguin, Simon Winder, will also be at Blenheim Palace to explain what went into choosing the new Penguin English Library of the 100 best novels in English.

  • Tickets can be booked at the Oxford Playhouse, the Feathers Hotel in Woodstock, by calling 01865 305305 or online at woodstock literaryfestival.org