Undoubtedly one of the prettiest towns in the Cotswolds, Burford is a tranquil opportunity to step back in time. You can dip into one of the pubs or tea rooms, browse some of the pretty shops, and enjoy any of the other lovely things to do in Burford.
Burford is perhaps most recognised for its High Street, striding downhill until it meets the River Windrush. There’s an opportunity to snap photos of the impressive mediaeval bridge or nip into the church. Mind you, it’ll take you longer than usual to wend your way along the High Street as you’ll be distracted by beautiful ancient houses and inviting shops. And that’s before you stop off at the fascinating Tolsey Museum.
There’s no escaping that Burford is one of the most popular small towns in the Cotswolds. It’s not only loved for its classic Cotswolds charm, but it’s also a well-known spot for antique hunting and places to eat. Remarkably, you can stay in a hotel once visited by King Charles, dine where Nelson once ate or even visit the oldest chemist in England!
If you want to avoid the busiest times in Burford then visit out of season. However, one time you should aim to join the slightly higher numbers is on Levellers Day in May. There’s a vibrant parade through the town accompanied by various celebrations of human rights and freedom of speech.
One of the things I love most about Burford is the maze of alleyways and side streets ripe for discovering.
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Burford – what you need to know
Where is Burford?
Burford is on the north-east edge of the Cotswolds, within easy reach of Oxford. As such, it’s a perfect entrance point for reaching the Cotswolds from London and exploring many of the other villages and attractions beyond.
Due to its location, Burford is best accessed by car with the A40 coming close to the village. It’s around a 2-hour drive from London. Having a car also makes it much easier to explore other areas in the Cotswolds too.
However, unlike many other Cotswolds villages, it is at least possible to visit using public transport! There’s a bus (the 233) to Burford from Witney, and you can connect to Oxford in Witney.
Parking in Burford
Again, Burford is actually one of the easiest Cotswolds villages and towns to park in owing to the large free car park at the lower end of town. Find the car park via a turning by Mrs Bumbles (a wonderful deli!).
Take care as the road is narrow as it passes the Church, with just room for a single car, and then enter the car park.
It’s good to know that there are also free and clean public toilets located in the car park too.
Burford accommodation also offers greater choice than many Cotswolds villages as it’s just slightly larger as a small market town. Expect plenty of high-quality options.
The Highway Inn
Found right on the High Street, the Highway Inn is a characterful property that successfully balances its original charm with modern luxurious touches.
A boutique hotel, with each bedroom being distinctly unique, it’s also intimate and perfect for a romantic stay. Enjoy a full English breakfast in the morning in the popular restaurant.
The Lamb Inn
For luxury Burford accommodation, The Lamb Inn should be top of your considerations and is a popular Burford hotel. The Lamb Inn is, so wonderfully, found on Sheep Street!
It’s exactly everything that you expect from stylish yet Old English accommodation. A stay here warms the heart with award-winning food, outstanding service and thoughtful touches. Enjoying a pre-dinner drink in the courtyard and walled garden is a must.
Another Burford boutique hotel is the charmingly tiny Burford House which has just six ensuite rooms. It may be small but each room is simply beautiful and you’ll be afforded a warm welcome.
The Bay Tree Hotel
21 individually designed rooms make up the higgledy-piggledy Bay Tree Hotel on Sheep Street. Dogs are welcome too and a fair weather stay should definitely include a game of croquet on the lawn!
The Angel at Burford
A 16th century coaching inn, The Angel is ideal for a family stay in Burford, but also has an excellent restaurant.
As well as luxury hotels, Burford also boasts a few characterful B&Bs as well as several holiday lets.
Where to eat in Burford
There are so many wonderful places to eat in Burford that you will definitely be spoilt for choice. The Burford pubs are renowned for their warm hospitality and there is a good range of Burford restaurants. Of course, afternoon tea in Burford is a must too!
Pubs & restaurants in Burford
The Mermaid is an 18th century pub that serves up classic British pub grub in front of imposing fireplaces in a characterful atmosphere.
In the winter, it is cosy indoors with real ales but in summer, order a jug of Pimms and head outside.
The Cotswold Arms
The Cotswold Arms is one of my favourite Burford pubs. The outside is always inviting, with a display of vibrant red leaves in autumn creeping up the golden Cotswolds stone. It’s a pub to get a picture of from the outside!
Inside, you’ll receive a friendly welcome and excellently executed British dishes, such as beef and ale pie or fish and chips. Veggies and vegans are well catered for too.
A word of warning though – pick your night, as this is a popular pub with locals for music and sports.
The Highway Inn
The Highway Inn has a popular restaurant and with good reason. Enjoy the atmosphere in the historic building while tucking into good food.
The Lamb Inn
The Lamb Inn is also home to one of the best restaurants in Burford. This Old English Inn is a place where you can expect modern seasonal dishes beautifully presented accompanied by excellent service.
I recommend dining al fresco if the weather permits, as there is a beautiful walled garden.
The Bay Tree Hotel
Dinners, as well as afternoon teas, are served at The Bay Tree Hotel. Expect a charming atmosphere and your dog can come too!
The Little Italian Bistro in Burford House serves up tasty meals both inside and in their courtyard garden.
The Spice Lounge
Enjoy an organic curry healthily prepared at The Spice Lounge on the High Street.
The Angel at Burford
With a clutch of awards under its belt and an AA rosette, chef Mike Burkert serves up tasty and well-presented fresh seasonal dishes.
The Priory is a pretty little restaurant in Burford that offers a varied menu, as well as café-style food.
Places for afternoon tea in Burford
Many of the hotels in Burford offer afternoon tea. However, you may also like to try:
Lynwood & Co
A local’s favourite, Lynwood & Co serve up delicious in-house made cakes, as well as sandwiches and salads.
A local icon, Huffkins is renowned for its gourmet teas and coffees but also its food, including scrumptious cream teas. A traditional tea room and bakery, it’s a must-do in Burford.
Huffkins is also wonderful for loading up a hamper for a picnic to enjoy down by the river. Other places that are essential for stocking up for a picnic are Mrs Bumbles and The Bakery on the Hill.
Best things to do in Burford
1. Burford walks
There is a fabulous choice of Burford walks with something for everyone to enjoy the surrounding Cotswolds countryside.
One of my favourite Burford walks is called the Villages of Windrush Valley. It is a 4 mile gentle walk that takes in Norman churches and manors, and you even walk past ancient burial mounds.
Another good walk is Great Barrington to Burford which allows you to enjoy the gentle splendour of the Windrush Valley.
2. Go shopping
Burford is renowned for its antique shops, but there’s so much more to discover here too. The shops are wonderfully inviting and often highly specialist and luxury.
A wander down the High Street is a must. Some of my favourite shops to wander into include:
- The Cotswolds Cheese Company for the likes of Stinking Bishop or Whisky-Smoked Cheddar.
- The Sweet Shop for traditional British goodies.
- Three French Hens for its eclectic offerings.
- The Madhatter Bookshop for a world of imagination.
If you’ve come by car and are going home soon, it’s also worth visiting the garden ‘centre’ on Church Lane.
3. Get photos
Make sure you spend some time meandering around Burford, discovering the alleyways and the Windrush.
One of the best places to take photos, and an area which showcases just why people love Cotswolds villages so much, is Burford Hill. Here you’ll be charmed by the row of quaint picturesque cottages.
4. Visit St John the Baptist Church
The St John the Baptist Church in Burford is well worth a visit. Rightly a Grade I listed building, it is alive with 1,000 years of history.
See if you can spy where one of Cromwell’s imprisoned soldiers carved his name into the stone before meeting his gruesome end by execution. You can even see a bullet hole in the wall!
Even if the blood-thirsty history isn’t your thing, this church is worth visiting for its marvellous architecture, making it one of the best churches in England, let alone the Cotswolds.
5. Hunt for ghosts
A Burford must-do is to enjoy a theatrical ghost tour with the aptly named Bill Spectre. He was once famed for his Oxford tours, but he’s now brought his tours to Burford where you can get spooked as you discover another side to this sleepy town.
Expect Bill to immerse you in dark and unsettling stories as he turns up in full costume and amuses you with his illusions and suitable props!
6. Visit The Tolsey Museum
The Tolsey is Burford’s museum and it’s well worth a visit if you have time. Within the half-timbered building, you’ll find the spot where wool merchants would gather to conduct their trade in mediaeval times.
In the rooms above, there are some fascinating exhibits sharing details of the local trades that flourished here. There are the expected ones, like brewing and leatherworking, but you’ll be intrigued to learn a little more about clarinet-making and bell-founding!
It’s open in the summer only, from Tuesday to Sunday, so plan your visit accordingly.
7. Partake in the Levellers Day
Every May, Levellers Day is marked in Burford with debates, a parade and pop-up stalls. To give an idea of what to expect, 2022’s theme was called ‘Defending Democracy and Protest’.
It involved a ceremony of remembrance to Cromwell’s executed soldiers, a march throughout the town, a Levellers conversation and debate, a performance poet and musician, as well as storytelling.
8. Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens
Perfect for families, but fascinating for everyone, the Cotswolds Wildlife Park and Gardens is just a five minute drive from Burford.
Here you’ll get a chance to gaze at giraffes, marvel at some rhinos making the Manor House lawns their own and discover some cheeky lemurs.
9. Asthall Manor
Asthall Manor is on the outskirts of Burford and is a truly lovely place to visit. A Jacobean manor house sitting amongst beautiful gardens, meadows and woodlands, it feels like a secret discovery.
Whilst it is a private home, you can regularly visit the grounds and it’s become a hub for art and nature opportunities. There is a biennial sculpture exhibition held here.
Burford is a wonderful small town to visit in the Cotswolds and offers a wealth of things to do and places to stay. It’s also an idyllic base for exploring the deeper Cotswolds beyond, especially some of the most iconic Cotswolds villages like Bourton-on-the-Water, Stow-on-the-Wold and the Slaughters.
Looking for more Cotswolds inspiration? Discover my guide to the best things to do in the Cotswolds.