A visitor’s guide to Banbury

PUBLISHED: 13:00 31 March 2020 | UPDATED: 16:42 31 March 2020




We’ve assembled a brief guide to help you to get the most from your visit to Banbury, sponsored by Spratt Endicott

Spratt Endicott | 03300580250 | se-law.co.uk

White horses, canal boats and fast cars – all three have connections with Banbury. The town has two distinct aspects – cutting edge industry and ancient history. Come via the M40, and you’re likely to pass the gleaming white headquarters of international racing car engineers Prodrive. Head in by narrowboat and you’ll moor up at the distinctive Castle Quay – all shiny glass, zinc and brick. Arrive via the slow country roads and you’ll catch sight of the famed Banbury cross and the statue of a fine lady upon a white horse – she of the legendary nursery rhyme.

Old Banbury’s medieval heart was augmented by Georgian and Victorian streets, now lined with independent shops, bars and cafés. Modern Banbury also has out-of-town outlets such as Marks & Spencer and Next, and supports food businesses including Jacobs Douwe Egberts. Technology firms and cluster of motor racing manufacturers have also based their operations in Banbury, drawn by nearby Silverstone racing circuit.

Most noted for... the traditional children’s nursery rhyme that mentions a fine lady, a white horse and Banbury cross. The present-day cross is a Victorian addition to the town, replacing the old town crosses destroyed by the Puritans. A 21st century statue was proposed as a focal point for the town in honour of the Queen’s golden jubilee in 2002, and though it took a while raise the required funds, it was finally erected in 2005.

While you’re here... try a Banbury cake. It’s a local delicacy served in Banbury made to a recipe that dates back to the 1300s.

But try not to... miss Tooley’s Boatyard. It’s the oldest inland waterway dry dock dating back to 1778, where boats are repaired and serviced.

Who’s who

Potty-mouthed international chef Gordon Ramsay started his cooking career at Banbury College. The author, composer and critic Anthony Burgess, who wrote the cult classic A Clockwork Orange, taught at Banbury Grammar School in the 1950s. The late entertainer Larry Grayson was born in Banbury, and Conservative Party politician Lord Michael Heseltine, and his wife Lady Ann, live in nearby Thenford and occasionally open their gardens to the public. Prodrive boss and former rally car racer David Richards lives close to Banbury and works in the town. In 1758 American polymath and inventor Benjamin Franklin visited nearby Ecton to pay his respects at his aunt’s and uncle’s graves.

Banbury Museum

A trip to Banbury Museum includes a walk over the glass bridge that spans Oxford Canal. The waterway was important to the town’s prosperity and trade, and museum exhibits include a working model canal lock demonstrating the science behind canals, boats and steep gradients.

Canal day

Thousands of people head to Banbury for the annual canal day event in October. Narrowboat and barge owners proudly show off their brightly painted craft and taxi boats offer free rides on the day. Keep an eye on the Cotswold Life events pages to find out more.

Folk and hobby-horse festival

Left-field, but a spectacle nonetheless, Banbury’s hobby-horse enthusiasts honour the cock horses of the town’s famed nursery rhyme by gathering to prance through the town dressed in their own version of finery. Latterly the event has been combined with the Banbury folk festival in October to create a day of fun and festivity.

Population: 47,000

Move here for...


And get: An Edwardian semi-detached townhouse with original stained glass windows, stairs and ornate balcony.

Eat at: The Moon and Sixpence

Why? Chef Hylton Bradley takes pride in his local connections and his picturesque gastro-pub in Hanwell, just outside Banbury.

Drink at: Ye Olde Reine Deer Inn

Why? With a centuries-old tradition of hospitality, a link with the key Civil War battle of Edge Hill and a reputation for serving well-kept real ales, The Reindeer, as it is known locally, has all the attributes of a proper hostelry.

Stay at: Easington House

Why? This charming country guesthouse is within walking distance of Banbury town centre, has a characterful interior and offers private parking to boot.

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