A visitor’s guide to Burford

PUBLISHED: 14:52 01 April 2020 | UPDATED: 14:52 01 April 2020

Burford

Burford

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We’ve assembled a brief guide to help you to get the most from your visit to Burford, sponsored by Burford School

Population: 1,400

Move here for... £475,000

And get a two-bedroom two-bathroom townhouse set over four floors in the centre of Burford, with a courtyard garden and its own off-street parking.

Drink at: The Bell Inn (01367 860249)

Why? Reopened in 2017 this country pub in nearby Langford has quickly established itself as a must-visit hostelry. Good beer, good fare and good beds to boot.

Eat at: The Angel (01993 822714)

Why? With traceability at its heart and a farm to fork ethos, the award winning Angel on Witney Street takes classic dishes and reworks them into favourites.

Stay at: The Bay Tree hotel (01993 822791)

Why? With 21 chic and comfortable bedrooms, this Sheep Street hotel combines charm with old-fashioned appeal and the promise of a good night’s sleep.

Burford has the prettiest approaches of any of the Cotswold towns, with houses and cottages spilling down The Hill if you arrive via the fast A40 trunk road between Oxford and Cheltenham. But those in the know who take the winding route along the River Windrush valley, will find themselves flanked by wildflower verges and ancient hedgerows. The old ways take you straight into the heart of the ancient town – but however you arrive, Burford is beautiful. The town ticks all the boxes when it comes to typifying the Cotswolds and is known as a gateway to the region. Despite being so small, Burford was one of Oxfordshire’s wealthiest towns in medieval times, with the best stonemasons and saddlers. Kings’ visits and Cromwell’s forces punctuate Burford’s history, as did its useful location as a coaching stop. The pubs and inns are both welcoming and well-loved. Dive down Burford’s little alleyways and side streets to find tucked away medieval timber and stone houses nestled alongside hidden eateries and shops. The town thrives in the present-day, brimming with locals as well as tourists and supporting a High Street selling everything from cheese and flowers, to brushes and antiques. It’s no wonder, then, that American magazine Forbes named Burford one of the most idyllic places to live in Europe.

Most noted for... its connections with democracy and equality. An annual Levellers Day, always held on the Saturday closest to May 17, honours three of the so-called levellers who were executed in 1649 by Oliver Cromwell’s forces. As a group they had taken sanctuary in the parish church and declared their belief in religious tolerance and civil rights and a plaque commemorates their names. Past speakers at the event have included the late politician Tony Benn and writer and activist the Rev Giles Fraser.

While you’re here... drop into butchers W J Castle see its new farmshop and food emporium, which includes vegetarian offerings. And make an excuse to step into Reavley’s to see original apothecary’s cabinets in the oldest pharmacy in England.

But try not to... miss the Tolsey museum, a timber-framed house where medieval merchants once paid their dues, which has some town curios and history.

Who’s who King Charles II arranged secret assignations with his legendary mistress Nell Gwyn in the town leading to one of their sons, Charles, being made Earl of Burford. Former partners and media moguls Matthew Freud and Elisabeth Murdoch turned Burford’s old Benedictine priory into a home worthy of their power-couple status, inviting Mary Keen to oversee the garden design. Writer Reginald Arkell was educated at Burford grammar school, and the novelist Sir Compton Mackenzie and his brother-in-law Christopher Stone lived by the River Windrush. Author JB Priestley stayed in Burford in the early 1930s to research elements of his book English Journey. In the 1800s the town was home to the Prince Regent’s horses.

St John the Baptist church

The church of St John the Baptist, set against the River Windrush, was so admired by arts movement leader William Morris that he established the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. Artist LS Lowry famously painted the church in 1948. The four-centred arched window and Norman doorway with chevrons and animal heads are among the features that prompted Simon Jenkins’ to name it in his top 20 when compiling England’s Thousand Best Churches.

The Cotswold Wildlife Park

Cotswold Wildlife Park, just outside Burford, has zoological collection featuring everything from anteaters to zebras. It is the country’s largest privately owned zoological collection with over 260 species of animal on-site. (01993 823006)

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