Nestling in the Cotswold Hills with superb views over the Windrush Valley, Burford is a wonderfully picturesque market town. The High Street, lined with ancient houses, shops and traditional pubs, sweeps down towards the River Windrush with its medieval three-arched bridge and the impressive Church of St John The Baptist.
One of the most popular local shopping destinations is The Burford Garden Company on Shilton Road, just across the road from Cotswold Gate. Whilst plants and gardening are at the heart of the business, there’s also a superb 300-seater café/restaurant, food hall, heritage kitchen garden, children’s store, art gallery and Le Souk marketplace selling a fabulous range of gifts and homeware from vintage jewellery to original art works and handcrafted furniture.
Whether you’re shopping for flowers or gifts, supplies for woodcraft, art or antiques, clothing or outdoor equipment, you’ll find it in Burford. The town’s collection of independent shops includes a bakery, butcher’s, delicatessen and The Cotswold Cheese Company – and there’s also a supermarket and post office.
All the usual local services are on hand including a library, bank and medical surgery along with the country’s oldest pharmacy – Reavley’s Chemist – which has been dispensing medicines since 1734. In nearby Witney, there are dental surgeries, opticians, pharmacies and branches of both Waitrose and Sainsbury’s.
If you’re meeting friends for coffee, Burford has an excellent selection of cafes and tea rooms and, when you’re dining out, you’ll be spoilt for choice with a superb range of restaurants providing everything from traditional pub food to fine dining at establishments like The Angel, The Royal Oak, The Spice Lounge and The Bay Tree Hotel.
Entertaining at home? At Upton Smokery, on the outskirts of town, you can buy traditionally smoked meats and fish, fresh fruit, vegetables, eggs, honey, olives, wines and beers – although you may be tempted to stay for a meal in the restaurant.
The pretty villages of Shilton and Swinbrook, near Burford, and Cogges and Bampton, near Witney, have stepped into the spotlight after featuring in television’s ‘Downton Abbey’ but each Cotswold village has its own unique charm and ‘flavour.’
The scenic hamlet of Bibury, famed for the ancient cottages in Arlington Row, the water meadow and the Saxon church, was described as ‘the most beautiful village in the Cotswolds’ by 19th century designer and artist, William Morris. Another contender for the title is Bourton-on-the-Water, described as ‘The Venice of the Cotswolds’ as is Painswick – home to the 18th century Painswick Rococo Garden, tucked away in a secret valley.
The cities fringing the Cotswolds – Bath, Cheltenham, Worcester, Cirencester and Oxford – abound with culture, heritage and architectural gems. In Oxford, you can indulge in retail therapy, visit a museum and relax on the river or in the Botanic Gardens. In historic Cirencester, explore the remains of one of the country’s largest Roman amphitheatres or enjoy a play or musical at the town’s Barn Theatre, winner of The Stage Awards Fringe Theatre of the Year in 2019. For a perfect evening out, pre-theatre meal or drinks in stylish surroundings, make sure you visit the theatre’s Teatro Restaurant and Bar. Cirencester also hosts markets selling fresh produce, antiques and crafts but, if you’re looking for the nearest branch of Waitrose – along with other High Street retailers and a whole range of independent shops – you’ll find them in Witney.
The Thames Path National Trail passes through Witney but living in The Cotswolds means having gentle strolls, hilly hikes and woodland walks on your doorstep. Combine your walk with a visit to a local attraction such as The Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens, two miles south of Burford or Blenheim Palace, a World Heritage site and birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. Just south of Cirencester, The Cotswold Water Park, the UK’s largest inland lake system, offers something for everyone from angling and bird watching to watersports, peaceful walks and off-road cycling – and there’s even an inland beach.
Throughout the year, local people and visitors alike flock to The Cotswolds’ festivals – the calendar of annual events features Chipping Norton’s Literary Festival, Cheltenham’s Food & Drink Festival, The Gloucestershire Vintage & Country Extravaganza, The Wilderness Festival and a host of open air concerts and events set against the backdrop of Blenheim Palace
Burford is a town with a real sense of community and plenty of activities for all ages. Local people and visitors come together at the Burford Festival which offers a wonderfully varied programme of music, drama, talks, tours and events. Burford and District Society organises regular talks, visits and lunches for members and there’s a monthly meeting of the Fulbrook and Burford Women’s Institute in the Warwick Hall. Here you’ll be able to join Burford Jazz or the Burford Singers, attend ballroom dance, stretch or aerobics classes, art groups or the monthly group for local residents – and there’s a programme of activities for over 60s.
One of the best ways to explore the acres of natural countryside is on foot – follow the five-mile trail along the Windrush Valley between Burford and Great Barrington or the walk that takes in the villages of Asthall, Widford and Swinbrook. The quiet country lanes around Burford will delight cyclists: waymarked routes include a 17-mile ride from Witney to Northleach.
This area offers a wealth of superb golf courses including the championship course at Frilford Heath, less than half an hour from Burford. Closer to home, there’s Burford Golf Club, just minutes from Cotswold Gate, where lush green fairways wend their way through mature trees. Burford is also home to Swinbrook Cricket Club and Burford Town Bowls Club which provides members with gentle exercise with a competitive edge in beautiful surroundings. For those who enjoy working out, there’s the Windrush Leisure Centre in Witney which has a pool, gym and facilities for racquet sports as well as a programme of lessons, courses and fitness classes such as studio cycling, Float Fit and Yoga.
“Pretty villages abound in the Cotswolds, and while each one has its own flavour, most of them share a similar aesthetic thanks to the gorgeous Cotswold stone they are cut from. Burford, Bourton-on-Water, Chedworth are some of the handsomest villages in the area. As well as admiring the architecture, visitors can dive into a pub for a pint, tuck into fine Cotswold cuisine in a local eatery or peruse the wares in one of the many antique shops.”
At the intersection of the A40 and A361, Burford is well connected by road with easy access to Oxford and West London. The 233 Woodstock to Burford bus route stops just outside the Burford Garden Centre and additional buses, operated by the Villager Community Bus stop at Church Lane and Burford War Memorial providing access to Chipping Norton, Stow-on-the-Wold, Bourton-on-the-Water, Witney, Kingham and villages inbetween.
For rail travel, Shipton station is approximately 6 miles away whilst Charlbury station is 9 miles from Cotswold Gate. If you’re travelling abroad, Bristol and Birmingham airports are within easy driving distance and there’s a shuttle bus from Witney to London Heathrow