Burford and the Cotswolds might as well be synonymous. Firmly cemented on most visitors’ lists, it is certainly not a hidden gem! However, despite my aversion to popular locations, I still think Burford deserves a visit. With so many things to do in and around Burford, it would be wrong to miss out on this charming market town. Plus, you will find the crowds bearable so long as you avoid weekends, bank holidays, and the summer months.
If you are asking yourself what to do in Burford, here are my favourite things to do!
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Top Things to Do in Burford
Visit the Church of St John the Baptist
If there is one thing the Cotswolds has lots of, it is churches! Funded by the booming wool trade of medieval times, you will find no end of impressive churches throughout the Cotswolds. And none more so than the Church of St John the Baptists. Built between 1175 and 1500, it is a Grade I listed building that welcomes over 100,000 visitors every year! This makes it one of the most visited churches in England!
Address: Church Lane, Burford, OX18 4RZ
Experience the Leveller’s Day March
On 17 May 1649, during the English Civil War, a group of over 300 Levellers were captured by Oliver Cromwell following the king’s death. Levellers were a radical proto-socialist political movement committed to abolishing the monarchy, suffrage, equality, and sovereignty.
After their capture, they were held in the Church of St John the Baptist, where 3 of the leaders were executed. The bullet marks can still be seen on the church walls!
For the last 40 years, on the May weekend closest to the anniversary of the event, Burford comes alive to remember the Levellers. As well as a grand parade, 17th-century costumes, music, and dancing, this event also offers an opportunity to discuss modern politics with debates and speeches.
Learn about Burford’s history at Tolsey Museum
The Cotswolds is dotted with historic market towns, and Burford is one of them. In fact, it was the first town in the Cotswolds to be granted a market charter back in 1088. Then, in the 1500s, they built a Toll House right on the High Street so the Guild of Merchants could come together to collect payments for the fairs and markets. It was also a meeting place for the wool merchants who travelled far and wide to sell their wares at Burford market.
Today, this black and white Tudor building with Cotswold stone pillars houses the Tolsey Museum. This museum showcases the history of Burford with exhibits about bell founding, brewing, leather working, and clarinet making. The most interesting feature of the museum though, was the lock-up where drunkards and troublemakers were detained.
The Tolsey Museum is a great way to learn more about the history of Burford and the Cotswolds while also being an ideal activity for a rainy day!
Address: 126 High St, Burford OX18 4QJ
Opening Hours: 2-5 pm delay
Visit England’s Oldest Pharmacy
Visiting a pharmacy may not be the most obvious attraction while travelling to a new place, but when it is the oldest pharmacy in the country, I believe it does deserve a special mention! Located right across from the Tolsey Museum, you will find Reavley Chemist, which has been running since 1734. Located on the High Street, not only is Reavley’s an ordinary chemist selling modern over-the-counter medication, but it also offers traditional medicinal practices for a variety of ailments and health issues. Even if you are not on the lookout for medical help, visiting this chemist is an excellent way to step back in time and understand the world of medicine before allopathy took over the world. The shelves are lined with Victorian apothecary cures and remedies. A visit to this pharmacy will undoubtedly be one of the more unusual things to do in Burford!
Address: 124 High St, Burford OX18 4QR
Opening Hours: 9 am to 6 pm Monday to Friday; 9 am to 5 pm on Saturdays; Closed on Sundays
Shop for Antiques on Burford High Street
Burford’s High Street has an array of unique stores selling everything from antiques and other collectibles to fashionable country wares. There are too many great shops to mention, and since I’m not too fond of antique shopping, I’ll let you find those for yourself. So instead, I’ll share with you my three favourite shops!
Three French Hens
This cutesy little store is the best spot for souvenir shopping in Burford. The owner, a traditional Schöffel-wearing gentleman with your typical British humour, describes his shop as “selling everything you don’t need”. A lot of the trinkets you will find in the shop pay homage to the British Countryside culture with signs such as “Trespassers will be shot. Survivors will be shot again”!
Address: 39 High St, Burford OX18 4QA
If you have followed me for a while, you will know I have a sweet tooth, and this little high street shop is a paradise for candy lovers (or hell for people on a diet!). You’ll find everything from bonbons to liquorice, toffees, and an array of the old traditional sweets, all arranged in jars along the walls. You can mix and match whatever you like! Just don’t eat them all at once!
Address: 94 High St, Burford OX18 4QF
Opening Hours: 9 am to 5 pm Monday to Saturday; 10 am to 5 pm Sunday
Lastly, the Madhatter Bookshop is a bookworm’s paradise. This charming bookstore is much more than a place to buy a book. It is where you come to be surrounded by the knowledge and enthusiasm of fellow book lovers.
Address: 122 High St, Burford OX18 4QJ
Opening Hours: 10:30 am to 4:30 pm daily
Marvel at the Picturesque Houses at Burford Hill
Continue up the High Street until you reach Burford Hill, and you will find yourself in the most photographed spot in Burford! This effortlessly picturesque hill is lined by rows of pretty houses that haven’t changed for centuries, allowing you to step back in time.
Would you prefer to explore the Cotswolds with a guide?
Then check out these tours.
Best walks in and around Burford
Walk the Cotswolds and Burford Circular
Personally, I think the best way to explore the Cotswolds is by going for a walk, and if you are visiting Burford, then the best walk you can do is the Cotswolds and Burford Circular. This 6.5-mile walk will take you through quaint little villages, through farmland, across rolling hills, and along the Windrush river.
Although most visits to the Cotswolds focus on the more famous towns such as Burford, Stow on the Wold, Broadway, or Bourton on the Water, I always think the real charm exists in the smaller, often unknown villages that surround them. These villages are so small though, that it would be unsustainable for people to drive there, which is why hiking or biking there is your best option.
On this particular ramble, you will pass Fulbrook, Swinbrook, Widford, Asthall-Leigh, and Shilton, and I guarantee you will be charmed by every one of them! The walk starts and finishes on the High Street and is suitable for most fitness levels. I’d recommend doing the walk in late Spring when all the wildflowers have blossomed, and the butterflies are out on mass. It is a beautiful time of year to explore the area.
Cross the Medieval Bridge Over the River Windrush
Connecting some of my favourite towns in the Cotswolds, the River Windrush eventually leaves this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty by passing through Burford on its way to Witney and finally the Thames.
Crossing the river in Burford is a beautiful medieval bridge. Unfortunately, it is always jam-packed with traffic as it is the main thoroughfare. However, if you step down to the river banks, you will get a beautiful uninterrupted view of the bridge. If you are lucky, you might find a swan or duck willing to pose for the perfect Instagram shot! Or perhaps you just want to connect with nature by sharing some food with them. If you do, then please make sure you buy bird-specific feed. The days of sharing bread are long gone!
Don’t just stop at the bridge though. Instead, enjoy a walk along the river, which is particularly beautiful in autumn, when all the leaves start to turn.
Best National Trust outings near Burford
If you have a National Trust membership, you will definitely want to put it to good use! There are a lot of National Trust properties dotted around the Cotswolds, and a few of those are within easy reach of Burford.
Arlington Row – Bibury
Without a shadow of a doubt, one of the best trips you can do from Burford is a visit to Bibury, where you will find the most famous row of cottages in the UK! In fact, they feature on the British passport! I’ve written a full guide on Bibury, which I recommend you check out. Bibury is less than 10 miles from Burford, and it shouldn’t take you more than 15 minutes to drive there. If relying on public transport, then you’d need to get the 853 towards Cheltenham and then swap on to the 855 towards Cirencester at Northleach.
Address: Arlington Row, Bibury, Cirencester GL7 5NJ
Chastleton House near Moreton in Marsh is also worth a visit. Surrounded by beautiful countryside, this ancient manor house is like a 400-year time capsule full of memories and relics of the families that have resided there throughout the centuries. You can read more about it in my Moreton in Marsh guide. It is a 15-mile drive to get there, which you could combine with a visit to the charming market town of Chipping Norton. It is possible to get there by public transport, but personally, I’m not sure it would be worth the adventure!
Address: Chastleton, Moreton-in-Marsh GL56 0SU
Lodge Park and Sherbourne Park Estate
The last of the National Trust properties I recommend in the area are Lodge Park and Sherbourne Park Estate. It is the only surviving 17th-century grassland! It is teaming with wildflowers and wildlife makes for a brilliant afternoon stroll. Even better, it is only 8 miles from Burford by car. There is also a villagers bus service that runs on a Friday if you are using public transport.
Address: Lodge Park, Aldsworth, Cheltenham GL54 3PP
Best Dog-friendly activities to do in Burford
Many of the pubs are dog friendly, as is the Cotswold Wildlife Park. However, without a doubt, the best thing you can do if travelling with your dog is enjoy the expansive countryside surrounding Burford. There are so many beautiful walks in the area with many traditional pubs along the way where you’ll both be able to quench your thirst.
Where to Stay in Burford
The Angel at Burford
The Angel at Burford is a beautiful medieval pub and hotel with a wonderful walled garden, a sun terrace, and some of the best food you can find in Burford – and even in the Cotswolds! It has won “Cotswold Pub of the Year” three years running! But fear not, that hasn’t gone to their heads! You can still expect a warm and friendly welcome. The inn has been run since 2011 by the King family, and it features three cosy rooms with king-size beds.
Address: 14 Witney St, Burford OX18 4SN
If you are looking for a place to stay in Burford, then definitely check Burford House out. It is a medieval half-timbered townhouse from the 17th century that has been converted into an inn. With six en-suite bedrooms, this building, made almost entirely of Cotswold stone, is an architectural marvel with leaded windows and exposed beams showing off that typical medieval Cotswolds charm. The Burford House also features a sitting room with a wood-burning stove and a garden room overlooking their courtyard gardens. The inn also has one self-catering house called Bumble Cottage for those wanting more privacy.
Address: 99 High St, Burford OX18 4QA
The Bull Cottage is one of the oldest cottages in Burford, dating from 1390. This building has retained much of its dated character, taking you back in time with its warm and welcoming hospitality. This medieval-era cottage features stone arches, flagstone floors, and timbered beams. But just because the house is old doesn’t mean the amenities are! You can expect all the modern-day comforts, including en-suite bedrooms, a fully functional kitchen, and a wood-burning stove. Not only is the Bull Cottage a great place to stay in Burford, but it also has a little bit of history going on. This inn has been hosting guests and visitors for over three centuries, and some of their renowned guests include King Charles II, Nell Gwynne, Lord Nelson, and Lady Hamilton, to name a few!
Places to Eat in Burford
When you are in the countryside, it would be wrong not to enjoy a hearty traditional meal in a great British Pub, and Burford certainly has a few to choose from!
But what is the difference between a pub and a restaurant? They both sell food and drink, don’t they? I don’t have an official answer, so I’m just going to share my interpretation of the difference.
Pub is short for public house, where people have congregated for centuries to socialise. I always think of a pub as more informal with a local family feel. Most areas have “their local pub” where everybody knows everyone, so there is often a great community feel.
So, what are my favourite pubs in and around Burford?
Suki will often join us on our adventures, so it only seems fitting that she gets to vote on the best dog-friendly pubs in Burford.
The Highway Inn
When the pub has paintings of dogs in uniform, you know you’re in a dog lover’s paradise! Located in the centre of Burford, the Highway Inn serves delicious food made using only the freshest of local ingredients and ales crafted by local breweries. Dogs are welcomed in the bar area, where they will find a dog bowl and some doggy treats to keep their tails wagging!
Address: 117 High St, Burford OX18 4RG
Travelling with your dog doesn’t mean giving up on luxury, but it does often mean being able to enjoy a much more relaxing atmosphere! Dogs are welcome in the bar area of the Lamb Inn, where aside from delicious grub, you can also expect exposed beams and flagstone floors, cosy armchairs by the fire, and intimate tables tucked away in the corner. The Lamb Inn also offers traditional afternoon teas. And you can even sit out in their charming country garden when the weather is nice!
Address: Sheep St, Burford OX18 4LR
Best Country Pubs near Burford
The Carpenters Arms
Located just a 10-minute walk from Burford, or an easy 2-minute drive away, you will find the Carpenters Arms, which is the best place to eat in Burford (in my humble opinion). The food is top-notch, and you couldn’t ask for a better welcome. They are even dog-friendly!
My favourite dishes include the Salt and Pepper squid with an Asian dressing and their rabbit croquettes. I love that they have rabbit on the menu! Such an underrated meat yet always so tasty (plus very lean too!).
Address: Fulbrook Hill, A361, Fulbrook, Burford OX18 4BH
The Swann Inn in Swinbrook
Another of my favourite dog-friendly pubs, which also happens to be one of the best country pubs near Burford, is the Swann Inn in Swinbrook. It’s listed on the Michelin guide for its outstanding local seasonal food. Aside from the great food though, what makes the Swann Inn unique is its location: right next to the River Windrush! It also features a garden filled with fruit trees, perfect for relaxing.
Address: The Swan Inn, A40, Swinbrook, Burford OX18 4DY
Best pubs on Burford High Street
If you don’t fancy leaving Burford for your pub experience though, here are my two favourite pubs within a couple of minutes’ walk from the High Street.
The Royal Oak
Situated inside a Grade II listed building, the Royal Oak serves the best pies in the Cotswolds! In fact, it would be a crime to eat here and have something other than one of their pies! My favourite is the Steak and Ale Pie. However, the Creamy Chicken Pie is also rather lovely. For dessert, I highly recommend the Sticky Toffee Pudding, a good old traditional British dessert!
And to keep up with the traditional English theme, make sure you enjoy a glass of Pimms in their garden on a sunny summers days. It really doesn’t get much better than that!
Address: 26 Witney St, Burford OX18 4SN
The Angel at Burford
Probably the best place to eat in Burford is the Angel at Burford, which I have already mentioned above as one of the best places to stay too. The Angel has a superb menu. The king prawn and brie croquettes are excellent, as was the rhubarb crumble. And for beer lovers, you will also be able to enjoy the locally brewed Hook Norton Ale, which I hear is fantastic. As a non-beer drinker, I can’t pass judgement on that one!
Address: 14 Witney St, Burford OX18 4SN
Other places to eat in Burford
There is more than just pubs in Burford, and my best friend Rachel would never forgive me if I didn’t include Huffkins in my review!
Huffkins Café Tea Rooms
If there is one thing Burford must be known for in terms of food, it has to be its world-famous lardy cakes. Think Chelsea buns, but without the icing. These lardy cakes often contain currants, sultanas, sugars, and spices. And if there is one place you must go for this local staple food, it is the iconic Huffkins Café Tea Rooms on the High Street.
Huffkins is now a famous Cotswolds bakery with six chains spread across the region, but the first one was established here at Burford in 1890 by Mr. Titcomb. Back in the day, they would bake using a wood-fired oven and deliver the cakes and pastries to people’s houses using a donkey cart! Today, it is one of Burford’s most famous places to eat. As well as lardy cakes, you can also enjoy scones with clotted cream and jam, English teas, Belgian buns with lemon curd, and sourdough pizzas.
Address: 98 High St, Burford OX18 4QF
Cotswold Cheese Company
Last but not least, let me tell you about The Cotswold Cheese Company. I’ve never actually been to the one in Burford, but I am a regular at their Moreton in Marsh branch! This shop is purely dedicated to the art of making cheese. They have a wide variety of cheese, many of which are locally made in the Cotswolds. Some of their most popular, classic cheeses include the Barnham Blue, Oxford Blue, whiskey smoked cheddar, Shropshire Blue, Stinking Bishop, Cornish Mature Gouda, and Oak Smoked Cheddar. Be warned, it is a dangerous shop. Once you start tasting what they have available, you will leave with a large bag or a hamper filled with cheese!
Address: 113 High St, Burford OX18 4RG
How to Spend a Day in Burford – Frequently Asked Questions
Where can I park for free in Burford?
Considering it is one of the most popular destinations in the Cotswolds, all parking is free in Burford. As well as on-street parking, there is also a riverside car park (postcode OX18 4SE). If parking on the High Street, please note that there is a time restriction, so don’t get caught out!
Can I get to Burford using public transport?
There isn’t a train station in Burford, but it is easy to get to by bus. From Cheltenham, you can get the 853 bus. From Oxford, you’d need the 233 bus which leaves from Hanborough Station (please note you will need to catch the train from the centre of Oxford to Hanborough).
What is Burford known for?
Burford is a quaint, picturesque Cotswold town known for its charming houses, antique shops, complicated socio-political history, the River Windrush, and the beautiful Cotswolds and Burford Circular Walk.
What does the name Burford mean?
Back in the day, Burford used to be a fortified village. The name “Burford” literally translates to “fortified manor” (burh) and “a place by a shallow river” (ford) in Old English.
What is the postcode for Burford?
I suggest using the postcode for the riverside car park, which is OX18 4SE.
Why have I not included Cotswold wildlife park?
When you look at “best things to do in Burford”, the Cotswold Wildlife Park will undoubtedly come up on most top 10 lists. Having been there a few times, I know why. It is a beautiful wildlife park set over 150 acres with animals that appear to be very well cared for. The problem is that I’m no longer sure how I feel about animals kept in captivity. On the one hand, I see the benefit from a conservation, research, and education point of view, but on the other hand, I question whether there are now better ways that we could achieve this. This is why I am not recommending the Cotswold Wildlife Park. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject though!
Can I visit Burford as a day trip from London?
Personally I don’t recommend it as I feel the Cotswolds deserve much more than a day! However, if you only have a day there a number of London tours available.
Are you planning a visit to Burford?
If you are planning a visit to Burford, or anywhere else in the Cotswolds, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com with any questions. I am always happy to chat about this beautiful area I call home.
If you have recently visited Burford and feel any of the information on this guide is outdated, or you think I have missed a real gem, please also get in touch. It is very important to me that I always keep my guides up to date!
Other places in the Cotswolds you might enjoy
Moreton in Marsh – the only town in the Cotswolds you can reach by train