Located 20 miles west of Oxford, Burford is considered the southern gateway to the Cotswolds and one of the most picturesque towns in the region. It’s endlessly charming with its High Street sloping down towards the River Windrush, offering views across open countryside. Despite being a small town, there are numerous things to do in Burford, including shopping, walking, eating and drinking, and learning about the area’s interesting history.
Explore High Street
High Street is a great place to start your trip to Burford. Drop in the Burford Visitor Information Centre to grab a map and learn about the things to do in Burford and the surrounding area. The High Street is lined with pubs, cafes, cottages, and shops. Additionally, at the top of the hill, there are benches to take in the lovely view of Burford’s High Street and surrounding countryside. Notice the different buildings along the street. Some feature timber framing, while others boast ancient stone. And some even have stone or brick facades put onto a timber frame.
Huffkins Cotswold Bakery & Tea Rooms
Established in 1890, Huffkins Cotswold Bakery & Tea Rooms is a family-owned business with five tea rooms in the Cotswolds. In Burford, the bakery and tea room are conveniently located next door to each other. In the bakery, they offer melt in your mouth shortbread, classic and unique fruit cakes, loose-leaf teas (I can highly recommend the Girlie Grey), in addition to pastries and bread. All are perfect treats to take home or gifts for loved ones. The tea room next door serves breakfast all day, lunch, afternoon tea, cakes, and snacks. A seat by the window is the perfect spot to take in the view onto the middle of High Street and was certainly one of my favorite things to do in Burford.
Tolsey Museum features exhibits and collections about Burford’s social and working culture. One of the highlights is the dolls’ house modeled after The Great House on Witney Street. Additionally, it’s furnished in style from the Jane Austen time period. Housed in the former market building, the Tolsey Museum has free admission. However, I recommended giving a donation as this is how they’re able to keep their doors open. The museum is open from 2 pm to 5 pm Tuesday through Sunday.
The Highway Inn
A classic Cotswold pub with modern touches, The Highway Inn serves classic and contemporary dishes, in addition to local beers. On a sunny day, the Cotswold Haus, an easy drinking lager, is the perfect beer with hints of elderflower, citrus fruits, and mango. Yum! On top of that, during the summer, you can enjoy a meal or drink in the relaxing courtyard or at the picnic tables out front if people-watching is your thing. It’s a lovey spot to enjoy locally-sourced food and a refreshing drink.
Wander down Sheep Street & Witney Street
Don’t limit your time in Burford to only seeing High Street. Take a stroll down Sheep Street and Witney Street for a quieter afternoon. Stunning houses, cottages, and buildings line the streets with beautiful gardens and flower displays. On Sheep Street, there are benches to take in the relaxing street and scenic surroundings. Can you imagine yourself living here? Sheep Street originally got its name because it’s where sheep were bought and sold during the Middle Ages. Later, the road became the main coach route to the west.
Now, let’s move over to Witney Street, which was the main coaching route to Oxford and the east. The Great House is located at 30 Witney Street and is one of the largest gentry homes in town. Built around 1690, it’s a must-see when visiting Burford. As it’s a private residence, you can’t go inside. But you can see how the inside of the home is laid out by visiting the Tolsey Museum and studying the doll house modeled after it.
Visit St John the Baptist Church
Built between 1175 and 1500, St John the Baptist Church in Burford is considered one of the 1,000 best churches in England. It’s located at the bottom of town near River Windrush. Throughout the church, you can see various periods of architecture on display. The spire weighs too much for the tower and is actually out of line with the building.
During the English Civil War, three soldiers were executed in the churchyard on Oliver Cromwell’s orders, while 340 were held captive in the church. The Levellers were soldiers rebelling against the authoritarian rule, and carvings from these soldiers can still be found inside the church. You can even see the bullet holes in the church wall where the three soldiers were shot.
Go for a walk
As the southern gateway to the Cotswolds, Burford has numerous walks nearby to take in the area’s natural beauty. Pick up the “Walks from Burford” brochure in the visitor centre for £1. It includes six circular walks ranging from 1.5 miles to eight miles all starting and finishing at the Tolsey Museum on High Street. Going for a walk has to be one of the top things to do in Burford, in addition to any part of the Cotswolds.
How to get to Burford
The easiest way to get to Burford is by car. There are free parking spots along the High Street and in a riverside parking lot at postcode OX18 4SE. Even the view from the car park is scenic with ducks swimming down the mill stream. Burford is approximately an hour and a half drive from Birmingham or London and a half hour drive from Oxford, Cheltenham, or Stratford-upon-Avon.
There are bus services from Oxford (St Giles, stop C5) to Burford. It’s bus number 853 with Swanbrook Coaches towards Gloucester. Charlbury is the closest train station, which is less than 10 miles from Burford.
Burford, England is a lovely addition to a Cotswolds travel itinerary. With numerous things to do in Burford, it’s a charming and interesting destination to explore and a gateway to the southern part of the Cotswolds. Does a trip there interest you? What would you like to do and see there?
Related article: A guide to walking the Cotswold Way