Perfect places to live: Tuscany, Kefalonia, Rome... and Burford?

Forbes magazine ranks Cotswolds town sixth most idyllic place in Europe

Even on an overcast day when rain is drizzling down, the Cotswolds town of Burford manages to look stunningly attractive. It needs to, because Americans will be coming in with high expectations since the authoritative Forbes magazine designated it the sixth most idyllic place in Europe. Forbes's advice to US readers wanting to buy property in the UK was that the first place to look is Burford.

They might be surprised when they arrive to find how small it is, as well as how clean, and old, and prosperous. There is no railway station or bus terminus within miles. Burford is a town with a population of only about 1,100. Its 500 or so houses are nearly all constructed of sand-coloured bricks with tiled roofs. Rows of shops line the High Street and the town council meets in a building called The Tolsey, which is where Burford's citizens went to pay their local taxes in Tudor times, and it doubles as the local museum. The main car park is by a river where ducks and swans wandered between parked vehicles.

The town's only downside, according to Forbes, is that houses here are more expensive than anywhere it reviewed, even more than in the wine-growing area of Tuscany. It calculated that the average house cost £532,669.

But that was in November. The good news, should you happen to be a rich American looking for a house to buy, is that the pound has since fallen against the dollar, and Burford prices are not quite that high any more, even in sterling.

The most expensive place in the window of James C Penny estate agents yesterday was a four-bedroom country house, with 73 acres including a football pitch and driving range – yours for £1.5m. For those on a modest budget, there was a matchbox-sized cottage at £185,000.

At Wychwoods estate agents, almost everything on offer was below the figure quoted by Forbes. "There was a bit of a price adjustment after September, when we went through a very quiet patch that lasted into the new year," Tracy Colledge of Wychwoods said, adding: "This is a lovely place to live, if you can afford it – good for families. There are plenty of places to eat, but if you want to go to town, there is Cheltenham, or Oxford, which are not far away. But a tiny cottage with no parking space and no garden can cost £300,000-ish."

The accompanying blurb in Forbes that described the town as the gateway to the Cotswolds, a "mountainous and beautiful region in the centre of southern England", caused some amusement locally. However, Burford's gorgeous High Street does curve steeply up a hillside. There are antique shops, art galleries, tea shops, pubs and boutiques galore, but most of the big names you expect to see in any urban shopping centre are absent. There is not a boarded-up store or derelict building anywhere.

Walkers, a High Street shop that styles itself "The home of Clearview Stoves in the Cotswolds", is a family business that has been selling antiques since 1952, and has sailed through the past few months as if the recession never happened.

"We have been too busy to know how Burford as a town has been doing, but all the businesses here are pretty well established," Henry Walker said. "We continued to have growth for the whole of the last year."

Despite Forbes's pronouncement, one sound not heard on the High Street yesterday was an American accent. There were plenty of visitors everywhere but all appeared to be from nearby. Even the people keeping the estate agents busy have been mostly British, including some famous names like Kate Winslet and the members of Radiohead. But as the season picks up, Burford need not be too surprised if it is suddenly getting more than its share of interest from across the pond.

Burford: Past and present

* Average house price: £532,669. Properties date to the 15th century.

* Town's wealth came from the wool industry in the 14th to 17th centuries.

* On 17 May 1649, three Levellers were executed on Oliver Cromwell's orders in the churchyard.

* Renowned for antiques, art and the Burford Garden Company, whose customers include Kate Moss, David Cameron and Gary Barlow.

Top 10: European places to live

1. Gaiole, in Tuscany

2. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France

3. Copenhagen, Denmark

4. Kefalonia, Greece

5. Ljubljana, Slovenia

6. Burford, UK

7. Budapest, Hungary

8. Sibiu, Romania

9. Rome, Italy

10. Dejà, Spain

According to Forbes magazine

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Client Services Assistant

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Client Services Assistant is ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior / Senior Sales Broker - OTE £100,000

£20000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportuni...

Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Duty Manager is required to join one of the ...

Recruitment Genius: Team Leader

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Team Leader is required to join one of the l...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor