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Suite Staycation: Bull Burford, Cotswolds

In our newest column – Suite Staycation – hotel expert and author of British Boutique Hotels, Gina Jackson, tours some of the best hotel suites in the UK. Next up, Bull Burford, Cotswolds.

Best for… Getting out of your comfort zone

This patch of the Cotswolds is no stranger to a luxe hotel (and there have been many that have opened in the past year), but the quaint town of Burford has long been neglected when it comes to new openings.

Give us the lowdown

This honey-coloured hamlet that proudly marks the ‘gateway to the Cotswolds’ has too often been passed through by weekenders on their way into the green and pleasant land. Enter Bull Burford, the town’s former post office and coaching inn, which owner Matthew Freud (PR mogul and media magnate) has painstakingly transformed into an 18-bedroom bolthole with quirky, art-filled bedrooms, and a smattering of destinations to wine and dine. 

Its discreet entrance on Burford High Street may not give much away, but inside, interiors are anything but quiet, fusing much of the historic building’s original features (exposed fireplaces, creaky wooden beams and flagstone flooring), with striking, contemporary furniture. Throw a whole load of colourful artwork into the mix – all from Freud’s personal collection – and you have a hotel markedly different from anywhere else in the Cotswolds: priceless pieces by Banksy and Damien Hirst frame the hotel entrance, Basquiat paintings hang in the sitting room, and Salvador Dali sketches are casually propped up above the fireplace.

What’s in the suite?

Wind your way upstairs to discover a warren-like pathway leading to each of the hotel’s 18 hideaways. Bedrooms range from snug to spacious but all feature low-slung ceilings with calming interiors oozing plenty of wabi-sabi style. Expect lime-wash walls in shades of terracotta and deep navy, offset by chic, Japanese-style lanterns, linen bedspreads and bouclé armchairs. I checked into the largest suite in the house, The Bullocks, which features a separate sitting room (that is twice the size of the bedroom), and is decked out with rattan furnishings, and ceramics crafted by Freud’s niece, Martha.

The marble-clad bathroom was just as roomy, complete with WildSmith body products, a generous walk-in shower, and a bathtub large enough to swim laps in. There are no TVs throughout the hotel: a deliberate choice to encourage slowing down, and also no minibar – but you can help yourself to treats throughout the day at the 24/7 pantry, stocked with soft drinks and freshly-baked cake.

How’s the crowd? 

A local Cotswolds crowd mingles with chi-chi Londoners visiting over the weekend, meaning that you’ll find a real mix of guests across the hotel’s restaurants and bars. Swish interiors and expensive-feeling furnishings might feel decidedly grown-up, but the atmosphere is refreshingly relaxed and unstuffy.

Where can we eat and drink?

For a hotel that only has 18 bedrooms, BULL offers an impressive number of restaurants and bars (four in total). Easily the hotel’s crowning jewel is HIRO, its Japanese omakase restaurant – the first of its kind in the Cotswolds – seating just 10 guests, and helmed by head chef Hiromi, who was poached from Nobu in Ibiza. Guests will dine on twelve-course tasting menus while perched at the sleek omakase bar, among million-year old fossils and original Byzantine mosaics. Each delicious morsel created by chef Hiromi delicately fuses Japanese and British produce: think pillowy milk bread topped with mackerel tartare and wild garlic butter.

For all-day dining, head to HORN, where a comforting British menu is served from breakfast through to dinner. In the summer months, gather around the grill at WILD, a canvas-clad outdoor spot where you can watch chefs cook on the open fire as you rub shoulders with other guests, before spilling into GRAZE, the open-air bar and terrace. Ask politely and you may just get to end the evening inside the hotel’s infamous poker room, which is hidden within the wine cellars, and features a poker table gifted by Idris Elba.

Any stand-out touches?

The hotel has curated an eclectic range of activities worth trying. Go foraging for herbs with the kitchen chefs, get crafty with a kintsugi lesson, or join the local community choir at their evening practice. Guests also get access to owner Matthew Freud’s personal cinema and padel courts. 

What’s on the to-do list?

You’ll be in the ideal location to roam this bucolic corner of the Cotswolds. Burford’s famous garden centre is within easy walking distance, or pootle over to the nearby, picture-postcard villages of Bibury, Upper Slaughter, and Stow-on-the-Wold. If you’re not full up on feasting at BULL then, nearby, Double Red Duke, and The Bull at Charlbury both serve hearty pub lunches. There’s a fleet of electric bikes so you can explore further, should you wish. 

What else should we know before we go?

Leave the little ones at home on this occasion; children under the age of 14 aren’t allowed to sleep over here.

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