Burgh Island Hotel, Bigbury-on-Sea, Kingsbridge TQ7 4BG, Devon UK
Phone: 01548 810514
Burgh Island Hotel is undoubtedly a unique boutique travel experience. It’s like stepping into a time machine and returning to the glitz and glamour of the 1930s. It’s a delightful Art Deco hotel situated on a private island off the coast of South Devon. In the 30’s it attracted Britain’s pre-war luminaries such as Agatha Christie, Noel Coward and Winston Churchill. Unique Boutique Travel visited in October last year and stayed in the fabulous Amy Johnson room. The word to remember when you visit Burgh Island is that it is an experience and you will be transported to another time.
History and location
The South Devon Art Deco hotel was built on the tidal island in 1929 and quickly became a popular holiday destination for the well-to-do. It is not, however, the oldest building on the island, that title belongs to the 14th-century Pilchard Inn, which is still open for business. The hotel is most easily accessible by car, although the closest stations are Totnes, Ivybridge and Plymouth. The secure hotel car park is on the mainland a couple of hundred metres from the island. When the tide is out you will be collected in the hotel Land Rover and driven across the sand to the island. It is actually more fun to arrive when the tide is in because then you are transported across the island by the sea tractor, an ungainly looking vehicle that rolls through the water on extended legs.
The entire hotel retains its Art Deco style. The furniture and décor are exactly as they would have been in the 1930s and that is very much part of the charm of Burgh Island. You won’t find a TV or DVD player in any of the bedrooms, because they weren’t part of the 30s era. There is a TV in the library hidden in one of the lower levels of the hotel. The only real concession to modern life is the Wi-Fi available throughout the hotel, so if you absolutely cannot do without the distractions of the 21st century you can keep up to date via a tablet or smartphone. However, it is the perfect opportunity for a digital detox, put down the phone and try reading a book or a game of backgammon.
As mentioned, Unique Boutique Travel stayed in the Amy Johnson suite. Each of the 25 rooms in the hotel is named after a distinguished guest who had stayed in the hotel in years gone by from Agatha Christie to Noel Coward, Amy Johnson or RJ Mitchell. There is a separate writers retreat used by Agatha Christie to write two of her novels. Each room has its own distinctive style with period décor and furnishings. In the Johnson suite we had a free-standing bath in the bedroom (separate toilet) and a delightful little lounge complete with Bakelite telephone and radio.
The Palm Court is a lounge by day and a cocktail club by night. Enjoy both, have a sumptuous afternoon tea in the lounge and then indulge in one of the many signature cocktails before dinner. The highlight of The Palm Court lounge is the decadent stained-glass Peacock dome on the ceiling. It was commissioned in 1929 by Archie Nettlefold.
There is the Nettlefold restaurant, where breakfast is served, with its beautifully rugged, clifftop setting and dazzling sea views. The restaurant includes The Captain’s Cabin annexe, literally the captain’s cabin of HMS Ganges, a warship built in 1821. The Nettlefold doubles as a fish restaurant in the evening, specialising in locally caught fish and produce. The Nettlefold is relaxed with a smart casual dress code.
If you want the full Burgh Island experience you must attend the formal Black-tie dinner in the Grand Ballroom. A five-course meal with music and dancing is simply amazing. We are sure the food was first class, but it was outshone by the whole Grand Ballroom experience. You simply cannot overdress for the Grand Ballroom dinner. However, they do enforce the Black-tie dress code and if you aren’t suitably attired you will be directed to the Nettle fold restaurant.
Enjoy the day strolling around the island, the local beaches or perhaps playing a game of tennis. Stop by the Pilchard Inn and have a crab baguette for lunch washed down by a local pint. Perhaps take a dip in the Mermaid Pool, a natural seawater bathing pool, secured in WWII by a sluice gate and surrounded by rocks for complete privacy.
Enjoy afternoon tea in The Palm Court Lounge before retiring to your room and dressing in Black-tie for dinner. Relax in the Cocktail Club with pre-dinner drinks made by Gary the barman, a true character and a local attraction in his own right. Dine-in Grand Ballroom, listen to the live band and dance the night away. Finally, drift back to the Cocktail Club for a nightcap before retiring to your room to relax in 1930s luxury.
The privately-owned island is largely open to the public, but the hotel grounds are reserved for guests, which helps to preserve the 1930s experience. Non-residents are able to book meals in the restaurants and afternoon teas in The Palm Court Lounge.
Service and facilities
The staff are attentive and helpful, the service is nothing less than first-class. Gary, the barman, is an amazing character, humorous with an abundance of stories.
- The Palm Court Lounge and Cocktail Club.
- Tennis court and croquet.
- Spa treatments available.
- The Mermaid Pool.
- Free parking.
- Free Wi-Fi.
- The sea-tractor.
- The ‘experience’.
There are plenty of beaches nearby, which are worth visiting during the summer months. Otherwise, why would you pass up on the Burgh Island experience? A two-night stay will allow you to take advantage of everything that the tidal island has to offer as you relax and enjoy the Burgh Island Hotel experience.
Unique Boutique Travel has probably overused the word ‘experience’ in this post. However, the ‘experience’ is exactly what Burgh Island is all about. Step onboard the time machine and enjoy the glamour and decadence of Burgh Island Hotel, you won’t regret it.