Island Getaway in Art Deco Style 13-15 September 2013
Burgh Island, Devon
Built in 1929 and extended in 1932, the Burgh Island Hotel was an exclusive hideaway for the rich, famous and infamous of the 1930s
Burgh Island itself lies just off the Devon coast at Bigbury on Sea
The only properties on it are the fabulous Art Deco hotel with its outbuildings (including The Beach House, which was built as a writer's retreat for Agatha Christie and was also used by Edward Windsor and Mrs Simpson) and...
...the 14th Century Pilchard Inn, which is open to non-residents who walk across the sands
The weather was filthy when we arrived on the Friday afternoon, but our room, named after R J Mitchell who designed the Spitfire fighter plane, was sumptuously furnished.
Happily, on Saturday we woke to this view and the weather was glorious for the whole day
In 2006, the hotel was restored to its former Art Deco glory, as emphasised by the clock in the foyer. The hotel rooms are not numbered but named after famous guests. Moreover, the doors are marked only by suitable images, some more obvious than others - down our corridor, Oscar Deutsche's ODEON room was fairly obvious, as was Malcolm Campbell at work on one of his record-breaking speed boats, but I never figured out who was represented by the tasteful nude opposite him!
The state of the tide determines how you get to Burgh Island. At low water there is a wide area of sand joining it to the mainland, and guests and their baggage are brought across in a 4x4. At high tide, the water cutting off the island can be six feet deep or more and the Sea Tractor [in the foreground] is used. To get an idea of just how wild that can get in heavy weather, have a look at this clip on Youtube!
As it happened, the weather had been calm for so long before we arrived, and the sand had built up so much, that the tides never met and we were never really on an island at all! This a fairly rare occurrence, we were told, and the next storm would sweep away the extra sand.
The pub may be open to non-residents, and there is a public footpath round the Western side of the island, but no non-resident gets this view - or anything more intrusive - without trespassing. Clearly, what Burgh Island sold in its glory days was privacy. Perhaps it still does: we didn't notice any celebrities in our midst, but who knows?
Black tie is de rigeur for dinner. Beneath the surface polish, however, the secret of Burgh Island is that privacy that it offers to its guests in something like a houseparty atmosphere, and the relaxation that that affords, symbolised by...
...the totally secluded swimming pool, hidden from any paparazzi lens. Don't know how to waltz correctly? "You don't need to worry about that," says the band leader, "not on Burgh Island!"
It was when he said that that the penny finally dropped.