Burgh Island Hotel in Devon: An Art Deco Gem

The drive from Leicester to Burgh Island Hotel in Devon was epically long and not at all fuel efficient; with an outside temperature above 30°C, the air conditioning was working hard. I spent the entire 5 hours in the back seat working on my laptop, so thankfully missed getting frustrated at the ridiculous amount of traffic winding its way south on the M5. I didn’t actually look up until Danny told me to call the hotel and request they dispatch our collection vehicle, we needed a special form of transportation for the final mile!

The view out the front windscreen looked like a postcard from the Mediterranean, all I could see were white sand beaches and azure blue seas. A sign assures me we are close to Burgh Island and definitely in Devon, but I can’t say I have ever been to a British beach in this kind of weather. We park and a wall of heat hits me as soon as we get out the car, who says the UK weather is rubbish?!

The stretch of beach that is covered by the high tide between Burgh Island and the mainland
The view of Burgh Island from the mainland

Burgh Island Hotel in Devon

Burgh Island Hotel is stunningly set on a private island just off the Devon coastline near Bigbury-on-Sea. Built in 1929 in an Art Deco style, it was a popular retreat throughout the 1930s with the likes of Agatha Christie (who wrote two books while staying on the island) and Noel Coward. A stretch of beach separates the island from the mainland and twice a day at high tide, the sea completely covers this stretch of sand, cutting it off from the mainland.

The view of the mainland from Burgh Island
The view of the mainland from Burgh Island

Regardless of where the tide is on your arrival, you will be directed to a beachside car park on the mainland and await your final transportation to the hotel. In low tide this is in one of the hotel’s Land Rovers, but in high tide it is something more unusual, a sea tractor!

Now for those who aren’t up to date on sea tractors, don’t worry, they aren’t exactly common, in fact Burgh Island claim to have the only one in the world. Commissioned in 1969, it has been recently renovated so that guests that don’t fancy swimming can still reach the hotel in high tide.

I am really not sure how to describe the sea tractor, it was an experience! I hadn’t told my Dad (also in the car with us) about the unique form of transportation, his face was a picture!

A Family Party

Our family always like to find a reason to get together and celebrate pretty much anything, but we always go all out for a big birthday. My uncle’s 60th was no exception and Burgh Island Hotel in Devon was chosen to be the location we all descended on for a weekend of glitz, glamour and fun!

Burgh Island Hotel is like stepping back in time, there is something magical about the island and I imagine it is just as captivating in the rain with stormy seas. On arrival, the hotel lobby was full of people, but as we had the whole place to ourselves for the weekend (the hotel offer exclusive use packages), it felt like a glamourous house party!

The entrance to Burgh Island Hotel in Devon

A Kir Royale appeared in my hand and we spent a couple of hours catching up with extended family and friends, as well as meeting new ones. It was then time to retire to our rooms to get ready for and evening of good food, beautiful views and a murder to solve.

Rooms

Burgh Island Hotel in Devon have 25 very unique rooms and suites, each named after a previous guest. You know that generally when you go to a hotel that has advertises sea views this means 10% of them see a sliver. Not at Burgh Island, they all have them, although in some of the smaller rooms they are only partial.

The coast of Devon from Burgh Island

The Beach House is the top of the lot, separate from the rest of the hotel down by the beach. With 2 bedrooms, a private deck and hot tub, It was originally built in the 1930s for Agatha Christie who wrote two of her books here.

The Garden Suite is the biggest of the suites with, you guessed it, a private garden! It is also located next to the Beach House, so separate from the hotel. The Artists Studio is a sweet room above the Pilchard Inn, the island’s very own pub a couple of minutes walk from the hotel.

Clear waters around Burgh island Hotel in Devon
Clear waters around Burgh Island

The rest of the hotel is made up of 4 large suites, 4 medium suites, 2 small suites and 12 rooms, 3 of which can be made into twins. A word of warning though, those of you who have read previous posts will know I am very fussy about my hotel beds and a super king bed is a hotel must have for me. However, Burgh Island Hotel only has 2 rooms with super king beds, 11 king size, 6 queen and 6 doubles. The hotel have an information sheet on the rooms, including bed size in each one, so ask for a copy if this is important to you.

Nettlefold Room

We opted for Nettleford, a large suite with a separate living room, private balcony and unobstructed southerly sea views. It also had a queen bed, horror! I considered making Danny sleep in the living room, but just squished him into the far edge of the bed and stole all the duvet instead!

The 1930s style continued into our room and if I’m completely honest, it was a little tired and dated. However, I have noticed that the suite we stayed in had been refurbished since our stay and the pictures indicate the 1930s style had been retained but the tiredness gone!

Our bedroom area was spacious (I’m not sure why the bed wasn’t bigger) with a dressing table and French doors onto the balcony with an amazing sea view. Our bathroom was updated with all the modern luxuries, including fluffy bathrobes and a range of Burgh Island toiletries. There was also a superb roll top bath facing the window, however the shower attachment was not overhead which made showering challenging! On a bit of investigation, this is common throughout the rooms, so again, if this is important to you, request which rooms have an overhead shower before booking.

Our living room was a good size again, with a sofa and 2 armchairs, gorgeous mini chandelier brass wall lights and another set of French doors onto the balcony.

One of the things I loved was that a breakfast try of fresh coffee and water was brought to our room every morning. I thought this would be an inconvenience, but I actually really enjoyed our tray being brought to us and sitting out on the balcony enjoying the view.

A Murder Mystery

We made our way down to Palm Court, a beautiful room with a glass domed ceiling and the most superb sea views. The bar is located here, as well as a grand piano that one of our party serenaded us with at several points during the weekend. It is also where your afternoon tea is served should you opt for it during your stay.

We were wholeheartedly embracing our 1930s private island getaway with a theme for the evening of “Last Night on Party before going on Safari” in that era. A khaki dress, 1930s headband and cream ostrich feather clutch bag, I was ready for some Pimms and the barbecue.

Burgh Island Hotel in Devon regularly hold murder mystery evenings and one had been organised for us for the first night. The set up was excellent, there were half or dozen or so actors and actresses who made their way though the guests to chat and divulge clues. Every 20 to 30 minutes or so, they would stop us all to progress the story. I thought this was a great way of doing it as it held our attention but didn’t dominate our evening; we could still chat and catch up with people. It also made it feel like the actors were part of our party and that the “murder” was real! You could also be as involved or uninvolved as you wanted.

I had not been to a murder mystery party like this before and the more casual atmosphere really worked well, it didn’t feel like a structured event as others I have been to have felt like.

All in all a perfect evening, cocktails, a sea breeze and a murder to solve, what else could you wish for?!

The sunset from the terrace at Palm Court
Watching the sunset from the terrace at Palm Court

Nettlefold Restaurant

After a fairly magical evening (we solved the mystery and all lived happily ever after), we headed down to the restaurant Nettlefold for a slightly later than usual breakfast! Buffet and cooked to order options are available which we enjoyed with our coffee on the outside terrace, another scorcher or a day was coming!

Nettlefold is a seafood restaurant with a great terrace and beautiful views of the sea. The theme continues in the décor, most of it is light, open and breezy to let the view do the talking, but at the end is an interesting addition; The Captain’s Cabin. I thought it was just a replica, but it is the actual Captain’s Cabin of the HMS Ganges! It’s slightly separated off and can be used for private bookings.

We had a superb lunch here one day on the terrace, moules marinière and wine overlooking the sea. The service was great and the view epic, a perfect lunch on a beautiful day by the sea.

Burgh Island Hotel encourages a glamourous dress code (it is impossible to be too dressed up) but if you would like a more casual dining experience, then it is more relaxed here.

Activities

Burgh Island in Devon have lots to do, too much to cram into a weekend! The obvious ones are walking and just relaxing in the hotel grounds, which we did lots of!

The sea view of the mainland of Devon from Burgh Island

Island Activities

On site is a small “spa” which is really just a treatment room and sauna. A range of massages, a REN facial and manicures and pedicures are on offer and if you have one of the larger rooms, you can be pampered in there as well.

There is also a basement downstairs with several rooms; the only TV in the whole hotel is located in one, there is a rather grand billiards table in another and a table tennis room.

There are tennis courts in the grounds and you can play croquet on the front lawn, reception provide all the equipment for both. There is also a Mermaid Pool completely surrounded by rocks and a sluice gate to control the water levels should you want a private swim. We went down for a look but unfortunately it was closed for maintenance during our stay.

Mainland Activities

With the sea being one of the big draws, a range of water sports is offered at Discovery Surf over on the mainland. We rented paddle boards and spent a couple of hours paddling around the island, exploring coves and enjoying the amazing views. The water was super clear, we spent a good chunk of time staring at the rocky floor about 10 feet down watching crabs scuttle along. There are life guards on the the beach and the sea was safe for swimming, but be aware they can’t see you on the other side of the island. We did let them know that was what we were doing though so if we disappeared for too long they knew to come and find us!

Paddle boarding around Burgh Island in Devon with Discovery Surf
Can you see us paddle boarding?!

The Pilchard Inn

Exhausted (paddle boarding is hard work!), we returned to the island for a spot of lunch at the old smugglers inn, The Pilchard. Said to date back to 1336, the original use was thought to be as a lodging house for visitors to the monastery that was there at the time. In the 18th century, smugglers used the island as a hiding spot due to its short periods of accessibility for those that may want to catch them. The Pilchard Inn was also the scene of a real life murder when notorious smuggler Tom Crocker was shot on the front porch.

Nowadays, the Pilchard Inn leads a much more sedate life, I imagine it would be very cosy inside in the winter, but we headed immediately outside to enjoy our wine and calamari in the sunshine. The Pilchard Inn offers an all day casual menu including sandwiches, pizzas and a Devon cream team and every Friday is curry night!

A Glamorous Black Tie Dinner in the Grand Ballroom

Now I thought our previous night was all glamorous and sparkly, but we pulled out all the stops for this one! The ladies had on floor length dresses, elbow length gloves and some of the most gorgeous jewellery and hair accessories I’ve ever seen (what a great era for accessorising!) and the men all in tuxes.

The night started in civilised style, Kir Royales, canapés, gentle chitter chatter and the grand piano tinkling away. Our 3 course dinner is light, simple and delicious, with mostly locally sourced ingredients. As you would expect this close to the sea there is a strong seafood theme but with some meat and veggie options to keep everyone happy as well.

A grand birthday speech and much toasting later, we retire back to Palm Court to dance the night away to a jazz band. Even though it is dark outside, it is still warm and that sea breeze is still so welcome.

Final Thoughts

Burgh Island Hotel in Devon is a magical stay that transports you back in time to the glamorous 1930s the minute you step foot on the island. Never have a been somewhere that so truly embodies a vibe; from the décor to the drinks and entertainment, it is as close to experiencing the jazz age I will ever get to.

I think my uncle and aunt made the perfect choice, it was a truly unique stay and so conducive to a party atmosphere. I wouldn’t call it a true luxury 5 star stay by today’s standards, but this place has something so much more, so it doesn’t need to be.

Also, the views. I am a sucker for a great view and Burgh Island really delivered!

Sunset over the sea at Burgh Island Hotel in Devon

Useful Information

Do not attempt to cross the beach in your own vehicle, even if you have a 4×4 and even if it is low tide. I noticed on our return trip that the driver was purposefully avoiding some areas and the tide moves at a very rapid speed when it is on the turn. Follow the instructions the hotel gives you and wait for your collection vehicle.

I don’t think the 1930s were particularly child friendly as Burgh Island Hotel is very much an adult party haven! Only children over the age of 5 can stay, but need to be aged 13 or older to be in the public areas after 19:00 and can only dine in the Pilchard Inn.

Dogs are allowed though if staying in the Artist’s Studio or the Beach House for £25 per pet per night. They are allowed on the grounds of Burgh Island all year round and can walk them on the beach between September and March.

There is a minimum stay of 2 nights if booking over a Saturday night and all rates include parking on the mainland, the final transfers and breakfast. There are also packages that include dinner as well.

Please also be aware that I stayed here in July 2018.

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