Thursday, 1 May 2014

Art deco holiday: a trip to Burgh Island Hotel

The Burgh Island hotel, with the tide out. Note the blue sea tractor!
If you love Poirot, or art deco, or tales of high society goings-on between the wars, you've probably heard of Burgh Island Hotel. Built in 1929, it was one of the places to be seen in the decade that follows: Agatha Christie, Jessie Matthews, Wallis Simpson and the Prince of Wales, Nancy Cunard and Noel Coward were all among its guests. Christie even wrote some books there; Evil Under the Sun is set in a hotel on an island with a clear resemblance to Burgh Island. While the story was rather altered for the Suchet television series, Evil Under the Sun was filmed there. All of which is a lengthy introduction to the fact that I've wanted to go there for years, and so for my 40th birthday Mr Robot promised me a couple of nights on Burgh Island.



The island is only an island at high tide. At low tide there is a causeway. You leave your car in the hotel's garage, and they send a Landrover to get you if the causeway is clear, or the sea tractor if the tide is in. The hotel has been using sea tractors since 1930. Day trippers wander across and the island's pub, the Pilchard, is jolly popular while the tide is out. There is a bar area especially reserved for locals and hotel guests, which made it easy for us to get a seat.

Our living room - you can't see the splendid chairs.
All the rooms are different, and have names rather than numbers. Mr Robot chose Hope, which is a little suite, with a pretty little sitting room as well as a comfortable bedroom and lovely bathroom. The hotel hasn't been a hotel constantly since 1929. In the 1960s is was split up into rental flatlets, and it's been restored in the decades since. (Even the original windows have been carefully double glazed.)
Bedroom. I WANT THAT DRESSING TABLE!
We were supplied with loads of fluffy white towels and facecloths, toiletries, soft bathrobes, bottled water and chocolates... all very luxurious! There are no drinks making facilities in the room; the staff ask you what time you would like your morning drinks, and a tray is left outside your door so you can have a cuppa while dressing for breakfast. All very 1930s.

The bar by day. It's lively by night. There's a fountain near where I stood.
Breakfast and dinner (though not alcoholic drinks with dinner) are included in the price of your stay. Breakfast is in a pleasant sunlit room. As well as a full Devon fry up, you can choose other hot dishes - the kedgeree made with local smoked trout and topped with a poached egg was jolly good. The evening meal is a fully formal event, with black tie for the men and cocktail or evening dress for the ladies. (I shall post my outfits later in the week.) You start with cocktails in the bar, when you also place your order for your meal. We were really impressed that there was a completely different menu both nights, with a choice of at least five dishes for each course. That's a lot of work for the chef, and the food was delicious. On the second night there was live music too, and the hotel was busier that night.

We had a post-dinner whisky on the terrace under the stars.
I didn't make it to the Billiard room, spa or table-tennis room. Had the weather been warmer, the hotel's sheltered sea-bathing pool would have been irresistible, but I wasn't about to brave it in April! Instead we went for a walk. Obviously, the South Coast Path comes by the island, so there are plenty of well-signposted paths and you can easily explore the area on foot.

Before we went, I looked at reviews of the hotel on Tripadvisor and was rather startled by how patchy they were. Having been, and loved it, and met other guests who also all adored it, all I can imagine is that some of the reviewers of Tripadvisor have some sort of personal axe to grind. The staff were incredibly friendly (probably the best service I've had in any hotel ever), the rooms comfortable, the food delicious, and I honestly can't think of a thing to complain about. A couple of the other grizzles I noticed on Tripadvisor were about things like the bathrooms not having shower stalls and suchlike, to which I can only say, don't stay in an historic building if you want a 21st century interior. (This is a bugbear of mine; one of my favourite hotels in Seville is made up of a series of medieval houses in the oldest part of the city and I've seen people grumbling because it doesn't have a car park. Some people should be stuck in four-star hotel chains for eternity; hell has too much character for them...) Personally, I loved it.
Mr Robot enjoying a pint of the Pilchard's own special beer.

15 comments :

  1. Indescribably jealous.

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  2. It's fabulous, and Mr Robot is an all round Top Bloke! :)
    I am so glad you had a lovely time, and it lived up to expectations.
    I know what you mean about stupid complaints, duh, makes me want to slap them with a wet fish. So idiotic to make those kind of remarks about what is obviously a period experience, regardless of where it is.

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    1. I know, it's really dim. If someone wants a sanitised, brand-new 21st-century sort of hotel, they shouldn't book into somewhere with any history. I have been to hotels in Spain where the historic buildings have had their interiors completely modernised, and always find those massively disappointing.

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  3. Marvelous, simply marvelous!

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  4. I have been DYING to hear all about this trip - sounds like it lived up to expectations. Your suit was exquisite (that dressing table caught my eye also, as I'm currently looking for one for my bedroom!) and I love the sound of cuppas left outside the door. The interiors look so stunning, a trip is still on my wish-list, sigh. Really looking forward to seeing your outfits!! Px

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    1. Pete took the outfit photos, so I am waiting for him to edit them. *Goes to prod Pete.*

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  5. That looks like a wonderful place! What I find with Tripadvisor reviews is that in a lot of cases it comes down to people's expectations (which usually seem to be unrealistic).

    No gruesome murders whilst you were there?

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    1. No! I wasn't even tempted to push Pete into the sea-bathing pool ;-)

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  6. I'm still green! I'm so glad to hear you had a wonderful time.

    I only got as far as walking across to the pub for a beer and then hurrying back as the tide came in! The year I went they had just stopped serving afternoon tea to visitors, it's now hotel guests only :(

    Apparently the pub is so popular because it is the only one, there are none in Bigbury so everyone troops across for a beer.

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    1. Yes, there aren't many opportunities for day visits to the hotel, though they do have lunches for days like Mothering Sunday. It does make the hotel nice and peaceful, though - the island gets very busy in summer; perhaps they found the teas made the place too noisy.

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  7. Looks so wonderful! Great to hear you had a fab trip Mim... looking forward to the outfit reveals ;)
    Rx

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  8. Wow! You lucky thing! I bet you felt right at home in the hotel. Look forward to seeing your outfits too :-)

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  9. What a wonderful place to stay. Your room looks gorgeous, I want all the furniture! Sounds like a fabulous break.

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    1. If there had been any way I could squash that dressing table into my luggage, I might have been tempted to try... a dressing table with a full-length mirror, so fabulous.

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