Fancy being marooned on an island surrounded by shining seas and golden beaches that mysteriously drew Agatha Christie to its shores, took the drama out of life for Noel Coward and yet still offers all the luxury and pizzazz associated with the roaring twenties? Burgh Island could be for you – and amazingly it’s not in the Caribbean but in Devon, England.
We donned our glad rags, popped the champagne, dined, partied and danced ‘til the early hours and fell poleaxed into the sumptuous bedcovers in a total escape from reality that has more in common with a film set than an hotel.
Burgh Island is undoubtedly original, stylish and fun but it relies as much on you to embrace the atmosphere and join in with the spirit of the era as it does on simply immersing yourself in luxury. In other words you’ll enjoy yourself much more if you dress the part for dinner and pretend for just a night or weekend that you’re still mixing it with the Flappers and hob-knobbing with society’s elite of the Art Deco ‘machine age’ that represented luxury, glamour, exuberance and faith in social and technological progress.
The setting is magical, with the Burgh Island Hotel residing majestically on a tidally marooned rock just past improbably named California Cross and Bigbury-on-Sea. Far from being simply a hangover from the architecturally symmetrical era of Art Deco, Burgh Island has embraced and capitalised on the confidence and style of the time; transporting you from the moment you arrive into the decadence of streamlined style moderne.
You’ll make some allowances for the fact that parts of the hotel are weather-beaten and in need of attention but given its location its hardly surprising and if you regard it as authentic and remind yourself that you’re really in a different kind of reality, then the service and smiles outweigh any minor shortcomings of the building.
Each room or suite is themed according to a legend of the time and we took great delight in visiting the rooms of our friends to inspect their furnishings on the pretext of sharing an aperitif before dinner. Dinner in the main dining room was an event in itself given the effort that most had gone to in order to replicate the styles of the twenties and thirties – and the cabaret enhanced the feeling that we really were enjoying the heady hiatus of the mid-war years.
The island itself and the little Pilchard Inn close by provide both a stiff breeze and a stiff ‘hair of the dog’ recovery prescription for the ‘morning after the night before’ if you’ve overdone it and a nearby golf course – on the mainland, so to speak – or a ride on the ‘sea tractor’ or game of billiards would provide a distraction if simply sitting on the terrace, overlooking the natural rock pool below, or staring out to sea in wistful contemplation of more elegant times isn’t enough.
Burgh Island is thoroughly to be recommended if you just want to ‘get away from it all’ for a short break – or to take over the whole place if you really want to push the boat out.
Time to dust of your black tie and slinky Erté number?
Burgh Island Hotel details