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Burgh Island's Luxury Hotel and Film Location
Burgh Island, Devon
In 2011 Burgh Island Hotel was voted "the most romantic hotel in Britain" by readers of The Good Hotel Guide.
Burgh Island sits 250 metres from the mainland at Bigbury-on-Sea in the South Hams, Devon. The island is small, housing only a few buildings. At low tide it is not truly an island; you can reach it on foot. Yet Burgh Island is a highly sought after destination and has been for a great many years. Famous faces from Agatha Christie to the Beatles have all made the short journey across a shallow stretch of shimmering sea to Burgh Island. The draw? A truly breathtaking luxury Art Deco hotel, once sadly neglected, but recently restored to its full glamorous heyday.
The History of Burgh Island Hotel
For centuries the only people who spent a night on Burgh Island were fishermen and monks. The idea for a hotel on Burgh Island was the brainchild of a music hall star, George H Chirgwin. Chirgwin had found considerable success as the "White Eyed Kaffir" on stage and used his money to construct a wooden house on Burgh Island in 1895. He invited friends to his new house for weekend parties.
In 1927 the entire island was sold to a film maker, Archibald Nettlefold, and he built the Art Deco style hotel. Perhaps due to Nettlefold's connections in the film industry, the hotel was a great success, drawing a rich and glamorous crowd. Nettlefold continued to enlarge the hotel and added a particularly eccentric room created from the captain's cabin of the former warship HMS Ganges.
The hotel enjoyed success throughout the 1930s but its decline began during World War 2. Like many hotels it was converted to a military hospital, housing recovering RAF personnel. It also suffered a direct hit from a bomb which destroyed its upper two floors. Repairs were made, but instead of reopening as a hotel the building was converted to self-catering accommodation.
In 1986 the hotel was bought by Tony and Beatrice Porter, who faithfully restored it to its former Art Deco glory. The hotel was sold once more in 2002 and the current owners have continued to build on the fine Art Deco heritage. Guests can stay in one of the 15 suites, enjoy the splendid views and take a dip in the Mermaid Pool, dine in black tie splendour and finish the evening listening to a jazz band.
Art Deco Style at Burgh Island Hotel
Evil Under the Sun
I was inspired to write this Hub after reading Greekgeek's Hub Old Movie Review: Agatha Christie's Evil Under the Sun with Peter Ustinov. Why not see if it inspires you!
Burgh Island Transport
Agatha Christie's Burgh Island Connection
Agatha Christie is just one of Burgh Island's famous guests, but is perhaps the one most identified with the Island. The settings for two of the novelists stories were inspired by the hotel; "And Then There Were None" and "Evil Under the Sun". A recent television adaptation of the latter novel, starring David Suchet as Hercule Poirot, was filmed on location at the refurbished hotel (see the film clip below).
Christie stayed in the Beach House, a perfect, quiet spot for writing. Its seclusion also attracted another guest looking to get away from prying eyes; Edward VIII brought Mrs Simpson here. The Beach House is now part of the Hotel complex, having been rebuilt in 2007.
The Hotel now holds regular Murder Mystery events, with an Agatha Christie theme, during which guests can dress in period costume and enjoy a weekend of glamorous sleuthing!
Burgh Island Hotel's Famous Guests
Besides Agatha Christie, many famous people have stayed at the Hotel. Noel Coward famously booked in for three nights but stayed for three weeks. As mentioned above, that infamous couple, Edward VIII and Mrs Simpson, enjoyed a few illicit days on the Island. During the war, Churchill and Eisenhower are said to have met in the Hotel prior to the D-Day landings. George Formby, Josephine Baker, Amy Johnson and Lord Mountbatten all have rooms named after them. The Beatles did stay, after a concert in Plymouth, but haven't had a room named after them.
The Hotel's Film Credits
Burgh Island has starred in a few films and TV programmes. In 1965 it provided the location for the final scene of a British film, "Catch Us If You Can", starring the Dave Clark Five. The popular BBC series "Lovejoy" shot an episode on the Island in 1994. Most recently, the Hotel starred alongside David Suchet in an adaptation of "Evil Under the Sun".