The road to Burgh Island, or perhaps more accurately, Bigbury-on-Sea in Devon is very typical of all the roads in the south-west; it’s a narrow country road with a few passing places and bordered by dense hedgerow.
But it is this idiosyncratic and rather quaint passage that not only symbolises the special relationship we have with this bit of the English coastline, but also makes the journey and indeed the destination, all the more enticing. That being said, I don’t think I would go near it at the height of the summer hols unless it was before daybreak or after sunset to avoid the tailbacks and shunting that undoubtedly happens much to the irritation of the ‘locals’ no doubt (more about them later!)
After a picnic en voiture we set off from the car-park that overlooks the beach and Burgh Island itself, the sandy causeway connecting the little island to the mainland.
Now for such a small isle, it has a big history, including links with Agatha Christie, Noël Coward and musician Ben Howard. It also has the Pilchard Inn that is several hundred years old and a fine example of a 1920’s Art Deco style hotel.
The island was inevitably part of the country’s World War II sea defences and in keeping with its posh character, even the pillbox has a quirkily angled design to it!
The walk along the sand bridge gives you plenty of opportunity to enjoy every sort of beach activity, from rock pooling to dog walking, kite flying to sand writing and surfing to swimming. It is a huge expanse of sand with an equally vast amount of sea to please everyone.
The hotel is a shining icon of the roaring twenties and you can imagine the flappers arriving with hoots of delight as they are escorted through the gates. However, the somewhat humbling sign reminds the fleeting temporary visitors that we are not welcome within their hallowed grounds.
The Pilchard Inn opposite has a similar sign referring to the local ‘regular’, but I suspect that as they exist cheek by jowl this is said ‘tongue in cheek’ so that visitors will feel slightly less unwelcome and bring some of their valuable coins from the mainland! Of course I could be wrong and would be glad to hear from anyone who knows for sure!
The walk to the top of the hill is strenuous but enjoyable and the views are quite breath-taking. There are various ruins and stones littered about, giving it that romantic atmosphere of smuggling pirates and swashbuckling adventures.
My only caveat is keep an eye on the weather, especially if you visit out of season, we had the short walk across the causeway in the rain but if you are at the top of the hill when the skies open, you may find yourself slightly soaked!
So for a day-trip I can certainly recommend it and if you are lucky enough to be an actual ‘guest’ of the Burgh Island Hotel do give we lesser mortals a wave from the balcony…if it’s not too much trouble, naturally!