ART DECO GLAMOUR AT BURGH ISLAND
Vicky Mayer steps back in time, to experience all the glamour of the deco era at Burgh Island, Devon
In a world of endless emails and deadlines it’s good to know that there’s still a place in Britain where time has stood still. Burgh Island on Devon’s picturesque south coast is home to an art deco hotel where dreams of an elegant, decadent past can still come true.
This unique hotel stands majestically on top of the highest point on the island and is only accessible by Land Rover when the tide is out or even better, by ‘sea tractor’ (a curious must-see) when the tide is in. What this means is that from the moment you arrive you are voluntarily cut off from the outside world and a deco dream begins.
In its 30s heyday BurghIsland was a magnet for the era’s rich and famous including Agatha Christie and Edward and Mrs Simpson. Each of the hotel’s 25 rooms is named after famous names of the day and each room or suite has been lovingly furnished with period furniture, claw footed baths and deco inspired soft furnishings.
We stayed in the Jessie Matthews room which overlooked the sea towards the mainland. The only interruption to our afternoon nap came when four impossibly good looking people arrived by helicopter. Yes, the Great Gatsby lives on here.
If you find the modern world irksome you’ll love BurghIsland for its gloriously retro formality and glamour; staying for a Saturday night we were invited to attend one of its regular dinner and dances where you are treated to a fine dining experience accompanied by two talented chanteuses singing retro hits of the day.
Guests are encouraged to dress up to the max with black tie the order of the day and despite wearing a floor length beaded gown I wish I had tried harder. Many of the guests wore flapper outfits and what looked like the entire contents of their Granny’s jewellery box.
We began our evening in the glorious Palm Court. Here against a backdrop of the magnificent art deco dome you’ll be treated to a pre dinner cocktail by head Bartender, gregarious Gary. Friends of mine are real BurghIsland aficionados and when I mentioned their names he asked after them, enquiring politely why he hadn’t seen them for five years. ‘Perhaps there’s been a death or a divorce in the family?’ he said. ‘No, they’ve had kids,’ I replied. ‘Ah, kids,’ he nodded sagely, ‘they’ll be back’, he added before moving on to effortlessly pour our martinis.
Dinner is served by the hotel’s impeccable staff and as you’d expect from a hotel of this calibre, it doesn’t disappoint. But a great meal is just part of the whole experience and as I sat in the mirrored dining room watching the glamorous couples who had arrived by helicopter that evening swish past Burgh veterans on the dance floor I realised how easy it must have been for Agatha Christie to find inspiration here for the two novels she wrote whilst living in the Island’s beach house.
Sunday came far too soon and walking off our delicious breakfast with a stroll around the island to marvel at the hotel’s magnificent exterior and private outside pool we knew our trip was almost at an end. Twenty four hours on Burgh Island had been a pleasure from start to finish and I can’t recommend a stay here highly enough.
Luckily we had extended our weekend by a day and spent Sunday driving slowly via Salcombe to the beautiful Cathedral city of Exeter where we stayed at the Southernhay House Hotel. This gorgeous Georgian townhouse is situated in the city centre and with only 10 bedrooms it feels like a very smart private home. The hotel is owned by Deborah Clark and husband Tony Orchard (who also own Burgh) so it’s not surprising that Southernhay is just as stylish. Deborah went to great lengths to source furniture and fabrics for this city gem and each room has its own distinct identity, complemented by one of the best power showers I’ve ever experienced.
Two top rate hotels, an easy drive from London – what are you waiting for?