Burgh Island is like something out of an Agatha Christie novel and is in fact true. We stayed there for a night and it seems a throwback to a different age. It was a bolt hole for the rich and famous during the 1930’s, with the likes of Noel Coward being a notable guest. We didn’t meet anyone famous while we were there but it felt like our own themed murder mystery where you could try and work out who might be the murderer without the murder. My mind works in strange ways.
“Best of an island is once you get there – you can’t go any farther…you’ve come to the end of things…”
The hotel is a Art Deco hotel with additions made including a room made based on the Captain’s room from the HMS Ganges an old 19th century warship. It is pretty imposing standing on top of an otherwise largely deserted island. You can get to the island at low tide by foot or you can arrive in style in a helicopter, cough…. actually we arrived via a sea tractor, designed and built specifically for this and has been running since the 1930’s. The one we took was built in 1969. It is pretty cool being met at the car park and escorted over to the island. Maybe the helicopter next time.
“When Captain Roger Angmering built himself a house in the year 1782 on the island off Leathercombe Bay, it was thought the height of eccentricity on his part. A man of good family, such as he was should have had a decorous mansion set in wide meadows with, perhaps, a running stream and good pasture.
But Captain Roger Angmering had only one great love, the sea. So he built his house – a sturdy house too, as it needed to be, on the little windswept gull-haunted promontory – cut off from land at each high tide.”
It seems an expensive stay but a room includes dinner, breakfast and parking. Plus you can say you have experienced the 1930’s in style. Everything is styled from the 1930’s including phone and radio. I think we stayed in the Formby room as it is where I am from rather than the famous entertainer. You can stay in a number of other rooms and even your own private house if you can afford it.
The rest of the hotel is equally styled with a games room with full size billiards table, a bar and also a formal dining room. These all eschew the feeling you are in a murder mystery novel for real or playing your hand in cluedo. Pass me the candlestick.
“It had come about exactly in the way things happened in books.”
Dinner is a black tie affair with formal dining. We grabbed a aperitif in the only other building on the island a public house which looked out over the grey and murky coastline. All of this added to the occasion. Dinner was great, largely traditional English food.
There is no escaping the fact that the whole experience is like something out of a famous novel. With everyone else in black tie and looking suitably formal it was down to us to identify the murderer. Who has the dirty secret, the old man with his younger lady friend, the butler or may be it was us the quiet couple giggling in the corner.
“Ten little Indian boys went out to dine; One choked his little self and then there were nine.
Nine little Indian boys sat up very late; One overslept himself and then there were eight.
Eight little Indian boys travelling in Devon; One said he’d stay there and then there were seven.
Seven little Indian boys chopping up sticks; One chopped himself in halves and then there were six.
Six little Indian boys playing with a hive; A bumblebee stung one and then there were five.
Five little Indian boys going in for law; One got in Chancery and then there were four.
Four little Indian boys going out to sea; A red herring swallowed one and then there were three.
Three little Indian boys walking in the Zoo; A big bear hugged one and then there were two.
Two little Indian boys sitting in the sun; One got frizzled up and then there was one.
One little Indian boy left all alone; He went and hanged himself and then there were none.”
With the wine drunk, the bar tamed we made our way back to our room with the floor boards creeking as we went. The wind howling outside was very apt and made us feel like we need to make sure the windows were tightly locked and the door locked.
“The others went upstairs, a slow unwilling procession. If this had been an old house, with creaking wood, and dark shadows, and heavily panelled walls, there might have been an eerie feeling. But this house was the essence of modernity. There were no dark corners – no possible sliding panels – it was flooded with electric light – everything was new and bright and shining. There was nothing hidden in this house, nothing concealed. It had no atmosphere about it. Somehow, that was the most frightening thing of all. They exchanged good-nights on the upper landing. Each of them went into his or her own room, and each of them automatically, almost without conscious thought, locked the door….”
The next morning we had breakfast and papers in the bar area. All very civilised but wait where were the people from the night before?
“And then there were none.”
Well not really, we just woke up early, if you haven’t guessed Agatha Christie visited this place during the 1930’s and then shortly afterwards or during wrote the novel ‘And then there was none’. A novel about 10 people on an island who over the course of the night are killed off one by one. It was dramatised on television over christmas which made me think back to this place. It is well worth a watch on BBC iPlayer if it is still there. I am surprised they didn’t film it here in the end.
We went for a walk in the calm after the storm, there are various short walks across the island, there is a old chapel building and you can even go swimming in the natural sea pool. We were there at the wrong time of year for that.
“There was something magical about an island—the mere word suggested fantasy. You lost touch with the world—an island was a world of its own. A world, perhaps, from which you might never return.”
Those words are very true, i could have got used to the island and the atmosphere of the hotel. Maybe a few more days would have been good with some better weather. If you too fancy a hotel with atmosphere then there is possibly none better. Just bring your dinner jacket, best dress and don’t forget your Cluedo character and weapon.
“Death was for-the other people.”