Location: Iconic Burgh Island, Devon
Perfect for: Art deco style, blue flag beaches and romance
Farmers’ markets, rugged coastlines, and sun-drenched beaches; rock pools, Dartmoor ponies, and pretty little villages – Devon is a county full of Old English charm. Home to Britain’s oldest known settlement, a 400 million year old UNESCO Global Geopark, and one of Europe’s top Neanderthal ice age caves, it also hosts the stunning English Riviera and part of the Jurassic Coast.
Burgh Island is an iconic 1920s landmark on the Devonshire coast loved by pre-war luminaries like Agatha Christie and playwright, Noel Coward. Its rooms are authentically 1920s styled (with the addition of WiFi access but no TVs. English eccentricity rules at Burgh, take a walk around the island by day, dress for dinner in the evening, and head for killer cocktails in its Palm Court bar…
Monsieur 2 – was devouring an Agatha Christie last night, giving me 10-minute updates on whether he thought the party of eight was being knocked off by the Doctor or the seemingly timid Vera Claythorne. I pointed out that modern-day Britain is as much about bodies in libraries as France is about bicycle-riding men with striped T-shirts and onion necklaces.
He wouldn’t have a bar of it, and stuck his head back in his paperback and refused to discuss the demise of national pride – until I told him it was Vera who dunnit. He flung the book across the room and stormed into the garden. Actually, I had no idea who the evil perpetrator of the crime was. Frankly, I just didn’t like the sound of the her.
He eventually came around – although he now classes me in the same camp as serial murderers, apparently – and we are now bombing down the motorway towards the West Country.
Now, I’d always thought Monsieur’s interest in antiques tailed off after around 1902, but he was getting extremely excited about the Art Deco hotel he had booked. Jo and Susannah have been raving about its polished floors and doorknobs ever since their visit last summer. According to them the 1920s atmosphere and sea views are a real throwback to silk dressing gowns, flappers and Agatha Christie. And they were right!
Our first glimpse was magical. It’s a luxury hotel in Devon that broods – yes, broods – like a grand cruise liner off the coast on its own island, all white and shimmering. Apparently it was built just before the Wall Street crash in 1929, and is now Grade II listed for its Art Deco accoutrements. One of the joys of the place is that you leave your car in a private garage on the mainland and they pick you up on a sea tractor. In our case, it was a Land Rover as the sea tractor had developed technical problems.
Check-in at reception was effortlessness, and made Monsieur 2 and I muse: just when did elegance and travel take different roads? We followed the bellhop up the grand staircase, rather regally in Monsieur 2’s case as he’d decided to don a linen suit for the occasion, but after nearly five hours of travel, it had become somewhat creased.
I picked out a hazelnut whirl from the box we’d brought for the journey, and Monsieur 2 negotiated a coffee cream, in that peculiarly suspicious way of his.
Then we explored. Painted and furnished in typical 1930s style, our bedroom – Fruity Metcalfe – was rose pink and black, with a few contemporary tweaks like under-floor heating, REN toiletries, and fluffy white bathrobes which hung in the enormous bathroom.
To stay as true to the period as possible, there’s no audio-visual system and no WiFi, no mini bar or tea or coffee making facilities. If you want something, they will bring it to you. On a large silver tray.
There’s no getting away from the fact that this place is fabulous, with a capital F; there’s a bit of peeling paint and rust here and there, but it adds to the soul of the place. If you prefer the pristine or replica the real McCoy, this isn’t for you; if you love atmosphere and authenticity, get down the M5 tout de suite.
Back in the ’30s, they had radio, fine wine and conversation. This is precisely how we intend to entertain ourselves: the old fashioned way. And our westward facing balcony which overlooks the mainland, is just the place to start.
We sipped on our Midnight Martinis, brilliantly prepared by Gary McBar and tucked into complimentary hors d’oeuvres in the cocktail lounge, looking, if I might add, sensational.
Dressing for dinner is encouraged by the Burgh Hotel, and we weren’t going to disappoint! Monsieur 2 looked a picture in a splendid white tux and, I stunning in a Favourbrook silk waistcoat (they use the same material to make bishop’s robes don’t you know!) and a white jacket, for real James Bond appeal. The other guests looked frightfully gentrified, and thankfully we didn’t stand out.
Dinner was wonderful, and since it’s included in the cost of the room, we feasted on a superb three-course meal, which included flavoursome beetroot soup, followed by melt-in-the-mouth lamb for me, and slow roasted fillet of beef for Monsieur 2. Portions were generous, and whilst Msr 2 admitted defeat after the second course, I refused, and ordered Baked Alaska with two spoons.
With jazz setting the mood in the background, it couldn’t have been more romantic, and although we’re unconvinced about the jazz-style mural that graces the wall, but the food makes up for any aberrations in taste. The menu changes daily and is dictated by the morning market, which means everything is fresh, fresh, fresh, and totally unpredictable. Just the way we like it.
Our orange juice, tea and coffee arrived on a silver tray, and so we languished in bed with the paper. Monsieur 2 has resurrected the rather tatty Agatha Christie, and has just shouted ‘Aha!’. I’ve been grassed!
It wasn’t Vera who dunnit at all, but someone who still remains a mystery. Well, Monsieur 2 was delighted nonetheless, and dragged me out of bed for a long ramble along the Southwest coastal path. Handily, it brushes right past the hotel’s front door. He pointed out different varieties of sea birds to me (I assumed they were all seagulls or close relations) and we walked hand-in-hand on the edge of the sand.
We flung ourselves into a snug in the Pilchard Inn, a cosy, atmospheric place that dates back to the 1330s, when fisherman would return from their pilchard fishing. The log fire was the focal point for locals who walked over the estuary with their dogs for a pint and a crab or bacon baguette. Rustic. Rurual. Lovely.
For some bizarre reason, we decided to try out the open-air swimming pool down by the rocks. Why did we not think it would be freezing? We ventured out to the little wooden platform in the middle, but Monsieur 2 thought I was going to have a heart attack and assumed the rescue position to haul me back to shore. The heavens opened, and we made a dignified retreat to the ‘Day Room’ for a few hands of poker. We weakened, and the waiter brought a bottle of wine, an ice bucket, and an extra bucket to catch drips of rain from the ceiling!
Remember to mention les Deux Messieurs when you book, or ask us to book it for you!Not what you’re looking for. Try its sister hotel, Southernhay House, or siscover other amazing UK cultural destinations and decadent escapes here
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Our rating: Burgh Island is an utterly unique gay friendly boutique luxury hotel in Devon, South West England.
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