Continuing our Vintage Style Travel series, we’ve looked a little closer to home for our next destination. As lovers of Art Deco interiors, as well as good old-fashioned glamour, there couldn’t be a more perfect choice than the beautiful Burgh Island Hotel in Devon.
This 26-acre private island in South Devon was originally used for weekend house parties in the 1890s by music hall star George H Chirgwin, however was transformed into a hotel in the popular Art Deco style in 1927, by filmmaker Archibald Nettlefold. Quite aside from the glorious 1930s styling of the interiors, the guestlist of famous names who have stayed there is something to behold, including Winston Churchill, Agatha Christie, Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, The Beatles, Noel Coward, and Josephine Baker.
It has also been a destination for some incredible names in aviation, including Amy Johnson, the first woman to fly solo from Britain to Australia after just two years of training, and RJ Mitchell, the designer of the Spitfire, of which it is said he was inspired by a seagull’s flight – both of whom have bedrooms named after them.
With only 25 bedrooms, we love the thought of sleeping in the same room as so many fascinating individuals - though the beautiful Art Deco interiors and the opportunity to absorb all of the best of 1930s glamour are certainly the main attractions, of course!
From black tie dining and dancing under the stars to swimming in the natural sea water pool, we’ve rounded up a selection of the perfect things to do in your visit – and of course, paired some beautiful vintage inspired lingerie and loungewear to match your bedroom. You can also explore more on our Pinterest board (and discover the other Vintage Style Travel destinations!)
Arrive in a fully adventurous manner on the hydraulic Sea Tractor
At high tide, the only way to reach the hotel is across the water, and what better way to do that than by Sea Tractor? The only one in the world, it was designed in 1969 by Robert Jackson CBE in exchange for a case of champagne, and is certainly a notable way to arrive. If the tide is out, guests are transported by Land Rovers across the sand, which isn’t quite as exciting, but perhaps more suited to the conditions.
Swim in the “Mermaid Pool”
This natural seawater swimming pool, surrounded by rocks for privacy, is secured by a sluice gate for beautifully calm water. Described as “refreshing and invigorating” on the official website, which is of course a very nice British way of saying “cold,” we actually rather love the idea of leaping in with such glorious surroundings, and having all of the benefits of a sea swim with some added tranquility. There’s also a rowing boat to explore the lagoon in, if the water is perhaps not quite the desired temperature.
Play tennis on the courts from “Evil Under The Sun”
The whole hotel was used as the filming location for the 2001 adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot mystery, “Evil Under The Sun,” particularly suitably as the original novel was written there during one of her many writing retreats to the hotel. Even if you’re not a Christie fan, a spot of tennis overlooking such spectacular sea views is always a good idea, or for something a little more sedate, there’s also a croquet lawn with the same scenic backdrop.
Take afternoon tea in the Palm Court
The perfect way to unwind after all of that exertion, nibble finger sandwiches and sip your tea under the decadent stained glass dome ceiling, originally commissioned in 1929 in exquisite peacock shades of blues, turquoises and greens, and just as beautiful today as then. Of course, being Devon, you can also further your (undoubtedly ongoing) research into the Devon vs Cornwall battle of which goes first onto your scone, the clotted cream or the jam? Best to try it both ways just to be sure. It also might require double-checking, so better to try again the next afternoon as well, in the name of thorough research.
Visit Greenway House
Not that your entire holiday needs to focus on Agatha Christie locations (though that still sounds a rather fun holiday to us…) a short excursion onto the mainland will take you to Greenway House, the holiday home she stayed at specifically to not write. Even if not to see the place that inspired “Dead Man’s Folly” (and the location where David Suchet’s final scenes as Poirot were filmed) the house has so much else to explore.
Collections of items gathered on archaeological digs with her second husband Max Mallowan, and over 11,000 objects gathered by five generations of the family, from silver and china to stacks and stacks of books, are all there to uncover.
During WWII, the US coast guard was stationed at Greenway in preparation for D-Day, and the library was used as their “mess room,” with a bar set up in the alcove. The intricate frieze encircling the library, painted only in blue, khaki, black, and white; was painted by Lt Marshall Lee whilst he was stationed there, showing their 11-month voyage to Greenway – with the notable addition of a mystery nude woman, possibly added to it later by the command staff who remained there afterwards.
The garden of the house is also one of only seven gardens in the UK to have the “Camellia Garden of Excellence” from the International Camellia Society, perfect for a stroll after you’ve enjoyed the house.
Black tie dining and dancing under the stars
Back at the hotel, transport yourself to the glamour of a glittering bygone era with a strict black tie dress code for all dining in the Grand Ballroom. With a house band four nights a week, and live piano all others, an additional outdoor dancefloor allows for the unforgettable romance of dancing quite literally under the stars.
Less formal dining with a smart casual dress code is also available in their separate restaurant, if you happen to feel more low-key, or there’s always the old smugglers’ pub on the island, The Pilchard Inn, for something more cosy. Any excuse for a ballgown and some starlight dancing is a good excuse, in our book, however.
Play billiards on the original 1930s table
If you’re not quite ready to head to bed just yet, take up a challenge on the original 1930s billiards table, accompanied by a cocktail or two from the Palm Court bar, and imagine all of the similarly well-dressed guests throughout the decades doing the same.
Sleep in exquisite Art Deco interiors
Of course, the perfect end to your evening is sinking into bed in your personal Art Deco haven, in your individually decorated bedroom, named after one of the hotel’s illustrious past guests. Being the impeccably coordinated individual that you are, you have undoubtedly packed lingerie and loungewear to match your room, and we’ve lined up all you need to do just that in our Burgh Island Hotel Rooms To Match Your Lingerie post.
Enjoy your stay!
Oh, and some time-sensitive details that may be of interest – Burgh Island will be hosting a Murder Mystery Weekend on 8th/9th November. Greenway will be hosting a Tea Festival sometime towards the end of 2019, with dates to be confirmed, but you can keep up to date by checking in with them.
Any time of year is a lovely time for a vintage escape of course, but if it ties in with a tea festival or murder mystery weekend, all the better we say!