Burgh Island, England

Photo: Burgh Island

Let’s step back in time. Just for a weekend, let’s pretend it’s the 1920s, when people drank Tom Collinses, dressed to the nines for dinner, and played snooker. Let’s stay in an Art Deco hotel, which a famous musician built for weekend parties, a filmmaker expanded, and World War II bombs eventually damaged. Let’s drink in an even older pub, swim in a natural pool, and watch the sun set over the English Channel. Let’s escape to Burgh Island.

Burgh Island, a small tidal island, is only 250 meters from Bigbury-on-Sea in South Devon. During low tide, Land Rovers transport guests and visitors across a golden beach to the 26-acre island. When the tide rolls in, a different vehicle is necessary, though. That’s when you’ll see a hydraulic sea tractor, in which passengers sit on a platform high above the wheels, moving slowly over the water. This is truly a unique place.

St. Michael’s Island, as it was originally called, was home to an ancient trading port, a monastery, fishermen, war fortifications, and, probably, smugglers over the years. The ruins of a chapel still sit on the island’s highest point. That pub, called the Pilchard Inn, still has its original stone walls and fireplace from the 1330s. While the Burgh Island Hotel, a historic landmark, is almost as famous as some of the guests after whom the rooms were named.

Photo: Burgh Island

From the balcony of your room, Cunard, you have a view of the beach and the strong waves currently pounding it. The roll-top bathtub has the same view. A king-size bed, fluffy bathrobes, and chocolates are waiting for you in the classically decorated bedroom. While coffee and tea will be delivered in the morning. But you aren’t ready to think about the morning yet.

Evenings are when you really feel like you’ve stepped back in time at the Burgh Island Hotel. Pre-dinner cocktails, like daiquiris and martinis, are served at the Palm Court Bar. Black tie is expected in the Ballroom, where you’re welcomed with canapés. Most of the seasonal food—80 percent, in fact—is sourced within a 30-mile radius. The options tonight include Burgh Island garden pea soup or Beesands crabs with apple jelly to start. Pan-fried cod with clam chowder and a smoked cod beignet or a Sladesdown Farm duck breast with a confit duck leg spring roll are among the entrées. Godminster cheddar, Comish blue, and Sharpham Elmhirst are on the cheese plate for dessert. Plus the dance floor, where live music is playing, is outside, under the stars.

You look at your partner, whom you rarely see in a suit much less a tuxedo, as you sip your first cocktail. A seldom-worn bracelet twinkles on your wrist. A cool breeze blows off the water, as the stars begin to speckle the darkening sky. Soft music is mixing with the now-calming wind. While everyone around you seems to have a blissful smile on their faces. Perhaps you should step back in time more often.


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