Burgh Island is a small tidal island on the coast of South
England near the small seaside village of Bigbury-on-Sea. There are
several buildings on the island, the largest being the
Art Deco Burgh
Island Hotel. The other buildings are three private houses, and a
public house, the
Pilchard Inn, run by the hotel.
2 The hotel
3 Notable visitors
Archaeological discovery of tin ingots at the
River Erme estuary
wreck such that the local area was a significant tin trading port
in ancient times ; it is unclear whether the ingots date from the
Iron Age or Sub-Roman periods, however this discovery so close to
Burgh Island has drawn comparisons with
Diodorus Siculus 1C BCE text,
more often associated with
St Michaels Mount
St Michaels Mount in Cornwall:
At this time we shall treat of the tin which is dug from the ground.
Those who dwell near Belerium, one of the headlands of Britain, are
especially fond of strangers, and on account of their trade with the
merchants they have a more civilized manner of living. They collect
the tin after the earth has been skillfully forced to yield it.
Although the land is stony, it has certain veins of earth from which
they melt and purify the metal which has been extracted. After making
this into bars they carry it to a certain island near Britain called
Ictis. For although the place between is for the most part covered
with water, yet in the middle there is dry ground, and over this they
carry a great amount of tin in wagons [...] Thence the merchants carry
into Gaul the tin which they have bought from the inhabitants. And
after a journey of thirty days on foot through Gaul, they convey their
packs carried by horses to the mouths of the Rhone River.
The island has been known by various names over the years. Early
records and maps mention it as St Michael's Island. The name later
changed to Borough Island, eventually shortened to Burgh. As late as
Ordnance Survey map refers to the island as Borough Island.
In 1908 a postcard produced by Stengel & Co Ltd of London referred
to it as Burr Island. A map published in 1765 shows "Borough or Bur
The remains of the former chapel
It is believed a monastery was established on the island, most of the
remains of which may lie beneath the current hotel. The ancient
Pilchard Inn may have started life as the guest lodgings for the
A small, perhaps transient, population of fishermen occupied the
island following the dissolution of the monastery, specialising in
pilchard fishing. There are the remains of a chapel
atop the island, which later became a "huers hut" — a place where
fishermen would make a "hue and cry" call to inform other fishermen of
shoals of pilchards. During this period smuggling, wrecking and
piracy were common, benefiting from a natural barrier for half the
Fear that German landing forces might use the island as a beachhead
World War II
World War II resulted in the area's fortification with
anti-tank defences and two pillboxes, positioned on both sides of the
causeway. An observation post was also established on the summit to
monitor the coastline.
Burgh Island at sunset, viewed from Thurlestone
Burgh Island Hotel
Burgh Island is well-known today as the location of a restored 1930s
Art Deco-style hotel.
Burgh Island is closely linked to Agatha Christie, as it served as the
inspirational setting for Soldier Island (And Then There Were None)
and for the setting of the
Hercule Poirot mystery Evil Under the Sun.
The hotel, with its
Art Deco styling, was also a bolt hole in the
1930s for some of London's rich and famous, including Noël Coward.
The 2002 TV adaptation of Evil Under The Sun used the island as a
filming location. In 1994 an episode of the television series Lovejoy
was set and filmed on the island. It was entitled Somewhere Over the
The island was also the location for GMTV's Inch-loss Island slimming
feature in 2008, as it was for the original series in 2001. The
climactic scene of the 1965 British film Catch Us If You Can
(featuring The Dave Clark Five) takes place at the island.[citation
This section does not cite any sources. Please help improve this
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The sea tractor is used to ferry visitors to the island during high
The island is approximately 270 yards (250 m) from the mainland
Bigbury-on-Sea and is approachable on foot at low tide. At high
tide, the sea tractor, which is operated by the hotel, transports
passengers back and forth. The original vehicle was constructed in
1930 (see 1933 photo); the current third generation tractor dates from
1969. The vehicle drives across the beach with its wheels underwater
on the sandy bottom while its driver and passengers sit on a platform
high above. Power from a Fordson tractor engine is relayed to the
wheels via hydraulic motors.
The island has an extensive network of footpaths and the owner until
2003 was a keen hiker who welcomed walkers. The new owners, however,
erected signs closing footpaths and obtained an exemption from the
public "rights to roam" enabled in the Countryside and Rights of Way
Act 2000. The exemption was overturned, except for the routes closest
to the hotel, in 2006.
^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-02-07. Retrieved
^ Siculus, Diodorus. "Historical Library" – via Wikisource.
Ordnance Survey Sheet 20/64 Scale 1:25,000 1947
^ Stengel & Co Ltd, London EC; card reference E32111; The Warren
from Burr Island
^ Donn, Benjamin (1765). "A map of the county of Devon, 1765. Section
Devon Libraries Local Studies Service.
Devon County Council.
Burgh Island Galleries". The BBC. Retrieved 2009-04-15.
^ "The Tidal Island That Inspired Agatha Christie". Atlas Obscura.
^ Staff writer (2 December 2006). "Walkers are free to use island
paths". Western Morning News. p. 30. access-date= requires
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