Burgh Island - Bigbury on Sea South Devon

Burgh Island

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Bigbury on Sea
Post Code

Burgh Island is a small tidal island near Bigbury on Sea. At high tide a sea tractor, operated by the hotel, takes guests back and forth. At low tide you can access by foot.

Its history is unclear, however, in early records it was known as St Michael's island with the name then evolving to Borough Island before settling as Burgh Island as late as 1947.

The first settlement was believed to be a monastery, the remains of which are believed to exist below the hotel. The remains of a smaller chapel can be found in the middle of the island. It is thought that the pub on the island, the Pilchard Inn, was used as guest lodgings for the monks.

After the dissolution of the monastery, a small band of fishermen occupied the island and specialised in pilchard fishing. The small chapel later became known as 'huers hut'; this was the lookout for the pilchards and they used to 'hue and shout' the location of the shoals to the fishermen below. Smuggling was obviously rife, with wrecking and piracy common and due to being cut off from the mainland for half a day at a time was a great hideout in the 14th Century.

With the onset of the 2nd World War and fears of German landings, two pillboxes and anti tank defences were built on either side of the causeway with an observation point on the summit.

Noticeably now, Burgh Island is famous for the large Art Deco Burgh Island Hotel, built in 1929, extended in 1932 and then completely restored to its original glory in 2006. Sadly the present owners have now made the island almost exclusive, prohibiting walkers and closing all but a few footpaths, however, what can be walked, must be walked as the views are outstanding and private coves shelter seals and dolphins with rare birds nestling in the cliffs.

As an exclusive hotel destination, guests are expected to dress for dinner in black tie and cocktail dresses, most of us can only imagine from the sunny terrace at the Pilchard Inn but it is always worth a visit.


  • Beach Sand
  • Parking - Plenty at Bigbury on Sea
  • Accessibility - Difficult
  • Toilets - Yes
  • Refreshments - Yes
  • Dogs - Welcome year round

Best for

Coastal cliff views, nature and dog lovers. A ride on the sea tractor at high tide.

Look out for

Seals, dolphins and sea birds. Beware of the cliffs, children and dogs must be kept under control at all times.

It's a fact !

In its heyday it was a haunt of Noel Coward, Edward and Mrs Simpson, Winston Churchill, Agatha Christie and latterly the Hercule Poirot mystery, Evil Under the Sun. Now it is better knows as a magnet for 'Wild Swimmers' and annually there is a charity swim around the island.


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