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The Ultimate Burgh Island Hotel Afternoon Tea Review – Walk in the Footsteps of Agatha Christie in Devon!

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As a HUGE lifelong Agatha Christie fan, if there is something that has been on my bucket list for a while now, it’s a visit to The Burgh Island Hotel. 

This amazing Art Deco property perched on top of a tidal island in South Devon has welcomed many celebrities through its doors including the likes of Agatha Christie and Noel Coward. 

As you enter through the gates, it’s truly a step back in time to a world of fine dining, black tie, ballgowns, opulence and class. All surrounded by the sea! 

On my birthday this year, I decided to treat my Mum and I to a Burgh Island Hotel afternoon tea in their wonderful Palm Court. 

It was an absolute dream come true and, although we weren’t residents of the hotel, we were welcomed like honourable guests. 

Here’s my full Burgh Island Hotel afternoon tea review and how you can experience this for yourself.

Burgh Island, Bigbury-on-Sea
Burgh Island view from Bigbury-on-Sea

Are non-residents allowed to book an Burgh Island Hotel afternoon tea? 

100% YES! Although in the past the Burgh Island Hotel has had strict rules about non-residents visiting their property.

They have now opened the up their afternoon tea experience to non-residents of the hotel too. 

But, this isn’t something I would recommend rocking up on the day to enquire about as;

  1. You’ll probably have no phone signal around the area! 
  2. It’s popular, so it’s best to book as far in advance as possible especially on weekends

You can book your afternoon tea by calling The Burgh Island Hotel directly to book or book online via their website here. 

Burgh Island Hotel Palm Court
Non-residents are allowed to have a Burgh Island Hotel afternoon tea too!

How much is a Burgh Island Hotel Afternoon tea?

Admittedly, The Burgh Island afternoon tea experience is not cheap. But, you’re paying for the experience and the incredible views all around you.

The full afternoon tea experience costs £45 per person which includes a glass of champagne, your choice of tea with delectable savoury and sweet treats! 

You can choose either their Burgh Island Classic Afternoon Tea or the Great Gatsby afternoon tea. Both are the same price, the only difference is your drink of choice.

With the classic tea you receive a glass of bubbly and with the Gatsby tea you can have your choice of a cocktail from the menu. 

For me, I found the afternoon tea good value and comparable to London prices. 

The whole experience for me and my Mum was priceless! We had been wanting to explore this hotel for an age so, no amount of money would have been too much.

Burgh Island Hotel Afternoon Tea Review
For me the whole event was priceless!

Burgh Island Hotel Afternoon Tea timings

The Burgh Island Hotel welcomes anyone to experience afternoon tea in their Palm Court from 12 pm – 5 pm daily. 

So, that gives you plenty of time to arrive at the island and not be too peckish by the time you eat it! 

Sometimes I find if a high tea starts at 2/3 pm, I’m too hungry by the time I get there! Plus, then there’s always that awkward thought of whether to eat lunch or something before. 

But, these Burgh Island hotel afternoon tea timings are nice and flexible.

Burgh Island Hotel afternoon tea review
The Burgh Island Hotel is such a beautiful setting for tea!

The History of Burgh Island Hotel 

So, what makes the Burgh Island Hotel so famous?! Well, I guess we need to go back to the beginning.

In the 1890s George H Chirgwin, who was a music hall star, decided to build a secluded wooden house on Burgh Island. It was here he would invite guests for exclusive getaways and parties.

Once he died in 1922, the property was sold to Archibald Nettlefold in 1927. He was a filmmaker of Nettlefold Studios and he decided to build more of a substantial Art Deco Hotel open for guests.

The Art Deco movement was born out of France and took it’s name from Arts Décoratifs. 

This is short for the ‘Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs et industriels modernes’ which was held in Paris in 1925.

The Burgh Island Hotel
The Burgh Island Hotel embraced the Art Deco movement!

By the 1930s, the Art Deco movement had taken hold around the world and inspired endless architecture, decor, advertisements and hotels at the time. 

So, the Burgh Island Hotel became extremely popular in the 1930s. Welcoming affluent guests and celebrities into its rooms. Including Winston Churchill, Lord Mountbatten, Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson.

During World War II the hotel was used as an RAF recovery centre for wounded pilots and workers. It suffered significant damage during this time and fell into decay. 

The Hotel has since been lovingly restored back to its former glory and is seen as a temple to Art Deco. It’s a Grade II listed building.

The Burgh Island Hotel
The Burgh Island Hotel

Burgh Island Agatha Christie connection

Burgh Island was like a second home to Agatha Christie and she used to hide away here using it as a writing retreat. She’d often sequester herself in the Beach House on the island and spend long days writing at her desk.

This little cubby overlooking the sea was where she wrote two novels ‘Evil Under the Sun’ and ‘And Then There Were None’.

Burgh Island was a huge inspiration for both Soldier Island and the secluded Jolly Roger Hotel in Devon where Poirot stays too. 

Today, Christie fans can stay in that very place called ‘Agatha’s Beach House’ which is a modern beach retreat. With all the amenities you could wish for and even an outdoor hot tub! 

Burgh Island Hotel Agatha Christie
Agatha Christie had magnificent views and seclusion here – perfect writing partners!

What was filmed on Burgh Island?

There have been plenty of films and TV shows filmed on Burgh Island in Devon including some of the Agatha Christie novels that the island-inspired.

‘Evil Under The Sun’ starring David Suchet as Poirot was filmed here in 2001and there were two Miss Marple’s starring Joan Hickson too. ‘Nemesis’ in 1987 and ‘The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side’ in 1992.

Other features include, ‘Sheepdog of the Hills’ (1941), ‘Catch Us If You Can’ (1965), ‘Lovejoy’ (1994) and ‘Nightwalk’ (2013).

I always thought that the BBC adaptation of Agatha Christie’s ‘And Then There Were None’ was shot on Burgh Island in 2015.

But, it was actually shot in and around Mullion Cove and Island, Kynance Cove and Newquay in Cornwall.

Agatha Christie Burgh Island
Burgh Island was inspiration for Soldier Island and the Jolly Roger Hotel

How to get to the Burgh Island Hotel from Bigbury-on-Sea

Burgh Island is a tidal island located off the shores of Bigbury-on-Sea in South Devon. 

It can only be accessed at low tide on foot. But, there are some alternative ways to get over to the island if the tide is high. 

Burgh Island from Bigbury-on-Sea
Burgh Island from Bigbury-on-Sea at high tide

Parking charges at Bigbury-on-Sea

There is plenty of parking available at Bigbury-on-Sea in order to access Burgh Island.

Parking charges from 8am – 6pm are;

1 hour£1.50
2 hours£2.70
3 hours£4.20
4 hours£5.50
24 hours£12.00

So, if you’re heading here for afternoon tea I’d make sure you pay for 3 or 4 hours parking!

You may want to explore the island afterwards.

Burgh Island Sea Tractor 

The traditional and most popular way to make your way over to Burgh Island is to take the Burgh Island Sea Tractor. 

It’s a third-generation hydraulic Sea Tractor and it’s the only one running in the world! 

According to the hotel, although you’ll want to scream with delight, you’re not supposed to show it! In true stiff upper lip style. 

It’s quite high up when you climb the steps and it will take you straight over the sea to the hotel. 

The Burgh Island Sea Tractor was on limited service when we arrived. So, unfortunately, we couldn’t go over in it! But, it gives me another reason to go back. 

Burgh Island Sea Tractor tickets are £2 each way and are open to members of the public. 

Burgh Island Sea Tractor
Burgh Island Sea Tractor

Walk over to Burgh Island

As Burgh Island is a tidal island, you can only walk over to it over the Bigbury-on-Sea at low tide. You cannot drive over to Burgh Island! 

Many people arrive for the low tide here. So, in peak season, I would recommend getting here a little before it to beat the rush. 

As the tide times change every day, you can check low tide each day here via the Met Office weather reports. 

Once the tide clears, you can head on over the short sandy walk to explore the island. You do not need to be a resident to explore the island.

But, without a prior reservation inside the Burgh Island Hotel, it is blocked off to the public. 

Burgh Island at low tide
Lot’s of people walk over to the island at low tide!

Burgh Island 4X4 transfer

As the sea tractor was out of service, my Mum and I were picked up in style for our afternoon tea! 

The Burgh Island Hotel sent over one of their 4X4 leather Jeeps at Low Tide to come and grab us from the car park. 

It really felt special heading over to the hotel this way and I would highly recommend requesting a transfer if the option is available. 

The Burgh Island Hotel was also really kind to drop us off back to our car. It’s a good job really as we were so full from our tea! 

Burgh Island 4x4 jeep!
Our amazing transfer the Burgh Island 4×4!

Entering Burgh Island Hotel’s Palm Court

As soon as we arrived through the gates and walked through the doors of The Burgh Island Hotel, we were relieved of our coats and welcomed by our host Vladimir. Who was dressed in a full-on tuxedo!  

We then were guided into the Palm Courtroom. I think my breath was taken away from me at this point! 

On the ceiling was there peacock domed glass ceiling, there was velvet Art Deco furniture and gold tables, a fountain flowing, jazz music in the background and the most EPIC views of the blue sea all around us. 

I think someone should have pinched me, as I died and went into Art Deco Heaven.

Our waiter had placed our table right by the window so we had beautiful views of the sea and the cliffs beyond. 

The setting really was perfect and it transported you back in time. I was truly in my element

Burgh Island Hotel Palm Court
Burgh Island Hotel Palm Court

The Burgh Island Hotel afternoon tea affair 

Once we had gathered ourselves, stopped squealing with delight and had taken a million pictures of this fantastic room.

We were welcomed again and handed a sparkling glass of Dom Pérignon champagne. Then, we were given the menus to browse the afternoon teas on offer.

My Mum and I both decided to choose the classic 1920s afternoon tea which is the Burgh Island Hotel signature. This came with yet another glass of pink Dom Pérignon champagne! 

Whenever I have an afternoon tea, I am so predictable and ordered a pot of classic English Breakfast tea. Meanwhile, my Mum ordered some citrus and smoky Earl Grey to go with hers.

Burgh Island Hotel afternoon tea
Burgh Island Hotel afternoon tea
We had fabulous weather and views!

Then, our afternoon cake tier arrived with all the trimmings! 

For savoury we had dainty finger sandwiches in Celeriac remoulade, Crayfish and red pepper, Jubilee Chicken and Devilled egg & cucumber.

Then my favourite part was the sweets. We had a Chocolate Orange Macaron, an Apple Crème Brûlée, A rhubarb crumble tart and Chocolate and Coffee gateau.

We also had plain and fruit scones with lashings of cream and jam.

I think I was about ready to burst at the seams. But, every last morsel was delicious and worth every penny.

Burgh Island Hotel Afternoon Tea!
The amazing Burgh Island Hotel Afternoon Tea!

Exploring the Burgh Island Hotel 

Everything inside and outside of the Burgh Island Hotel is decorated in the beautiful Art Deco style. 

From the reception area, the rooms and suites, the restaurant, The Grand Ballroom even the bathrooms have been decorated with Art Deco in mind. 

Usually, non-residents are not allowed to explore the rooms of the hotel. But, I felt very honoured to be given an exclusive tour with Vladimir on my visit with permission from the hotel itself. 

Burgh Island Hotel
Burgh Island Hotel
Burgh Island Hotel gates
Burgh Island Hotel gates
Burgh Island Hotel ballroom
Burgh Island Hotel ballroom entrance
Burgh Island Hotel review
The amazing wallpaper in the bathrooms!

Dining at Burgh Island Hotel

The Nettlefold & The Captain’s Cabin ‘HMS Ganges’

The amazing monochrome floors, pastel blue walls and incredible views of the sea, all make for dining in the Nettlefold a special affair.

Famed for preparing its fresh catch of the day, you can enjoy your fruits-de-mer in their clifftop restaurant. 

A great addition to this area is The Captains Cabin that even comes with its very own ship wheel. The extension was in the 1930s using a warship from 1821, the HMS Ganges! 

The Nettlefold and Captains Cabin are open to non-residents every Friday and Saturday evening between 6.30pm -9pm. Booking is required.

The Nettlefold Restaurant, Burgh Island Hotel
The Nettlefold Restaurant, Burgh Island Hotel
The Captain's Cabin HMS Ganges
The Captain’s Cabin HMS Ganges

The Grand Ballroom

Strictly a formal affair, The Grand Ballroom is an authentic Art Deco hall where you can dine and dance your socks off! 

It still keeps the original rules of the day, which means black tie and formal evening dress only! 

This restaurant serves up a set menu and they often have a live band that plays for the occasion. So, you can dance until the early hours. 

Non-residents are allowed to attend for dinner each evening and it costs £75 a head. You will need to pre-book on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays for live performances.

The Grand Ballroom at Burgh Island Hotel
The Grand Ballroom at Burgh Island Hotel

The Pilchard Inn

If you were just peckish for some lunch and weren’t after such a formal dinner, you can pop into the original smuggler’s pub, The Pilchard Inn that was built in 1336!

Located on the steep hill on the way up to Burgh Island, this quaint tavern has been serving up pints to the local fisherman and smugglers for centuries. 

They also serve up a lovely menu but their speciality is their crab baguettes.

Inside there is a lovely fire burning in winter, but in the summer there is outdoor seating too. 

The Pilchard Inn is open from 11am – 11pm, no need to pre-book

The Pilchard Inn Burgh Island
The Pilchard Inn, Burgh Island

Checking out the Noël Coward Suite in the Hotel

Noël Coward, an English playwright, actor and singer originally planned to visit the Burgh Island Hotel for three days. But, it ended up being three weeks! 

He was famous for requesting his extremely dry Martinis and saying that ‘a perfect Martini should be made by filling a glass with gin, and then waving it in the general direction of Italy’.

His visit made such an impression that there is now a Grand Suite named after him. It’s on the top floor, boats two gorgeous deco rooms, a bathroom and some spectacular views from the balconies.

Noel Coward Suite Burgh Island Hotel
Noel Coward Suite Burgh Island Hotel

Every hotel room in the Burgh Island Hotel is different. Out of the 25 rooms and suites, no two rooms have are the same. They are all decorated in different colour palettes and styles. 

The Noel Coward Suite was decorated in beautiful wood furniture with a blue theme.

There was an old fashioned suite in the lounge with a Robert’s Radio. A claw-footed bathtub and even an analogue telephone in the bedroom! 

It was amazing to have a snoop around the suite and I envy the lucky things that get to stay there.

 Noel Coward suite Burgh island hotel
The views from the Noel Coward suite!

The Burgh Island Mermaid Pool & the spectacular al fresco terrace

We visited the Burgh Island Hotel on such a beautiful sunny day! So it made sense to explore the grounds of the hotel while we were here.

As part of our hotel tour, Vladimir was kind enough to show us the famous Mermaid Pool.

This is a natural seawater bathing pool that has its own sluice gate from World War II. This amazing secluded cove on the island doesn’t see more than ten residents at once. So, it’s like having your own private beach! 

If it’s not too cold you can head over to their diving platform or take their rowboat if it’s too chilly. 

Click here to read my ultimate Burgh Island travel guide

Mermaid Pool Burgh Island
Mermaid Pool Burgh Island

Enjoy a Burgh Island Hotel afternoon tea! 

Visiting the Burgh Island Hotel has been a dream of mine for a long, long time. 

So, to enjoy a delectable afternoon tea in their Palm Court for my birthday on such a sunny day was the cherry on top. 

My mum and I couldn’t stop raving about it to our friends and family and I’m sure we will remember this day for years to come. 

If you’re currently on the fence and considering a Burgh Island Hotel afternoon tea, I would encourage you to go for it! 

Not only is it one of the most unique and classy experiences you can have in Devon, but you will walk in the footsteps of many celebrities and the most famous crime writer of all time Agatha Christie too. 

Click here to reserve your afternoon tea at Burgh Island Hotel!

Burgh Island Hotel afternoon tea review
I LOVED my Burgh Island Hotel afternoon tea experience

Read some more of my Agatha Christie inspired blog posts 

As a big Agatha Christie fan, I have done some armchair sleuthing with her novels since I was a child and followed in her footsteps in the UK and worldwide. 

I recently went to Egypt where Agatha Christie and her husband Max Mallowan went excavating.

I’ve also stayed in some of the beautiful hotels she stayed in, check out her suite and sailed on board the old steamer ships there too! 

The Agatha Christie Mystery Mile in Torquay

Things to do at Greenway House

Checking into Aswan’s Old Cataract, the birthplace of Death on the Nile 

All aboard the S. S. Sudan, film location for Death on the Nile

Why you need to stay in the Old Winter Palace in Luxor

Things to do Agatha Christie Greenway House
Greenway House

Read more of my Devon travel guides

The House That Moved in Exeter

Harry Potter locations in Exeter

Is this Exeter’s Diagon Alley?

Walking down the Narrowest Street in Britain!

How to visit Wistman’s Wood on Dartmoor

How to visit Lydford Gorge & White Lady Waterfall in Dartmoor

How to visit Brentor Church in Dartmoor

Woolacombe Bay Holiday Parks Review

Magical Valley of the Rocks Devon guide

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Burgh Island Hotel Afternoon Tea Review

Jacky Mattelaer

Tuesday 13th of April 2021

Hi Sophie, I’m a huge Agatha Christie fan and have watched ‘Evil Under the Sun’ many times. Always wanted to see the Burgh Island hotel and now I know I can book afternoon tea there I’m doing it! So glad I found your review, thank you :) xx

Sophie Pearce

Friday 16th of April 2021

Hi Jacky! Same! I love Agatha Christie and her Evil Under the Sun is incredible. I would definitely recommend booking in an afternoon tea there! It's so isolated and full of Art Deco Glamour! It will make you feel like you've been transported into one of her novels. I hope you make it there one day :) Sophie x


Wednesday 19th of August 2020

Hi Sophie You've helped me make my mind up to visit Burgh Island, so thanks for the review. Being a fellow Art Deco lover, it looks amazing. Also have you visited Napier in New Zealand - definitely worth a visit if you love your Art Deco.

Sophie Pearce

Tuesday 25th of August 2020

Hi Alex, ah I'm so happy I could help! I absolutely loved Burgh Island and this hotel. I'm sure you'll have a fab time there. No, I've been to New Zealand but not Napier! I will definitely have to check that out. Thanks for reading. Sophie x


Monday 27th of July 2020

Hi Sophie, love your review, what should you wear for afternoon tea there? xx

Sophie Pearce

Monday 27th of July 2020

Hi Sara, ah thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed the post. So exciting you're heading there for tea! I would personally dress formally so a nice dress, or trousers and a nice top. They do say no trainers but me and my mum had them on and we were fine. It's not ballroom formal but definitely an occassion to wear a nice outfit! Have fun, we LOVED it there :) Sophie Xx

Tilly Jaye Horseman

Wednesday 11th of March 2020

This place looks amazing Sophie! So idyllic - It would be awesome to actually stay there! What a gorgeous hotel and the views are stunning! Looks like you were in luck with the weather too! Always a bonus... Happy Birthday you!! xx

Sophie Pearce

Thursday 12th of March 2020

The Burgh Island Hotel is like an Art Deco dream, honestly! I couldn't believe my eyes and the views were spectacular. Yes the weather was amazing on that day! Thank you so much Tilly. Sophie x