The Pilchard Inn, Burgh Island
Across the water from Bigbury-on-sea you will find Burgh Island – although technically it’s only an island when the sea comes in. It’s also the site of a restored 1920’s hotel and the setting for a couple of Agatha Christie’s detective. I looked into booking a couple of nights in the hotel last year and was on the verge of doing so until I realised that I could have two weeks in the Maldives (including flights) for the same price …
But being in the area and spotting that the tide was out meant that we had to investigate … and if further encouragement were needed the Pilchard Inn could be seen in the distance just inviting us for a closer look! The area has a history steeped in smuggling and treasure and also used to be ripe for shoals of pilchards - fishermen used to launch their boats from the island shores. Now the pilchards and the fishermen have gone but the Inn remains, cashing in on the romanticism of being a “14th century smugglers Inn”.
We wander up to get a closer view of the hotel. The gates are locked shut and warning notices inform us that the hotel area is “for guests only” … as are the benches with the views across the bay. Everything seems to shout “Not for the likes of you”, so we decide to pop into the pub since the doors have just opened. On entering we find a very small snug area with seating for 18 – but across the other side of the bar is a larger room with a roaring log fire. However on enquiry we are told that this area is for “Hotel Residents only”- more segregation!
But we are early and lucky enough to be able to get a table and the pub boasts a small selection of real ales together with two ciders – Thatcher’s or Heron Valley. Yes, I’ll definitely have a Heron Valley! The small bar quickly fills up and those who arrive half an hour later are forced to sit outside, it’s sunny but there is a nasty nip in the air … the hotel guests seem to have decided to stay in their rooms; their bar area remains empty.
Ah well, better make the most of having a table. No tuna baguettes here, still crab country you see. But the crab baguette is beautifully presented – even if it has been taken from a huge pile of ready made ones! - it’s wrapped in a napkin tastefully secured by a piece of string and obviously trying very hard to look rustic and 14th Century! Rather amusingly I discover that, as well as serving the baguettes prepared at the hotel and sent down to feed the peasants, the Inn also offers evening food on a Friday night – but only for hotel residents - who perhaps want to live life a little close to the edge and visit a common pub for the evening! It’s enough for me to decide that I really would rather go for the two weeks in the Maldives!
Cider – 3
Tuna – (0) but crab baguette3
Atmosphere – 1