Usually murder mysteries involve sleuthing to determine whodunnit. In real life, the current question is “Who’ll buy it?” The object in question isn’t a dead body but a small body of land just off the southwest English coast. Burgh Island, a favorite retreat of the “Queen of Crime” and the inspiration for the setting of two of her books, is up for grabs. With a price tag around $19 million, the list of suspects is likely to be shorter than those in one of Agatha Christie’s crime novels.
The pricey real estate for sale is a 26-acre tidal island off Britain’s southwestern county of Devon. At low tide, Burgh Island is accessible on foot or by car from Bigbury-on-Sea, a town facing the eastern side of the island. At high tide, however, the connecting land is submerged. Those wanting access then may take a sea tractor across. This vehicle’s wheels are submerged for the crossing at high tide while the driver and passengers stay dry sitting on an elevated platform above the water.
Britain has over 6,000 islands around its coast. So, what makes Burgh Island off the rugged Devonshire coast so special? And special it is. Over the years, this small island has been a popular escape for the rich and famous who have flocked to the Burgh Island Hotel originally built in 1929. Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson frequented the site, and the Beatles stayed there in the 1960s when playing a concert in Plymouth, some 13 miles away. The hotel’s website describes the place as where Agatha Christie made her “second home.”
But Burgh Island’s history stretches back long before the hotel was built and the wealthy descended. Included in the sale of the island and the hotel is the over 700 year old Pilchard Inn. This 14th century tavern originally served local fishermen and was a haunt of smugglers. The pub is one of the oldest in the UK.
War interrupted the glitz and glamour which had been offered by the island’s hotel in the 1920s and 1930s. During World War II, the site was transformed into a recovery center for wounded Royal Air Force personnel. President Dwight Eisenhower is rumored to have met with Prime Minister Winston Churchill at the hotel before D-Day.
The Burgh Island Hotel is a Grade II listed white art deco hotel. In the UK, a “listed building” is a structure of particular architectural and/or historic interest which is deserving of special protection. “Art deco,” as it is familiarly called, is an influential arts design style taking it name from the “Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industrials Modernes” held in Paris in 1925. This style favored clean lines and colors which were often bright.
Twenty-five bedrooms and suites are available for guests at the Burgh Island Hotel. These rooms and suites are named after famous guests who’ve stayed there. Planning approval has already been obtained to add twelve more guest rooms. And for pampered pooches, dog-friendly rooms are an option.
For Agatha Christie fans Agatha’s Beach House, built in the 1930s as a writer’s retreat for the famous author, is a big draw. This retreat was situated right on the sea nestled in the island’s rockface. Burgh Island clearly spoke to her as it inspired the settings for two of her books, Evil Under The Sun and And Then There Were None.
The hotel, which is situated on 21acres of the island, offers sea views from all rooms, fine dining, and cocktails in an area with a grand glass ceiling. But the natural beauty of the island also offers guests much to appreciate. Wildlife may be observed, and walks may be taken along the cliffs. An extensive network of footpaths along with a mermaid pool, a naturally enclosed body of seawater, provide ample opportunity for delightful physical activity. And when it’s time to leave, the tide isn’t necessarily a consideration for transportation; a helipad allows arrivals and departures by helicopter.
As grand and amazing as Burgh Island sounds, staying there, much less purchasing it, isn’t in the cards for me. While I’d revel in its natural beauty and be thrilled to see what inspired the incomparable Agatha Christie, I’m not sure I could truly relax. If readers learned anything from her Evil Under The Sun, it’s that, well, evil is in beautiful places just like Burgh Island. Could I walk along the cliff’s edge wondering which other guest might be pushed over the edge to their death below? Could I be a target? And if Poirot’s curtain has gone down, who’d solve the murder?
In any event, $19 million for a writer’s retreat simply isn’t in my budget. Even if my Word Weavers writers’ group pitched in, we’d still fall short of a reasonable counter-offer. Alas, I’ll need to get my Agatha Christie fix another way. I’ve got tickets for a local theater group’s production of “And Then There Were None” in early June. While the set will sadly not come close to Burgh Island’s beauty, I do have a good imagination. And a $25 ticket to see Stagecrafters put this play on is affordable. (For info on their production, go to: https://www.stagecraftersfwb.com/.)
If you can’t afford purchasing Burgh Island either, why not consider spending $19.99 plus tax to buy my annotated version of Agatha Christie’s The Secret of Chimneys? The book’s available at: https://www.endgamepress.com/store/p/the-secret-of-chimneys Sorry, the main setting is an English countryside manor instead of an island, but the book is still an entertaining read with much to be learned from the annotations and bonus material. I’ll even set aside money I make from the book towards purchasing Burgh Island some day. And if I’m successful in that aim, those who bought my book will get invites to an Agatha Christie party there.
Who do you think will buy Burgh Island? Have you ever stopped to wonder what places inspired the settings of fiction books you read? How would you feel staying on an island that inspired settings where murders took place?