Laura Horton and her friend agreed to visit Burgh Island every five years to follow in the footsteps of their favourite author
A stay at Burgh Island Hotel feels like leaving the modern world behind and going back in time, says Laura Horton. “When you’re there it’s like you’re in a time warp,” she says.
The art deco hotel was hugely popular during the 1930s, with many famous visitors including Agatha Christie, Winston Churchill, Edward VIII, and Wallis Simpson. “It was very glamorous in its day,” Horton says.
Guests can only get to the tiny island – which is off the coast of South Devon – by water tractor at high tide, or by foot when the tide is out. The hotel sits up above the rocks, overlooking the sea, and rooms are designed with period furniture. Guests often wear glamorous clothes, such as flapper dresses or dinner suits.
Burgh Island Hotel is reached by a water tractor at high tide. Photograph: Ian Dagnall/Alamy
Horton has been saving for a return trip to the hotel with her friend Ella once restrictions are lifted. “When you’re there it feels like you’re existing out of time,” she says. “It’s nice when you’re talking to people, to imagine them as characters.”
Modern-day guests can sip 1920s-style cocktails over dinner, or bathe in big roll-top bathtubs with views of the sea. “I remember having a bath with a glass of champagne,” says Horton. They can then head to the beach, or take a dip in the mermaid pool, a natural sea lagoon nearby. “It was hot when we went before, so we sunbathed and sat outside and had crab sandwiches,” she says.
Burgh Island is a dream destination for anyone who loves Christie, and Horton has been a fan of the famous crime writer from a young age. “I found her books strangely comforting,” she says. “There’s always order resumed after the chaos and there will always be an answer at the end, which you don’t often get in real life.”
Horton says she’s found herself rereading Christie’s crime books during the lockdown. “While we were in this turbulent period I was looking to do things that made me feel safe and comfortable,” she says. “And I feel safe and comfortable reading Christie, weirdly, even though her stories are all about murder.”
Horton and her friend Ella bonded over their love of murder mysteries
Horton met her friend Ella several years ago and bonded over their mutual love of murder mystery. “At first, I didn’t think we had a lot in common. Ella works in gaming and is very tech-savvy and I’m absolutely not,” Horton says. But then the topic of Christie came up. “I said I love her books and Ella’s face lit up,” Horton says. “After that, we became really good friends.”
Christie’s books are often set in beautiful locations – from the Orient Express to the Nile River, or in old manor houses in the English countryside. The book Evil Under the Sun was even set on Burgh Island itself. “It’s the perfect place for a [fictional] murder,” says Horton.
The characters in Christie’s books are usually interesting and eccentric. “They always murder for love or money,” Horton says. And the big reveal at the end is always satisfying. “I love those scenes where they get everyone in the room [to reveal the murderer], it’s very theatrical.”
Horton says she can imagine Christie on Burgh Island, where the author used to come and write. “There’s a room with a big peacock glass roof and I like to imagine her sitting there,” Horton says. “I can imagine her being a bit like [her fictional detective] Miss Marple, keeping herself to herself.”
Every five years, Horton and Ella stay on Burgh Island together – they stayed there for their 30th and 35th birthdays. “You want to be there with someone else who’s enthusiastic about it,” Horton says.
Holidaymakers at the hotel in the 1930s. Photograph: Reg Speller/Getty Images
And now that travel is permitted, they’re hoping to go back. Horton is saving for the trip by selling clothes she’s collected over the years. “I’m selling old clothes on eBay,” she says. “When things open up, I’m planning on getting a stall somewhere.” She’s aiming to save £350 for the trip.
It’s been good to save for a glamorous trip during the lockdown, Horton says. “It feels really nice to be saving for an experience I’m going to enjoy,” she says. “Especially something as decadent and lovely as Burgh Island.”
Knowing you have savings ready to pay for a treat such as a holiday can be a great comfort, says Jill Waters, NS&I’s retail director. “Having a savings pot ready for the unexpected will also provide the assurance that you’re ready for ‘just-in-case’ days too,” she adds.
Horton says that Christie would have been a big people watcher, getting inspiration for characters from the guests. “To be a crime writer you need to understand people’s psychology,” she says.
This is why it’s her ultimate dream to spend a week on Burgh Island writing – just like Christie herself used to do.
(Source: The Guardian)