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Enjoy a virtual tour of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty of Burgh Island & Bigbury-on-Sea, one of the most popular destinations in the South Hams.
Even though Bigbury is only an hour away from where I live, I hadn’t been there for many years so this trip was long overdue. Just as you round the corner at the top of the hill, your suddenly faced with a spectacular view of the beach and Island. The road takes you straight to the car parks below, but just before you reach them there are a few spaces on the left hand side that are free with the only restriction of no overnight parking. We were lucky as a couple were just loading their car to leave, so we didn’t have to pay to park.
We wandered around the beach for a bit, it may look like a gorgeous sunny day, but it was very windy and we were being blown away and pummeled by sand. Of course we wanted to go across to the Island, but it was pretty much high tide, so we needed to use the famous sea tractor. There were no times on display, so we walked back up to the shop to ask and were told it basically runs on Island time and to just keep an eye out for when it comes.
We decided to walk around the Island first to work up a thirst before entering the pub. The walk is very easy, but can be a little muddy and there are a few steps so not accessible for wheelchair users. At the top of the hill you’ll find the ruins of the old St. Michael’s chapel and of course the best of the panoramic views.
Burgh Island is a tidal island near the small seaside village of Bigbury-on-Sea.
- Burgh Island lies about 270 yards (250 metres) off Bigbury-On-Sea.
- The original Sea Tractor vehicle was constructed in 1930, the current third generation tractor dates from 1969.
- Burgh Island Hotel was built in 1929, extended in 1932 and now restored to resemble the 30’s to take you back in time.
- Burgh Island is closely linked to Agatha Christie, as it served as the inspirational setting for Soldier Island (And Then There Were None) and for the setting of the Hercule Poirot mystery Evil Under the Sun.
The island has been known by various names over the years. Early records and maps mention it as St Michael’s Island. The name later changed to Borough Island, eventually shortened to Burgh.
- It is believed a monastery was established on the island, most of the remains of which may lie beneath the current hotel. The ancient Pilchard Inn may have started life as the guest lodgings for the monastery.
- The first hotel on Burgh Island was a prefabricated wooden hut, built in the 1890s by a music hall star named George H Chirgwin, who used it for weekend parties.
- Fear that German landing forces might use the island as a beachhead during World War II resulted in the area’s fortification with anti-tank defences and two pillboxes, positioned on both sides of the causeway. An observation post was also established on the summit to monitor the coastline.
- Paddle boarding
- Ride the sea tractor from Bigbury Beach to Burgh Island
- Rock pooling
- Walk to St Michael’s Church
- Pilchard Inn (14th-century smugglers haunt. Open 11:00-22:30)
- Venus Cafe
The beach is tidal and that is where the famous sea tractor comes in. It costs £2 each way to use and it can operate in tides up to 7ft with winds up to 30 mph. Once across there is a leisurely walk to enjoy around the Island, it does have a small incline with a few steps in places, so it’s not wheelchair friendly, but it is an easy walk.
- Easy short 0.8 mile walk around the island.
Bigbury on Sea, Devon, Sat-nav: TQ7 4BG. There are two large car parks with easy access to the beaches.
- Bus, 875 from Plymouth, 1hr 20.
- Car, is by far the easiest option. There are two large pay & display car parks down by the beach, but if your lucky you may find one of the few spaces on the road down available for free.
- Sea Tractor, £2 each way. There are no times, so you just have to keep a look out for when its coming if you want to catch it.
- Walking, If the tides out then simply walk across and enjoy the coastal paths around the Island. Walking these won’t disappoint, with the stunning views on a sunny day. (Don’t forget the sunscreen).
Blue Badge holders get an hours free parking on top of what they pay for.
- If your lucky you may find one of the few spaces on the road down available for free.
- Blue Badge holders get an hours free parking on top of what they pay for.
- Lifeguards are present at Bigbury on Sea beach during May to September, 10:00 – 18:00.
- Dogs are only allowed on permitted areas from 1st May to 30th September.
- Beware of the tide.
- Beware of strong undercurrents.
- Be aware of the seagulls if your outside with food.
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