From the chapter STAR-STRUCK - extract refers to a visit to the tiny, famous Burgh Island off England's south coast, whereupon the author & her partner hope to spot a few celebrities...
[In the island's Pilchard Inn] we thought we'd wash the baguettes down with a nice, hot brew, but were shocked to discover that they "didn't do tea". Obviously, the writers of our guidebook were no tea-totallers, otherwise they would have warned fellow tea-baggers like us of such a beverage calamity. "I'll just have water then, thanks," I muttered, no doubt being charged for the privilege. Well, I suppose we WERE on Burgh Island – so what the heck, eh?
Despite the olde worlde charm of the pub's interior, the clement weather invited us to sit outdoors on the pub's picnic tables and watch the world (and hopefully a celebrity) go by as we sat eating our lunch. "Strange! My baguette's got fig jam in it," I winced. My ever-patient other half gently corrected my uncouth lack of culinary knowledge by pointing out that the 'jam' was in fact chutney, and proceeded to whip a lump of the apparently-offending condiment out of my baguette and place it in his own. "Yummm...!"
"That hotel could do with a lick of paint," I commented, trying to change the subject. We looked about us. Children played merrily on the beach across the way, and a father and son chased each other up and down the length of a large puddle in the sand. It was the stuff of the 'Peter and Jane' books of my youth.
Looking across the coastline, we noticed a beach not far away as the crow flies (what looked like Challaborough on the map) packed with holidaymakers; and I was struck by the sheer numbers in comparison with the quieter beach here at Bigbury.
Our tummies filled, it was time for a long-awaited tour of the island. No celebrities had yet been spotted, either on the beach or in the pub, we remarked. We made our way up the lane and stopped outside the gateway to the Burgh Island Hotel. "Perhaps they do teas in there," I mused, picturing us sipping away as we looked out over the bay from an art deco lounge window. The sign outside, however, announced that it wasn't open to non-residents. No riff-raff then, we thought!
Getting onto the designated path which wound its way up towards the top of the island revealed views over the whole area. We could see the hotel's helipad and, over near the tennis courts, what looked like an older, disused helipad, which no doubt doubled as an 'overspill' helipad in an emergency.
Atop the island, said the tourist blurb, there should be a chapel and huer's hut, the latter used as a pilchard lookout post in the old fishing days. However, since all that remained was a sort of stone platform and the ruins of another small building, it was difficult to distinguish which was the chapel and which the hut. I later read that the huer's hut was actually built out of the remains of the chapel, and that the platform was used for military purposes during the war.
As we did a circuit of the island, not only were there stunning open views from every vantage point, but if you have even a passing interest in geology or bird-watching, there would surely be something to engage the eye. According to the hotel's website, numerous rare birds shelter and breed in the area, pods of dolphins and solitary seals frequent the bay, and foxes and badgers play on the higher slopes. Our luck was out: we spotted no marine or land mammals, and the only birds we got a good look at were a gull with its chicks perched cannily on a solitary rock stack near the cliff edge, and a number of cormorants on the crags below at sea level. However, several birds darted about on land, hiding in the bushes as soon as anyone got too close. All in all, the wildlife was proving to be as elusive as the celebrities.
Along the way, we met a Dutch couple who were staying at the hotel. If they'd been hobnobbing with any celebs, they weren't letting on. But in any case, they reckoned they could only afford to stay there one night, what with having to fork out for booze and cigarettes on top of their hotel bill. A likely story! No doubt this was a cover up for the truth: they were famous Dutch actors trying to escape the national limelight for a few days. But we weren't about to press them on the matter.
Looking down over the hotel as we came to the end of our walk, I had to wonder at past celebrities who had stayed there to escape the world's gaze, and could only guess that they must have felt like prisoners, trapped inside the hotel until high tide, when – like vampires at sundown – they could come out from the shadows and enjoy the delights of the island unhindered by doting admirers.
Again passing the hotel gate on the way down, we saw a couple of 'chancers', the husband trying to persuade the wife that riff-raff really could get into the hotel even though they weren't staying there. She held back, unconvinced, as he determinedly dared to push through the gate on the driveway which would lead to the hotel entrance. You had to admire his gumption.
As we walked by the Pilchard Inn on our way off the island, we were brought back down to earth by the pub staff sitting outside on their break (no tea in sight!) discussing the nitty-gritty of work rotas and washing up. We may not have spotted a Dawnus Frenchicus or any Poirot lookalikes, but the beauty of the island and the surrounding coastline were satisfying enough. And, in any case, just what would we have said to a celebrity if we'd met one? "Nice day, int it?"
By now, we were desperate for a cuppa and ambled back up the hill to our campervan for a tannin fix.