How to get engaged at Burgh Island

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4 minutes

by UK Online Editor, Bonnie Friend

My partner, Guy, and I are currently in the throes of planning our wedding.

We, probably like most people, have been determined from the start that we would like ours to be a little bit different, and that is harder than you might think to achieve, not least because if you type ‘unusual weddings’ into Google, some bright spark at the universal wedding headquarters of the world has interpreted that to mean ‘crafty’, ‘kitsch’ and ‘home made’ – but that’s a story for another time. One thing has ensured we are off to a good start however, and that was getting engaged at Burgh Island.

I don’t want to inflate his ego too much, but my partner is infinitely more stylish than I am. By way of illustration, following heart surgery in December he emerged from five hours in theatre with his perfectly coiffed hair still intact, and has proceeded to recover with more grace and cashmere than I ever knew possible.

So it is no surprise perhaps that he managed to choreograph a simple but utterly stylish proposal with an air of cool sophistication and apparent ease, on a visit for my birthday. Of course, effortless style is more easily accomplished with the right setting, and this is a place where it’s hard to get anything wrong.

For those who have not been to this homage to all things Art Deco, located on a private island in Devon, allow me to set the scene. On the only hotel on a private island in the UK, the hotel was built in 1929 and remains true to its roots with art deco style and antiques at every turn.

It is accessed across the beach at Bigbury-on-Sea, where the tide comes in from both sides, and it is reached by a custom built sea tractor when the water comes in (or by Jeep when the tide’s out). You leave your car on the mainland and your locally engineered tractor in red and blue armour whisks you across the sand to another world.

When you arrive you are greeted with a glass of sherry to warm up after your sea crossing (all five minutes of it), and you are escorted to your room, which is one of 25 individually designed suites, all named after an eminent figure from the 1920s. Our room was the Cunard suite, named after American activist and socialite Nancy Cunard, heiress to the shipping empire – a biography neatly positioned by the wireless. Key to the room’s charm is a view across the beach back to the mainland from both the bedroom, the freestanding bath and the balcony that spans the width of both bedroom and bathroom.

The whole hotel is magical – a moment in time where old school elegance prevails. If you’re looking for a state of the art gym, this is not the place for you – bring a book, excellent company and your glad rags. Inside it’s peaceful and the high standards are apparent from the word go. Outside you will find the Mermaid Pool, a lagoon created by closing a few gaps in the natural rock formations so that it has filled with ever circulating sea water to become the hotel’s unique answer to a swimming pool.

Dinner is the piece de resistance at Burgh Island. In their own words: ‘you can never be over dressed’. You start with drinks, champagne in our instance, as well as canapés from 6.30pm, and having selected your meal from the daily menu you are duly escorted into the dining room where, under low lighting and muralled walls, the best of the local area’s produce is served up in exquisite three course fine dining style.

For the remainder of the evening it’s about enjoying the company you keep, getting swept up in the music and retreating to your room with the dulcet tones of Billie Holiday and Bing Crosby in your ears. It is of course the perfect moment to propose, but that was my birthday.

In the morning we woke up to that view that I mentioned, and it is the hotel’s custom to bring a tea tray to your room before breakfast. There on the tray was a little blue box with my ring in it, accompanied by a white rose. It was perfect, it wasn’t obvious and in a grand world in the middle of the sea, it was wonderfully simple.

The rest of my morning at Burgh Island was a heady mix of smiles, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, all of which I treasure. Of course, like most people no doubt feel, Guy could have proposed with a Haribo ring in the middle of a Tesco car park and I would still have been overjoyed, but given the option, I would always say yes to Burgh Island.