Sand beneath my feet, salt in my hair, head in the clouds, it’s not often that I find myself speechless. But that’s exactly how I feel at Bigbury-on-Sea. I also love the Boxing day* tradition of jumping into the sea sans wetsuit. Maybe it’s the beautiful scenery, more likely it’s the freezing cold water… but I am completely lost for words (not a regular occurrence).
Bigbury-on-Sea is not only the perfect place for a freezing winter dip in the sea, but a dream destination for surfers and hikers alike. Throughout the ages, the site has been used as a home for a small religious community dedicated to St Michael, scores of fishermen, Elizabethan smugglers and a WWII hospital.
*Boxing day is a public holiday in the UK, The Bahamas, Barbados, Canada, Hong Kong, Australia, Bermuda, New Zealand, Kenya, South Africa, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica. Although the exact origin for the holiday is unclear, it was traditionally the day when servants would receive gifts from their employers in a box known as the ‘Christmas box’.
The giant causeway at Bigbury-on-Sea is the jewel in the crown of Bigbury Bay. With views over the surrounding cliffs, when the tide recedes, a beautiful sandy beach is revealed.
The nature of the tidal causeway means that it is possible to walk out to sea for hundreds of metres in knee deep water.
A tidal island, much like the nearby tidal island of St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall, twice a day the tide draws in, rendering the island impassable- safe for the ‘sea tractor’ that ferries people back and forth during these periods for a small fee.
The entirety of the island is crisscrossed by tiny pathways that offer spectacular views out onto the open sea (on a clear day, that is).
Considering that ‘pilchard’ is another name for a sardine, it’s not hard to see how this pub acquired its name.
Supposedly frequented by the notorious smuggler Tom Crocker, who used the island (then known as Burr Island) as his base, the pub is reputedly still haunted by his ghost many centuries later.
Although very little is known about this Elizabethan smuggler, he was apparently shot dead on the very steps of the Inn.
Today, the inn is the perfect place to get a refreshment after exploring the little pathways that zigzag across the island.
Burgh Island Hotel
The art-deco style hotel gained fame for its portrayal in a Poirot case ‘Evil Under the Sun’ by local writer Agatha Chritie.
Built in the late 1920s, the grade 2 listed building is an impressive feat of architecture. During the second world war, it was used as a military hospital for wounded RAF servicemen before bombing destroyed the upper floors.
In the 1990s it was bought and revived into the hotel that is seen today.
With breathtaking views over the sea, the ruins of the Huers hut on the site of a chapel dedicated to St Michael, are hard to miss.
Perched at the highest point of the island, fishermen would have sat in the hut on colder days, watching and waiting for any sign of shoals of sardines.
Don’t forget your swimsuit (or more likely wetsuit) when you visit Bigbury. Windsurfing, kitesurfing, bodyboarding and surfing are all popular here.
The sandy beach makes for a perfect place to picnic, build sandcastles or walk the dog (in the winter months).