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The islands of Devon: Lundy, Burgh and Drake’s Islands

There is something strangely alluring about an island destination. There are three main islands off Devon's shores which are unique in their varying history and purpose.

Lundy Island

The MS Olderburgh is a traditional motor vessel which makes the 12 mile trip to the island from Bideford Quay three times a week from April to October. Alternatively, helicopter trips fly regularly from Hartland Point. Lundy Island is in the Bristol Channel and is three miles long and less than a mile wide. It is a Marine Nature Reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest, managed by the National Trust and it has 28 residents who keep the island functioning.

Lundy is an old Norse word for puffin and at one time the island was a huge puffin colony. The population was decimated by rats which have since been eliminated. The island has two lighthouses, a friendly tavern, several houses, an old cemetery with some inscribed 5th century stones and the 13th century Marisco Castle. The island has been connected with the Knights Templar and Barbary Pirates and at one time issued its own coins and stamps. It is the perfect day out for walkers, birdspotters, nature lovers, photographers, artists and those wanting to snorkel or dive to the old wreck of HMS Montagu.

Burgh Island

Just off the lovely beach at Bigbury-on-Sea in south Devon sits Burgh Island, separated from the mainland by a short tidal causeway. Its main feature is the lovely 1929 Art Deco hotel, built to resemble a liner at sea. It was a favourite retreat of Agatha Christie and was said to have inspired the setting for her novel “And Then There Were None“.

The hotel offers a quiet retreat for many famous guests who are remembered in the names of the guest rooms. When the tide is in, guests cross on a hydraulic Sea Tractor. Visitors enjoying a stay in a self-catering cottage in Devon can still enjoy this remarkable hotel with its lovely glass rotunda and sea views by enjoying Sunday lunch or formal dinner (black tie) in the restaurant.

The island also has its own pub, The Pilchard Inn, where a pint and a snack can be enjoyed watching the seals and seabirds in the bay.

Drake’s Island

Drake’s Island is the 6.5 acre rocky islet which can clearly be seen from Plymouth Hoe, lying in the protected waters of Plymouth Sound. It was recorded as St Michael’s in 1135 but from the latter part of the 16th century it became known as Drake’s Island, after the local hero Sir Francis Drake.

It was from these very waters that Drake sailed out in 1577 and successfully circumnavigated the world. When he returned he was made governor of the island. It was fortified and barracks were built on it. It was later used as a prison and Roundhead leaders, Robert Lilburne and John Lambert, died in prison on the island.

After World War II the island passed from the Ministry of Defence to Plymouth City Council and was eventually sold in 1995 for just £235,000 and remains privately owned.

About Gillian Birch

Born in Cheshire, Gillian Birch moved to Cornwall at her earliest opportunity and never looked back. After 20 years, her ongoing discovery of popular attractions, quiet footpaths and local eateries has made her a fount of knowledge as she entertains readers with her informative articles on the hidden gems of Devon & Cornwall from a local point-of-view.

Find Gillian on Google+, and Twitter.

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