As we left the landing station on foot, we were instantly exposed to the islands stark beauty. To one side of us swathes of jewel-coloured rhododendron bushes obscured the rocky landscape; to the other sheer cliffs fell away into a turquoise sea 500 ft below. Evidence of Lundys tempestuous history peppers the island, from a 13th-century castle built to control piracy to the bumt-out remains of a German World War II bomber. Now, however, the community that flourished until the 19th century has all but vanished.
DINING LAMPS IDEAS For the few residents who remain, life centres around the hearty Marisco Tavern and the church. Visitors who wish to join this tiny community, if only for a week, can rent one of 23 unusual properties, including the islands lighthouse. For day-trippers like us, however, seeing it all required a certain fleetness of foot.
Reaching the deep, gorge-like inlets of the west coast, we felt the full force of a fierce Atlantic wind. Seagulls soared high on the slipstream, while the islands famed puffins, which have replaced the Queens head on Lundys stamps, nested noisily in the crags below. Locals like to describe the feeling of exhilaration that many visitors depart with as Lundyitis – a condition that seemed to have affected most of the passengers on the boat back to Ilfracombe.
Within half an hour of landing we had checked into the family-run Highbullen Hotel near the village of Chittlehamholt. The hotels high reputation for tasty, home-cooked food undoubtedly rests on the talents of Hugh and Pam Neil. Once the owners of a West End restaurant favoured by 1960s theatre stars, the Neils have a definite flair for entertaining.
At one time it wasnt unusual to see the likes of Laurence Olivier acting as Highbullens understudy barman. Tales such as these make for easy listening over after-dinner drinks in the hotel bar.