Andrew Eames picks out 10 hotels with strong connections to Agatha Christie, the creator of Poirot and Miss Marple
1 Grand Hotel, Torquay
Agatha Christie grew up in a big house in Torquay, and she and her husband Archie had a brief honeymoon in the seaside resort’s big signature hotel, The Grand Hotel, in 1914 before Archie went off to war. Today, the palatial Grand, which still dominates the esplanade, has an Agatha Christie Suite, and sits at the start of the Agatha Christie Mile. It’s also heavily involved with the annual International Agatha Christie Festival.
2 Moorlands, Dartmoor
This straightforward and relatively plain country hotel doesn’t make much of a song and dance about its Christie connections, but this is where she wrote much of her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles. The hotel has a big lounge and bright dining room with view over the moor and distant coast, and most guests come here on walking holidays. Haytor, the granite tor that’s one of Dartmoor’s most memorable landmarks, can be found nearby.
3 The Imperial Hotel, Torquay
Although she may never have stayed here, in her youth Agatha attended various society occasions at the Imperial, which still reflects the elegance and grandeur of that period. She renames it ‘The Majestic’ in her book Peril at End House, where Christie describes it as being ‘in its own grounds on a headland overlooking the sea’. It appears again in The Body in the Library. And the author uses its terrace as a setting for the final chapter of the Miss Marple story Sleeping Murder.
4 The Midland, Morecambe
The Midland is a typical Agatha Christie location, which is why several episodes of ITV’s Agatha Christie’s Poirot were filmed here. The hotel is a superb example of Streamline Moderne Art Deco, and is set in a great location right beside Morecambe Bay. There’s no evidence Agatha stayed here, but Noel Coward and Laurence Olivier certainly did.
5 The Old Swan, Harrogate
There’s a famous episode in the crime writer’s life, after her marriage to Archie fell apart in 1926, when she herself went missing for 11 days. A maid recognised her among the guests in this genteel spa hotel in Harrogate, which is set in five acres of beautiful gardens. Her disappearance was much covered in the national press, but never properly explained. These days, the hotel — still with Victorian elegance — offers ‘Murder Mystery Weekends’.
6 Burgh Island Hotel, South Devon
This is an archetypal Christie setting: an isolated hotel on a island cut off from the mainland at high tide. Which is perhaps why the author wrote And Then There Were None and Evil Under The Sun while staying here. The hotel is still firmly immersed in the 1920s and 1930s, and regularly used by film and TV. In fact, BBC dramatisations of Agatha’s Tommy and Tuppence stories for broadcast in 2015 have recently been filmed here.
7 Pera Palace, Istanbul
After her marriage breakup, Agatha started to travel extensively. She passed through Istanbul several times, and became a regular in the colonial style Pera Palace, which was the hotel of choice for royals and writers alike. She usually stayed in room 411, and a rumour that she’d hidden a secret diary there prompted fans to regularly pull up the floorboards. The hotel has since been extensively renovated by the Jumeirah chain.
8 Coral Reef Club, Barbados
Although most of her travels took her towards the Middle East, by train, Christie lived long enough to benefit from air travel. Thus she discovered Barbados, where she used to stay at the Coral Reef Club, the epitome of Caribbean elegance, set in 12 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens. She used the hotel as a setting for her Miss Marple story A Caribbean Mystery, published in 1964, and it remains a place of classic Caribbean charm.
9 Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Hotel, Aswan
This grand riverside property, dating back to the 1920s, still encapsulates the romance and mystery of the Nile, despite recent renovations, which have turned it into a lavish spa destination. Death on the Nile was partly written during Agatha’s stay here, and the famous 1978 film with Peter Ustinov and David Niven was partly set here, too.
10 Baron Hotel, Aleppo, Syria
A sad note to end on. This colonial-era hotel in northern Syria is still owned and run by the very same family that welcomed Agatha so regularly on her archaeological forays into the Middle East with second husband Max Mallowan. But Aleppo is in the thick of war; and according to recent reports The Baron is still standing, but has been forced to close its doors.