The island is also where Lambert Simnel, the young son of an Oxford trader, landed in June 1487 with an army of mercenaries and claimed to be the rightful heir to the throne of England. He marched on London, was quickly defeated by Henry VII and liquidated a kitchen servant.
The ‘King of Piel’ custom was likely coined in the early 19th century in reference to Simnel’s doomed claim, Mr Douglas said. “Kind of a throwback to the good old days and a reimagining of some kind of dark ceremony,” he said. “It’s a little weird.”
In fall and winter, history buffs and picnickers leave the island for the birds, seals, and two full-time residents in one of the private homes. “It’s a very quiet place,” Mr Murphy said. “If you don’t have customers, you have to be a Robinson Crusoe and take advantage of the facilities you have in mind.”
Mr Callister said parts of the landlord’s contract would be negotiated with the council, including salary and whether the landlord would have to live in Piel all year.
“It’s an opportunity for someone who’s really open-minded, loves this style of business, loves the outdoors, loves history,” Callister said. “At the end of the day, when we all get a little bit older, you think, ‘I wish I had done that.’ Don’t miss this opportunity.
Mr Murphy said the job requires someone who, at a minimum, doesn’t mind spending a lot of time alone. He described the winter as “really really harsh”, with storms bringing high winds and rain. “You’re practically stuck on the island alone.”
And once you’re there, you only have a limited number of ways to leave. When the tide goes out, it is possible to walk – carefully, if you know the way – on two miles of sand. But when the tide comes out the only means of transport is a small ferry which Mr Murphy described as ‘a rowing boat with a small engine in the back’.