TRAVEL GUIDE: Cornwall
For many a trip to Cornwall conjures up dream-like sequences of beautiful beaches and stunning coastal scenery. Children playing in the surf whilst wet-suited beach bums ride in on the white tipped waves.
For me, it means seafood and lashings of it.
Yes, of course, I love filling the time between meals by getting my feet wet and marvelling at the frolics on Fistral Beach or the mythical majesty of King Arthur's Tintagel Castle.
There is even the Bodmin Moor jail or entertaining National Maritime Museum at Falmouth — a must for families on a rainy day.
But these are just distractions from the real splendour of Cornwall. It's fabulously fresh seafood.
Several years ago there was only one trailblazer on the rugged Cornish coast. Rick Stein set up his brilliantly marketed The Seafood Restaurant in the lovely fishing town of Padstow and people flocked to his door.
The London prices did not worry his diners then, mainly because most of them had come down from the capital for a holiday, and they do not appear to worry people now.
Paying £34.50 for a piece of Dover Sole or £29.50 for a fillet of Sea Bass does seem extortionate but Stein has built up a mini-industry in the South West and continues to pack them in.
Having eaten, and enjoyed, at Stein's main restaurant in the past this time I took my girlfriend to one his new adventures — Rick Stein's Fish & Chips in Falmouth.
The battered fish, served with chips, range from £9.95 for Cod through to £15.50 for Monkish.
There is also grilled fish and a charcoal roasted option for those looking for something a little extra.
I paid top whack and went for the Monkish with my chips and was delighted with the light batter and crispy chips served up in a little environment where meals are eaten on benches alongside other customers.
Nipping across to the northern coast I got on my flip flops and headed off to Jamie Oliver's Fifteen.
Situated in the stunning Watergate Bay you sit above the beach and watch the waves crash on to the shore through opened patio doors as you eat.
We went for lunch as only the taster menu is served in the evening and can boast of a wonderful experience with the Lamb ragu (my girlfriend's favourite) whilst I was crowing about the Turbot for weeks afterwards.
Just up the coast is the little known Scarlet hotel and restaurant, and having sampled its delights I hope it stays as a hidden gem until my next trip to the area.
The Scarlet is Cornwall's first luxury eco hotel and perched on a hill overlooking Mawgan Porth has a striking vista for dinners to enjoy.
A three-course lunch for £19.50 filled us up for the day and had us wondering how lip-smacking tasty the roasted brill on the dinner menu would be.
But it's not just the celebrity chef owned haunts that are worth checking out on a holiday in the region.
We stumbled on The Boathouse in the harbour of the much-maligned Newquay and discovered a much under-appreciated find.
Watching the fishermen go about the business of landing their catch probably added a little extra taste to my cod but knowing how fresh the fish was certainly added to my sense of well being.
Staying in Cornwall is a great experience with plenty of coastline cottages and harbour-side apartments.
But book early for the best accommodation as return visitors tend to snaffle up the best stuff on offer.
We used a couple of local letting firms but were restricted in choice and ended up pleasantly surprised that our flat in a quiet part of Newquay allowed us views of the busy harbour and changing tides.
It was a scene we reluctantly left behind although the flavours of Cornwall will always remain.