The good life outside London

A wise former colleague told me many times: Don't go to London and not see the rest of Britain.

Given how handy it was to have him on your side at quiz night, I figured I better listen - especially when other people started telling me the same thing.

Edinburgh has been on my hit-list for a long time now.

Meeting a hilarious group of guys from Manchester on our tour of South America, (and their prodding to come and visit) also had me wanting to head north at some point.

Bus fares of a fiver have also been long tempting us to head to Cardiff for a weekend.

But - guilty as charged - even though I kept meaning to put a domestic trip ahead of an international one, Britain remained on the back burner.

Then Mr and Mrs Mark suggested part of their trip to visit us was spent down south, in Devon and Cornwall.


Cornwall was first on the hit list: The weather wasn't quite as warm as we'd experienced in the south of France and the fishing boats didn't really resemble the yachts of Saint Tropez.

But the beaches were sandy and long, the seaside vibe relaxed, and the surfers were everywhere.

The tourist mecca of Padstow was memorable not only for its scenery, but also in large part our visit to Rick Stein's seafood place where I just about slid off my chair after tasting the fish pie.

But it was the much smaller - although equally attractive to Canon-toting loopys - fishing village of Polperro that implanted itself as our favourite.

Arguably the most narrow roads on Earth meant the only way to get there - and get back to the car - was on foot, down a rather steep hill.

But it was worth the effort - unlike our hike to the top of another hill, in France, to see what had looked like a beautiful spring/ waterfall, but was actually just a murky stagnant pond.

(We appeared to be the only ones unimpressed. Despite the incline and the heat, as well as the less- than-scenic sight before us, everybody else was clambering over one another to get a good photo. Of a murky stagnant pond. Confusing.)

Polperro was gorgeous, with its postcard-cute houses overlooking the harbour, which was dotted with the few sea-hardy vessels not out and about for the day.

Just a couple of hours up the road was something completely different: Dartmoor National Park.

If Cornwall conjured up images of smugglers and fish and chips by the beach, the vast, atmospheric moors made it easy to envisage Catherine and Heathcliff and Hound of the Baskervilles.

Here, we were staying at a bed and breakfast run by English Anne and her husband Will, from Wales - in their cottage, dating back to the year 1500.

It'll be a long time before I forget the smoky inns, mist thick as pea soup creeping across the moors despite it still being (technically) summer, and tales of Anne and Will's favourite pastime, ploughing with their three Dartmoor ponies, (which, along with sheep and cattle, roam free through the park and its roads) over sloe gin and wee drams: Including the story of Will, who worked as an adviser on the movie War Horse, refusing to sell Steven Spielberg his hat.

So, lesson learned: There's plenty to see in my own backyard, as well as on the Continent.

Time to book that bus to Manchester.