Lundy Island, Devon
The Bristol Channel is no riviera, but puffins, seals and basking sharks have all been spotted at England's only marine nature reserve, just two hours by boat from north Devon.
Lundy Island is managed by the Landmark Trust, which has restored over 20 of the island's buildings making them available all year round as holiday lets, including a stone cottage for one, a lighthouse, a 13th-century castle, and a "late Regency" house for 12 (all have open fires or stoves).
My favourites are the remote Tibbetts (the only one that has no electricity) and the Old Schoolhouse (pictured below right), a quirky cottage for two overlooking the sea and a short walk from the island's pub, the Marisco Tavern - for locally brewed beer and a large wood fire. The island is only three miles long and half a mile wide but it makes for a long weekend mini-adventure, scrambling down steep banks to explore inlets and coves, and for blustery walks along the exposed cliffs to see Georgian cannons and Britain's highest lighthouse.
The island is protected as a "Site of Specific Scientific Interest" for the wildlife it supports, particularly its sea birds, which you can learn about on one of the wildlife watching tours organised by the resident marine warden who also runs snorkelling safaris to see the island's seals and other marine life.
Travel to Lundy by boat from Bideford or Ilfracombe for £49.50pp return. Prices for accommodation vary, go to www.lundyisland.co.uk, 01271 863636.