The five- or six-hour drive to Cornwall from London, along the M4 and M5 - or via the slower but more scenic A303 - is something either to savour or curse. Once in Cornwall, you'll pretty much need a car; roads can be hellishly congested in the summer, so allow extra time.
Newquay International, Cornwall's main airport, operates regular flights from Stansted with Ryanair, Gatwick with British Airways and Manchester with BMI Baby. Cornwall also has its own airline, Air Southwest, which flies from Bristol, Manchester and Dublin, among others, from around £35 each way (www.newquay-airport.co.uk).
There are regular, direct trains from London Paddington to the South West, taking between four and five hours, with Virgin (www.virgintrains.co.uk) or First Great Western (www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk). The latter also offers the very civilised Night Riviera Sleeper to Penzance, departing London shortly before midnight and arriving at around 8am; to book tickets, ring 0845 700 0125.
Country code for the UK: +44.
'Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again...' For great Cornish romance and drama, read Daphne du Maurier's dark, fabulous novel Rebecca. Another Cornwall-set classic is Mary Wesley's The Camomile Lawn. Before attempting Cornish polymath DM Thomas' dream-like The White Hotel, dip into Dear Shadows, his most recent poetry collection about Cornwall's mining heritage.
Do go / Don't Go
There's always a chance of rain. Crowds can get annoying in the summer months and the roads can be clogged with traffic. Autumn and spring provide sunshine, peace and the chance of dramatic rainstorms; blustery weather is also ideal for surfing.
Cabs are generally thin on the ground so ask your hotel for a number and book ahead wherever possible. Ring +44 (0)1726 832676 for Fowey Taxi Service, or in Truro try Truro Taxi Cabs on +44 (0)1872 321321.
About 10-15 per cent is appreciated.
On the UK's most southerly tip, Cornwall is one of the warmest parts of the country, but it also gets some of the wildest wind and rain, so take warm jumpers and a waterproof along with your bikini or trunks. The beaches of Cornwall are often pounded by Atlantic breakers, making this county the centre of Britain's surf culture. If this is your thing, pack plenty of Billabong, Ripcurl and Oxbow.
During the summer months, the open-air Minack Theatre, high on the cliffs near Porthcurno, makes the most of its wild-seas backdrop (+44 (0)1736 810181; www.minack.com). Near St Austell, the 'global garden' Eden Project (www.edenproject.com) makes you feel like an excited kid again - even on a rainy day, it's totally tropical. Tate St Ives by Porthmeor beach shows work by contemporary British artists (www.tate.org.uk/stives), but don't miss its sister museum on Barnoon Hill, dedicated to Barbara Hepworth. The magnificent sculpture garden is laid according to her original plans.
Cornwall isn't a brand-name destination, but that doesn't mean there aren't treasures to be found. There are several farmers' markets in the region; have a wander at the Truro market at Lemon Quay on Wednesdays and Saturdays, or the Tuesday morning market in central Falmouth. For contemporary local artwork, the New Gallery in Portscatho (+44 (0)1872 580445) and Padstow Gallery (+44 (0)1841 532242; www.padstowgallery.co.uk) are excellent hunting grounds, as are the smaller dealerships in Veryand, Tregony and St Just in Roseland. Onda, the sleek boutique at St Mawes' Hotel Tresanton, stocks just-so print dresses (+44 (0)1326 270456).
Watch the sun set beyond Longships Lighthouse at Land's End in the far southwest of the British Isles. At the other end of the county, Kit Hill, between Tavistock and Liskeard, gives views all the way to both the north and south coasts.
Take a walk along a clifftop if you need any reminder that the best things in life really are free. Cornwall is steeped in Arthurian legend; some believe the ruined castle overlooking the sea in Tintagel was once where King Arthur held court with the Knights of the Round Table; the spot is certainly dramatic enough. The brave are free to clamber down from the ruins to the beach and explore Merlin's Cave - it's only accessible at low tide.
May There are May Day celebrations in St Ives, Padstow and throughout Cornwall. Mid May The Daphne du Maurier Literary Festival in Fowey includes talks, theatre, exhibitions, concerts and guided walks (www.dumaurierfestival.co.uk). June The Royal Cornwall Show is a showcase for the county's food (www.royalcornwallshow.org). August Head to the water - there's the Ripcurl Boardmasters in Newquay's Fistral Bay (www.ripcurlboardmasters.com), Falmouth Classics Regatta Week (www.falmouthweek.co.uk) and the Fowey Royal Regatta (www.foweyroyalregatta.co.uk). October Glug down bivalves at the Falmouth Oyster Festival (www.falmouthoysterfestival.co.uk).