From Skye to St Ives, from floral charm to designer cool, Alastair Sawday has laid his head in them all. These are the pick of his bunch

1 No 1 Sea View Terrace, St Ives, Cornwall

Ambience: Sea-loving, style-seekers look no further. This is a perfect seaside b&b run by the charming John Charlick, who, until recently, ran the perfect country-house hotel, Trebrea Lodge near Tintagel, North Cornwall, now a private residence. Meticulous attention to detail has made this St Ives house what it is. It has just two bedrooms and, in each, a bay window and a table set with fresh flowers where breakfast is brought to you. The feel is luxurious and contemporary, colours are muted and pebble-pale and the captivating harbour views will encourage dreams of living by the sea. Designer bathrooms, organic soaps and shampoos, and the Tate a short stroll away.

Rooms and prices: Two doubles/twins, each with bath and shower: £90 per room per night. Pubs and restaurants nearby.

Address: 1 Sea View Terrace, St Ives, Cornwall TR26 2DH

01736 798001

www.seaview-stives.co.uk

How to get there: From Carbis Bay, on to St Ives. At Porthminster Hotel, continue left until Dunmar Hotel; sharp left, then first right to Sea View Terrace. Private parking.

2 Pine Cottage, Portloe, Cornwall

Ambience: The Cornish sea laps the steep quay of this narrow inlet's port, its blue horizon just visible from the window of one of the elegant double rooms high up on the coveside. Can there be anywhere more perfect to wake on a summer's morning? The house is as sunny as its owner, the rooms charmingly informal with their rose-strewn wallpaper and shelves brimming with books. This is a working port; a handful of small open-top fishing boats slip out at dawn to bring back catches of sea bass, brill, mullet and sole which Clare Holdsworth crafts into masterpieces that smack of her days as a restaurateur.

Rooms and prices: Two doubles with bath and shower (one en-suite); one single occasionally available by arrangement: £70-£76 per room per night. Packed lunch £7.50. Dinner by arrangement.

Address: Portloe, Truro, Cornwall TR2 5RB

01872 501385

www.pinecottage.net

How to get there: From Tregony, A3078 to St Mawes. After two miles, at Esso garage on left, left to Portloe. Through village to Ship Inn. Right fork after pub car park. Cottage immediately on left between white gate posts up drive under trees.

3 The White House, Dittisham, Devon

Ambience: Gaze down to the sparkling Dart estuary from the snug warmth of your double bed. A maritime theme plays throughout this 18th-century home, with its pebble collections and flotilla of model ships. Fresh, flower-filled bedrooms have tea, coffee and chocolates and your guest sitting/breakfast room is cosy with an open fire, comfortable chairs, masses of books and French windows that open on to the terrace. Gulls wheel overhead; a ferry transports you to Dartmouth and Totnes. Hugh and Jill Treseder are lovely and couldn't do more for their guests. Children by arrangement.

Rooms and prices: One double with bath and shower; one double with shower: £75 per room per night, single occupancy £50 per night. Good pubs a short walk away.

Address: Manor Street, Dittisham, Devon TQ6 0EX

01803 722355

How to get there: Coming downhill into Dittisham, sharp right immediately before Red Lion Inn. Along The Level, up narrow hill and house entrance is opposite at junction of Manor Street and Rectory Lane.

4 The Red House, Lyme Regis, Dorset

Ambience: Ask for breakfast on the balcony on a clear day: you'll be wowed by stupendous views across Lyme Bay and beyond. Years of travel and naval lifestyle lie behind Tony and Vicky Norman's meticulous and old-fashioned hospitality; they have settled happily into this large 1920s house. Bedrooms under the eaves are thoroughly comfortable; all have chairs, a writing desk and flowers from the garden. Two of the rooms are large and have wonderful coastal views and the third is cottagey; one of the bathrooms is small. Children aged over eight welcome.

Rooms and prices: One double, two twins, all with bath: £44-£58 per room per night, single occupancy £33-£40 per night. Breakfast 8.15am-9am. Supper tray £11 (first night only). Pub/restaurant 400yd. Closed mid-November to mid-March.

Address: Sidmouth Road, Lyme Regis, Dorset DT7 3ES

01297 442055

email: red.house@virgin.net

How to get there: From Lyme Regis, up Pound Street and Sidmouth Road, past Morgans Grave and Somers Road; house up first driveway on right, abreast of junction sign and "slow" sign on road.

5 Ocean House, Aldeburgh, Suffolk

Ambience: Wrap-around, sea views - you are almost on the beach. Phil Brereton, from Zimbabwe, and his wife, Juliet, are easy-going hosts happy to share this special place. The furniture is Victorian, some mahogany, some walnut; the colours are soft; the bed linen the kind you long to have at home. (White cotton crocheted bedspreads come from the market at Victoria Falls.) Here are old things, good taste, books and magazines galore, rugs on wooden floors, a special light through every window, and fresh milk and home-made biscuits on the bedside coffee/tea tray. You can borrow bikes, play table tennis in the cellar, and sail. Perfect.

Rooms and prices: One double with bath; one twin with shower: £70-£75 per room per night, single occupancy £60-£65 per night. Breakfast 8am-9.30am. Dinner by arrangement, from £12.50 to £15.

Address: 25 Crag Path, Aldeburgh, Suffolk IP15 5BS

01728 452094

How to get there: From Ipswich A12 north. Right on to A1094 after 20 miles. House in centre of Aldeburgh seafront, between two lookout towers, with parking outside.

6 Haroldston Hall, Pembrokeshire

Ambience: A country seat in medieval times, this long, white country house has the sandy beaches and clifftop walks of the Pembrokeshire coast on its doorstep. It is secluded and surrounded by rolling farmland, with horses, peacocks and a croquet lawn. Inside is space without fuss, with antiques and a large orangery which opens on to the walled garden; it is a grand yet modest place. Ben Stuart-Thomas's welcome is wonderfully warm and he can ferry you to or from walks. The air here is so fresh it is a different substance and the sunset views over St Bride's Bay defy all efforts to paint them. Pets by arrangement.

Rooms and prices: Two doubles, each with bath; one twin/double with private bath: £60 per room per night, single occupancy £40 per night. Packed lunch £7. Good pubs and restaurants are only two to three miles away.

Address: Portfield Gate, Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire SA62 3LZ

01437 781549

www.haroldstonhall.co.uk

How to get there: B4341 to Broad Haven through Portfield Gate. After two miles turn for Timber Hill Holiday Lodges and keep following lodge signs. On right about half a mile before lodges.

7 Manor Farmhouse, Norfolk

Ambience: The best of both worlds: a family buzz in the farmhouse where you breakfast, privacy in the stylish 16th-century barn where you stay. All rooms lead off its beautifully vaulted sitting room. A bedroom and a kitchen on the ground floor, then up a little stair to more bedrooms - small but lofty with a tucked-up-in-the-roof feel and views to Happisburgh's red-and-white striped lighthouse. A courtyard garden, billiards in the stable, lovely hosts, and you may come and go as you please. A place for friends or family, with a fresh, contem-porary feel. Children over seven welcome.

Rooms and prices: Two doubles, one with bath and one with shower; one twin/double with bath: £50 per room per night, bookings of three nights or more, £44 per room per night. Single occupancy by arrangement. Three-course dinner from £15 by arrangement.

Address: Happisburgh, Norfolk NR12 0SA

01692 651262

www.northnorfolk.co.uk/manorbarn

How to get there: From Norwich, A1151/A149 almost to Stalham. Left, for Walcott. At T-junction left again, one mile on, right for Happisburgh. Second T-junction, right. Third T-junction, left. Past houses and fields. Road bends right. Look for house sign by fence.

8 Broome, Bamburgh, Northumberland

Ambience: A totally surprising, single storey, house, full of beautiful things. It is an Aladdin's cave, larger than you could imagine. The garden/breakfast room is its hub and has a country-cottage feel; enjoy locally smoked kippers here and award-winning, local delicacy "Bamburgh Bangers". There's also a sun-trapping courtyard full of colourful pots. Guests have a cheerful sitting/dining room, bedrooms have fresh flowers and good books and the coastal village leads to miles of sandy beaches. Mary Dixon is welcoming and amusing with an excellent overview of local knowledge.

Rooms and prices: One double, one twin, sharing separate bath/shower. From £50 to £60 per night. Single occupancy from £36 to £40. Two-course dinner, £15; three courses, £20.

Address: 22 Ingram Road, Bamburgh, Northumberland, NE69 7BT

01668 214287

email: mdixon4394@aol.com

How to get there: From Newcastle north on A1, then right for Bamburgh on B1341. To village, pass 30mph sign and hotel, then first right. House 400 yards on right.

9 Lyndale House, Edinbane, Skye

Ambience: The sky envelops you, sea, lochs and views surround you, and Linda Ridsdill-Smith has created a quiet, delightful retreat. The 300-year-old tacksman's house is hidden down a private drive - and with what energy and enthusiasm it has been renovated. Her husband, Marcus, is restoring the walled garden, which produces certified organic fruit and vegetables. Lovely views from your bedroom and the family sitting room, both bathed in an explosion of golden light at sunset; fresh flowers, bathrobes, peace and seclusion. Wander down to the beach through an avenue of oaks, or explore the island by pony.

Rooms and prices: One double with shower; one double with separate bath; one twin with shared bath, let only to members of the same party: £80 per room per night, single occupancy £50 per night. Restaurant, three miles.

Address: Edinbane, Isle of Skye, Scotland IV51 9PX

01470 582329

www.lyndale.net

How to get there: Cross Skye Bridge; A87 north, through Broadford and Portree. At Borve, A850 (left fork) for Dunvegan. Pass Treaslane river and two miles on, gates and Gate Lodge. House half a mile along drive through trees.

10 The Glebe House, East Lothian

Ambience: Gwen Scott has lavished a huge amount of time and love on her 1780s' Georgian manse - bedrooms are light and airy and hung with generous swathes of fabric; easy chairs have pretty cushions. There are many original features: fireplaces, arched glass, long, Georgian windows. The sea is two minutes from the house and this is heaven for golfers - there are 18 courses within easy reach. A fascinating sea-bird centre is close by, and you are only a 30-minute drive from Edinburgh. Regular trains will take you to the foot of the castle.

Rooms and prices: One double with shower; one twin with bath; one four-poster with bath/shower: from £60-£80 per room per night, single occupancy by arrangement. Restaurants within walking distance.

Address: Law Road, North Berwick, East Lothian, Scotland EH39 4PL

01620 892608

email: j.a.scott@tesco.net

Getting there: From Edinburgh, A1 for Berwick. Left on to A198, follow signs into North Berwick. Right into Station Rd signed "The Law", to first crossroads, left into town centre; house on left behind wall.

Readers can buy a copy of Alastair Sawday's 'British Bed & Breakfast' for £12.99 (rrp £14.99) by phoning 01275 464891 and quoting 'The Independent on Sunday'. Details of all the guides in the series can be found at www.specialplacestostay.com.

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