WHEN I showed friends photos of Tresco, one of the five inhabited islands which together with around 200 islands, islets and rocks form the Isles of Scilly, not a single one guessed that it was part of the UK.
Thanks to it having the UK's mildest climate, it looked so exotic — but Tresco is less than 30 miles from the coast of Cornwall.
Everything about Tresco oozed charm, from the quaint granite cottages to the people who were living in them.
I barely met anybody who was visiting Tresco for the first time. The fact that so many people had returned — in many cases, for the umpteenth visit to their timeshare — spoke volumes for the island's desirability.
With the island being so small, at just two-and-a-half miles long by one mile wide, I tended to see people more than once, so it was fortunate that everyone was polite, friendly and chatty.
There were signs that people on Tresco were also highly trusting and trustworthy. For example, none of the bicycles were chained up in the absence of their riders.
The local children had left a long trail of decorated seashells along a wall. A sign informed people that they were welcome to take a shell and leave a coin in its place, which would go towards a new swing for the play park.
It was touching because of the thought of how many shells the children would need to sell in order to pay for a swing, and it was heart-warming to see that none of the coins had been stolen.
Even the island's songbirds, which looked plump and contented, seemed friendly. They often came so close, so boldly, I felt like the heroine of a Disney movie.
The various staff I encountered could not have been any nicer or more helpful and efficient. They made the boat transfer from St Mary's, the island where all visitors to the Isles of Scilly arrive, to Tresco, and back, very easy.
The four-star New Inn, where I was staying for a couple of nights, was just a short walk away from the quay, and I was pointed in the right direction by a cheerful woman who greeted me as I got off the boat and assured me that my luggage would be delivered shortly, so I didn't need to carry it.
I arrived a little later than originally intended. The previous day, I'd received a phone call to warn me that the weather forecast showed there was a risk my flight from Exeter would be cancelled.
However, I was told that if I arrived at the airport at a certain time, I could take the coach to Penzance and catch the ferry to the Isles of Scilly instead.
Flights from Exeter take one hour, but ferry journeys take two hours and 40 minutes.
The Scillonian III felt slow and made some travellers a little queasy but it offered a good view of the rugged Cornish coastline, with plentiful large caves which set imaginations racing with thoughts of pirates and smugglers.
The flight back to Exeter, though, was an absolute pleasure and for me, a highlight of the trip. The 19-seat Skybus was so small, you could see out of the windows on both sides. The plane flew at only 7,000ft — low enough to see the individual boats in the harbours and cows in the fields — and the views of Dartmoor were spectacular.
I was tired and hungry when I arrived at the New Inn, and it was a relief to discover that a table in the restaurant had been reserved for me, just in case I wanted it.
As you might expect on a small island, seafood featured heavily on the menu. After a delicious meal, I enjoyed a few drinks and some live music in the bar, and from there it wasn't far to stumble to my homely and comfortable room.
The pace of life was refreshingly slow and relaxed. There weren't any cars on the island. People got around on foot or by bike, or by golf buggy if they had mobility difficulties.
Tresco was the sort of place where if something was worth doing, it was worth doing well.
If you wanted to dine out, you had to accept that your meal would take time to be carefully prepared, and it would be worth the wait. However, you were never far from a beautiful view to enjoy in the meantime.
Parts of Tresco were like Dartmoor with a coastline — and what a coastline. It didn't seem very British, with its white sand and clear turquoise waters.
Pentle Bay, which is regularly named among the best beaches in Britain by various list-compilers, was probably the pick of the unspoilt beaches, and all the better for being almost totally deserted.
On a walk across the heathland to visit the small ruins of King Charles' Castle and Cromwell's Castle, I had the feeling of being in the middle of nowhere, and far, far from the madding crowd.
Further south, the plants helped to create the feeling I was somewhere exotic.
Although there were some unusual plants dotted around the island, a visit to Tresco would not have been complete without a visit to the impressive, sub-tropical Tresco Abbey Garden.
It had more than 4,000 different specimens of every shape, size and colour, from all over the world. It also had a number of sculptures and a large mosaic made of seashells.
Tresco Abbey Garden was also home to Valhalla, a sobering collection of figureheads from ships wrecked on the Isles of Scilly since about 1840.
Although I liked the relaxed atmosphere on Tresco, part of the reason I enjoyed my two-hour wildlife safari so much was the boat ride itself, which was fast and exciting, with wind in my hair and sea spray in my face.
There were eight other passengers, plus knowledgeable guides Susie and Mark Groves, on board the eight-metre rigid inflatable boat, which went around several of the islands.
Susie leaned over and scooped a passing jellyfish into a bucket so we could all have a closer look at it.
I also saw a range of seabirds, and was delighted to see puffins for the first time in my life, but the seals stole the show. They bobbed in the water, watching us with as much curiosity as we watched them.
Tresco won't appeal to everyone. There isn't much to entertain older children and teenagers, except those who particularly enjoy the great outdoors.
But if you're looking for somewhere wholesome to unwind — somewhere that's different enough to be interesting but familiar enough to be comfortable — then a short break to the Isles of Scilly could be a sensible choice.