I’m just back from a week in north-west Sardinia with Rebecca. It had been a bit of a last-minute decision to go, and we couldn’t get direct flights from Edinburgh to Alghero (via Frankfurt on the way out and Pisa on the way back), but it turned out to be one of the best holidays I’ve had.

Alghero is not the centre of Sardinian life by any means (that honour goes to Cagliari in the south), but it has plenty to offer. Its compact Centro Storico contains all the usual hallmarks of a Mediterranean old town: the crumbling, Gothic cathedral, the imposing sea walls, the restaurants crammed into any free square or alleyway. There is also a distinct flavour of Catalan identity mixing with the Italian customs, street names and cuisine, as the town, like much of Sardinia, was controlled by the Spanish for 400 years. Red and yellow stripes are a common sight, and you can order paella in most trattorias.

It’s also a good base to explore the Riviera del Corallo (Coral Coast) and beyond. We hired bikes and got half the way to Bosa before wisely deciding to forego the hilly road for a sandy beach. In the other direction, just past the non-descript, Mussolini-era town of Fertilia there’s a secluded bay with another excellent beach near Porto Conte. Go a bit further along the same road to Capo Caccia and you’ll find a great spot to perch on the edge of the cliff and watch the sun set.

It’s definitely worth hiring a car to explore more of the island. In just two days we got to Sassari (the region’s biggest town but not too diverting, we found), the picturesque coastal stronghold of Castelsardo and the stunning (if crowded) beach at La Pelosa.

Another advantage of staying on the west of the island is the fact that you can watch the sun disappear into the sea every night…

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