I’d heard that Tintagel casts a spell which is hard to break. Sugary sentiment or not, the word that came to my lips as I watched Atlantic waves crashing against the wild headland to which the ruins of the medieval castle cling was “magical”.

And just a few miles across the Devon border, at Clovelly, the fairytale continued. This must be an overseas visitor’s dream English village. Cottages, with the proverbial roses around their doors, spill down the steep cobbled street to the tiny 14th century harbour 400 feet below. Now and again a sledge loaded with groceries rumbles past – the only way locals can haul their goods to their homes.

But the ‘spell’ doesn’t end there. Further along the north Devon coast, it’s the quaint maze of back streets at Appledore which had me enchanted.

And back over the Cornish border, in Boscastle, it’s the sensation of emerging, in an instant, from an all-enveloping mist on the cliff top into a picture-postcard scene of bobbing boats and glinting sea below that delights us.

The two campsites that we’d chosen – Trewethett Farm in Cornwall and Steart Farm in Devon – couldn’t be bettered either, for views, facilities and their situation. But then I was lucky with the weather.

I’d been warned sudden high winds and driving rain along this coast could put a whole new complexion on things.

Indeed, the Boscastle flood of August 2004 was the largest peacetime rescue in the UK, involving 1,000 residents.

In the new visitors’ centre, which dramatically documents the flood in film and photographs, a mark well above my head showed me where the water levels had risen to.

So it’s remarkable that Boscastle looks much as it did as when I visited. Indeed, it’s hard to believe that, from where we had parked at the bottom of the Valency Valley, more than 100 vehicles were washed away by the torrent. At Trewethett Farm, I’d been told that its exposed position, right next to the South West Coast Path, can leave campers vulnerable in the quickly-changing weather. But wow, what views and what sunsets.

From my pitch I could just see the 11th century St Materiana’s Church, at Tintagel. Below the cliffs was the small secluded bay of Bossiney Haven. While a few minutes’ walk down a fairly steep and narrow part of the coast path brought me to the pretty Rocky Valley. From here it was about 80 minutes along the cliff path to Tintagel or an easier walk of the same duration to Boscastle. It took me to the highest point on the Cornish cliffs above Crackington Haven and the tower of Willapark, above Boscastle.

This was built as a pleasure house by a suspected smuggler. Ironically, it is now used as a coastguard lookout. Coastlines certainly don’t get much more dramatic, treacherous or unspoiled than in these parts.

In between my two sites I was spoilt for choice with beaches. Bude was bustling with the sandcastle brigade. Its free tidal swimming pool was literally overflowing with young splashers. Likewise, glorious Woolacombe and Croyde were swarming with surfers and families alike. Yet north from Steart Farm, I almost had Saunton, backed by the most amazing dunes, to myself. It’s no surprise that they call this area between the Taw estuary and Mortehoe the ‘Golden Coast’.

Westward Ho! the only place in the UK to be named after a book, was my favourite beach. With its vast expanse of golden sands it was easier to find a quieter spot. I love the way Charles Kingsley, the author of Westward Ho!, describes Clovelly. He lived in the High Street as a child when his father was the local curate. On a later visit, he wrote to his wife: “Now that you have seen dear old Paradise you know what was the inspiration of my life before I met you…”

Clovelly’s a curious little place, entirely owned by one family, where, if you ignore just a couple of ‘touristy’ establishments, time really seems to have stood still. Closer scrutiny of old monochrome photographs on the walls of the village museum confirms that little has changed in Clovelly’s appearance down the decades.

The village has always been a Mecca for day visitors but, beneath its olde-worlde charm, lies the sharp reality of its position as the only safe haven for boats between Appledore and Boscast.

At Tintagel, a wooden bridge links the ‘island’ on which the castle ruins sit to the cliffs. It feels like a world apart from the tourist-trap village a 15 minute stroll away.

Tintagel is synonymous with all things Arthurian, heavily reliant on its claim as his birthplace. Every nook, cave and gift shop around here has something to sell or say about the legendary Arthur and his wise man, Merlin. But on the island, the number of tourists thins out as steep steps, gravelly paths and grassy tracks lead one ever upwards in search of the real drama – the landscape.

Many believe that Tintagel Castle is the Camelot of legends. The facts are that remains of several hundred buildings have been discovered. Some are from medieval times, when Richard, Earl of Cornwall, built his castle; others are from the days when Tintagel was a Roman trading port. Yet others were built during the Dark Ages when a Cornish King is said to have held court here. Whatever the truth, Cornwall and Devon still cast their spell and offer a totally magical getaway that, refreshingly, doesn’t involve airports, last-minute cancellations and passport panic attacks.