MADEIRA. You know Madeira. It’s a rock in the Atlantic Ocean belonging to Portugal but lies closer to the African coast.

There is the sponge cake, probably, and Cristiano Ronaldo is from there. He has a museum and everything; even two bad statues, one of which has now thankfully been taken away.

And, erm, there is fortified wine. Is that about it?

The answer is a big old no. You don’t know Madeira at all. But please go. Let me introduce you to an island which has year-round sunshine, a lifestyle so laidback they don’t have a word for "quickly", a beautiful green landscape, fascinating history, food and drink that makes you want to cry with happiness.

There are also world-class golf courses, one of which I disgraced by trying to play.

Apart from that…

“Fancy going to Madeira for wine, food, culture and a film festival,” I was asked. Aye, just a bit, was my response and thank goodness I said yes. What a truly magical place.

Nice people, the Portuguese tend to be, great climate – it would make for a fantastic winter break – and a remarkable number of things to do. And eat and drink. I perhaps over-indulged.

I’m staying in the capital, Funchal, a gorgeous town on the sea. My home for five days is the Quinta da Bela Vista Hotel, a five-star joint, which sits high above the town, much of the island is built on a steep hill, and it’s a view which demands a G&T.

Madeira’s reputation as a favourite for older tourists is not without foundation. In the breakfast room I work out that, at 45, I’m the youngest person by perhaps 10 years. However, don’t think that this is merely a pensioners’ paradise because there is plenty of life in Funchal and beyond.

I’ll start with the Butcher, the Whore and the One Eyed Man. Not real people, but a Hungarian film. It was part of the Film Festival, with had some seriously steamy scenes. I then met the actress who only one hour before I’d seen having sex with any number of clients. Strange night.

Madeira wine was on tap, or at least it came out of some sack which is the traditional way. It was lovely, even if the stronger stuff was like tasty turpentine.

The dolphin spotting wasn’t strange. It was wonderful. We set off on a schooner, or pirate ship in my fantasy, to Faja dos Padres – this is really worth it and the boat sets sail from Fuchal – and the lunch served by chef Amandio was ridiculously good. The dolphins came right up to the boat.

I was rushed here and there, which usually isn’t my style, however, I got a chance to taste a bit of, if not everything, then a lot of things.

That included a tour of the Blandy Wine Lodge for wine tasting – it was all good – and there were letters from the great and the good on show including Winston Churchill reminding the Blandy family to keep him stocked up.

We were going to go for a walk but the weather closed in. Fuchal was sunny but once you start going up, and as I said there is a lot of up on Madeira, it changed dramatically.

As it happened, this worked out well. My group was given a tour of the winding roads, the houses built into seriously steep slopes, and we got a detailed lecture on how the water travels from north to south. Who knew a drainage system could be so fascinating. Seriously, ask about a tour. The lush scenery is beautiful and the chance to learn about life not so long ago is fascinating.

Right, it was time for me to, cough, play golf. David Whyte, a Scot who organises breaks for golfers, tells me that I have a nice swing. He’s a terrible liar. We took a ferry to the island of Porto Santo where there is a Seve Ballesteros course. My hero designed a lovely golf course with lots of grass and only a small bit of water. I found the water. That’s how good I am.

The golf over there is superb. It’s all quite new so the clubhouses are top notch. The food is great. Of course it is. And then there is poncho, the local liquor, which sorts out the men from the boys. Sheesh.

Lastly, I have to talk about the Old Town in Fuchal. With its brightly-coloured doors, many restaurants, including Taberna Ruel which for this foodie is in his top ten, wee bars, shops and narrow streets which are great to potter around, this was a real highlight.

On a Saturday night, with red wine in hand, I sat outside a bar on my own, in my shorts, watching the world go by and thinking ‘I like this place, I’ll be back.’

Neil Cameron was the guest of the Madeira Tourist Board and the Madeira Film Festival. He flew with Jet 2. Flights leave Glasgow and Edinburgh on a Monday and start at £120 return. The Quinta da Bela Vista Hotel costs from £170 per night. Linksland Luxury Golf Travel specialises in bespoke, hosted itineraries suited to couples or groups of ladies with programmes organised for non-golfers. For more visit