On chilly spring mornings I look out from underneath my thermal blanket and think of Malta.

Those rugged islands, 50 miles south of Sicily and 200 miles north of Africa, receive an average of 30,000 hours of sunshine each year.

And with Air Malta, Ryanair and easyJet all offering budget flights from the UK, warmth is only a click away.

Flying in, your first glimpse of Malta will be of its immense, rocky coastline, which juts out into the Mediterranean.

In high season, the landscape beyond is bleached by heat. But travel later in the year, and you descend above lush greens which are reminiscent of a Cornish August.

Transport links from Malta International Airport make light work of travelling to hotels anywhere across the islands.

Sunbathing and snorkelling are year-round activities.

With temperatures in the 20s, you can sip cocktails and idle away the winter hours on golden sands at Melliha Bay, Ghajn Tuffieha, Sliema, or any of Malta’s other blue flag beaches.

Yet there is plenty to see off-beach too.

Malta is a melting pot of civilisations.

Greeks, Romans and Arabs all left their mark.

As did we Brits – we ruled the country from 1800-1964 which explains why locals speak perfect English and drive on the left hand side of the road.

The mix is reflected in the country’s traditional food, where robust rabbit stews packed with chilli and olives share the table with that most English of side dishes – bread and butter.

Of all the settlers it was the Knights of St John whose legacy endures most. For 250 years, the Knights built Malta up from rubble to Rococo splendour.

From the fortified streets of Mdina and Rabat, to the baroque bling of the capital Valletta, you can savour a civilised stroll.

Among the sightseeing highlights are two paintings by Caravaggio which hang in Valletta’s cathedral – the Italian master escaped here while being pursued on a murder charge.

Dark and brooding, these haven’t left these walls since they were hung here in the 1600s.

In the south west you can amble around the 5,000-year-old ruins of Hagar Qim, which are as ancient as Stonehenge, with none of the tourist trappings.

Or you can ferry up to the northern island of Gozo whose Azure Window – a monumental, Maltese equivalent of our own Durdle Door – was one of many local sights which have won fame as key locations in the TV show Game of Thrones.

Sadly the 28-metre-tall (92 ft) limestone natural arch collapsed earlier this month but the view is still breathtakingly beautiful.

For those with children, there are splash parks, an impressive national aquarium and the Sweethaven theme park.

The latter has developed around the set of the 1980 Robin Williams film Popeye, and provides opportunities to take boat trips, and even make your own movie.

What the Knights wouldn’t have expected when they built their huge churches would be the proliferation of nightlife.

Banging clubs and bars line the streets of St Julian’s and Paceville.

Every July brings a jazz festival, and every April the Malta International Spring Orchestra Festival attracts some of the world’s best known classical performers to Valletta’s Manoel Theatre – largely unchanged since its construction in 1731.

Last year’s performers included the European Union Chamber Orchestra who performed a lively concert of material by Haydn, Mozart and Malta’s leading composer Joseph Vella.

This year’s festival runs from April 28-May 8 and again features a hoist of local and international talent.

Easter is also celebrated with aplomb. For me, however, the jewel in Malta’s crown remains its people, who buzz with heartfelt hospitality.

Where some countries tourist industries barely manage a glum smile, here staff will positively leap out of their seats with joy when you frequent their gift shops, cafes and beach side bars.

Perhaps it’s the climate that makes them so happy.

Getting there: National carrier Air Malta continues to operate an extensive year-round scheduled service of up to 26 flights per week from Heathrow and Gatwick with fares from as little as £75 one way, inclusive of taxes and 20kgs of baggage. Visit airmalta.com

Music: This year’s Malta International Spring Orchestra Festival From Zappa to Beethoven, runs from April 28-May 9. Go to iso-festival.com

Information: Go to visitmalta.com