Project Ruby decided on upstands to match the kitchen laminate work surface, though i'd show you how they can be fitted yourself. The buggar of these was that there weren't 90 degree inside corners so I'd to fill them with brown sealant (perfect match). These upstands are generally mdf with a laminate coating, easy to cut with a chopsaw to get clean cuts and mitres (angled corners). Make sure all your bits fit together in your corners before you glue and add sealant!
These upstands mean you don't have to tile - messy and can look a bit old fashioned now, upstands are a bit more contemporary. Use a tube adhesive in a caulking gun to fix to wall, and run a line of clear sealant along the bottom so get a seal between the work surface and underside of the upstand. When adhesive is dry, run a line of clear sealant at the surface/upstand joint and remove excess (some people use a tool I use my forefinger).
Seal any gaps with white decorates caulk (and a wet finger!), and paint this caulk the same colour as the walls.