Food for the soul

For all its contemporary charm, Kefalonia is an island that begs to be explored says Cathy Howes

For our hike from the top of Atheras Bay, our guide is Outdoor Kefalonia’s hilarious and indefatigable Giorgos; a former firefighter and one-time Special Forces medic (reassuringly macho for a city girl who gets wobbly on an escalator). Watched languidly by the mountain goats, Giorgos promises us the marvel of Fteri Beach as he leads us down the hillside – steep and challenging in places – but the payoff is magical; a completely isolated, white-sand beach. The only other way to reach it is by boat, and there’s not a sail or motor in sight. If Captain CorellisKefalonia captured your imagination, the island’s rugged beauty will not disappoint.

Already in love with the island’s natural charms beneath a blue sky, later that evening we bundle into Giorgos’ jeep and climb for over an hour through the earthquake-emptied villages via perilous mountain turns. (The island was seriously flattened by a quake in 1953 and many islanders fled their homes never to return.) At the peak, the views are astonishing – timed to perfection to catch the sunset before the plummeting temperatures chill us to the bone.

Time to unwind
There are no such worries about the temperature at our hotel. The adults-only F Zeen Retreat in Lourdas has two pools and a peppering of daybeds to catch the rays dawn till dusk. Partly-hidden from the road behind wooden doors, the philosophy here is relax, reflect and enjoy delicious food from a terrace with spectacular views. Free bikes, kayaks and paddleboards are on offer here, there’s a full gym overlooking the bay with a fitness trainer, and the menus are simple and wholesome without being Spartan. Think whole baked fish or divine salads of beetroot, orange, pine nut and halloumi that you could literally eat every day. This summer the resort opened its new Raw Wing, with 25 luxury new suites overlooking the Ionian Sea, taking the number of rooms and suites up to 53 – yet it never feels busy or crowded.

After our mountain adventures, we’re up with the lark for gentler but no less invigorating yoga on a terrace overlooking the sea. And as we breathe and stretch to the sound of the cicadas, up there in the peaceful, early-morning sunshine, it’s easy to feel at one with those goats.

Take me there
BA now runs direct summer-only flights to Kefaloniafrom London Heathrow between May and October, with return fares from £118.Classic Retreats at F Zeen Retreat start from €180 per night b&b.  To book, visit uniquekefalonia.com.

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