Kefalonia is small but perfectly formed for a relaxed holiday in the sunshine

Kefalonia is small but perfectly formed for a relaxed holiday in the sunshine

Kefalonia is small but perfectly formed for a relaxed holiday in the sunshine

The last time I went on holiday to a Greek island, cultural nightlife consisted of a choice between Bar Street and Club Street.

And while those trips of nightly drinking and daytime recovery on the beach were fun in my 20s, the idea of doing it at 35 wasn’t so appealing.

But, after being assured Kefalonia was as far from a hard-partying island as it’s possible to get, I set off to discover the side of Greece I hadn’t experienced before.

The island is most famous as the setting for the Louis de Bernières novel Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, which was made into a film with Nicolas Cage.

Just 3,500 people live here – everyone waves at each other like long-lost friends as you drive around. It feels a lot more like authentic Greece and less of a resort solely for tourists.

Of course there are a few bucket-and-spade shops and more restaurants than you can count, but you’re as likely to spot a local tucking into some meze as you are a fellow holidaymaker.

And while many of the towns and villages were badly damaged in the earthquake of 1953, they have since been rebuilt, and there’s beautiful scenery at every turn.

There are very few truly unspoiled places left in the world but this feels as close as you can get within a few hours’ flight of Britain.

The small town of Lourdas lies just 20 minutes’ drive from the capital Argostoli and, instead of a string of high rise hotels along the beachfront, there is a scattering of small B&Bs, restaurants and an occasional shop.

Like seaside resorts the world over, the beaches have sun loungers to rent but instead of hundreds of them as far as the eye can see, there is just a small group – mostly occupied by locals.

If the thought of even a few dozen fellow sun-worshippers is too much, there are even more secluded beaches around the island.

Myrtos is set in a hidden cove with towering cliffs closing it off from the rest of the world.

The views from the clifftops are worth the trip alone so if you can, hire a car and take a tour of the island – you can cover most of Kefalonia in two or three hours.

Sometimes even a trip to the beach is too much effort – you are on holiday after all – so the perfect solution is to simply stumble the few feet from your bedroom to the pool.

And if you’re lucky enough to be staying at Villa Zeus Temple, what a pool it is.

Surrounded by comfy sunloungers, and cosy sofas, the pool was just a few yards from my downstairs bedroom.

The resort sits on the slope of a mountain, with incredible views from the villa’s infinity pool stretching off to blue-green seas and sandy coastlines below.

The villa, along with many others around the island, is owned and run by the fabulous Komoudous family who are hugely proud of their home island. And with good reason.

The villa itself is impressive, sleeping 10, and comes complete with kitchen, dining areas (one inside and one outside) lounge areas (also inside and outside), not to mention its own gym, and yoga area with huge chill-out cushion beds.

All in all, it fits its namesake perfectly. With Grecian pillars, white walls and landscaped gardens it feels like an oasis any god would approve of. And if you feel like having a feast fit for one too, then you can treat yourself to a private meal cooked in your own kitchen by a chef.

But if you want to experience the local cuisine you’re spoiled for choice in any of the towns.

Drop in to the fishing village of Fiskardo for a wander around the Venetian shops and houses before sitting down for lunch at a quaint seaside restaurant as you watch the boats drift in and out of the harbour.

Be warned though, Greek meals have a habit of fooling you. Every time you think you’re finished, another course seems to pop up from nowhere. But with a fabulous choice of fresh seafood, mouth-watering barbecue and, of course, creamy feta salads, there’s always room for a little more.

Of course, no good meal would be complete without a very good glass of wine. And while Greece might not be the immediate thought when choosing a bottle, it seems us Brits might have been missing a trick.

Gentilini Winery and Vineyard is well worth a visit for a tasting, with a core selection of six wines they export all over the world – thankfully now including Britain.

If all that wine has gone to your head and you fancy an escape from the blazing sunshine, go underground to Melissani Lake, which is hidden in a collapsed cave and was a shrine to the god Pan.

Take the boat trip into the huge echoing cavern to see the stalactites and stalagmites but be warned – don’t spend too long marvelling at the sights above you… unless you want a splosh of cavern water straight in your eye (trust me, it’s not pleasant).

If that whets your appetite for more time on the water, take a boat trip around the coast to Rabbit Island. You can swim up to deserted beaches, snorkel in the clear-blue seas or just laze on the front of the boat and pretend you’re a star on your yacht.

It that showbiz life is your style then there are cool bars and sophisticated nightclubs on the island.

But for me, the beauty of Kefalonia was the glorious sunshine, fabulous food, tasty wine and beautiful scenery.

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