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12 Sep
Corfu at its dramatic best: It’s stunning on TV’s The Durrells – but in reality, this gem’s even more dazzling

The Mail on Sunday's Helen Atkinson Wood enjoyed an escape to Corfu
She stayed at the Rou Estate, a hilltop oasis perched above Kassiopi
Helen argues that the Greek island is even better in reality than on TV

Corfu is a cliché when it comes to the most perfect of Greek Islands. It has all the comforts of familiarity, and plenty more besides. We took ourselves out there at the start of the season to find a tingling freshness to the Mediterranean.

A straight six-hour journey, door to door from London to the Rou Estate, a hilltop oasis perched above Kassiopi, couldn’t be easier. You could make it to Cornwall in the same time.

Both have dramatic, craggy coastlines, secluded white-sand bays and crystal-clear blue water.

But Corfu is 10C warmer and, for me, the local Greek yogurt – with the consistency of clotted cream yet a fraction of the calories – must be worth considering at the beginning of the bikini season. The Rou Estate is hidden in the foothills of Mount Pantokrator and has breathtaking views across the sea to Albania.

Architect Dominic Skinner lifted the shroud from this forgotten hamlet to create 14 imaginatively restored properties, each with a pool and swathed by terraced beds of rosemary, white iris, lavender and agapanthus.

There is a stunning landscape to paint, infinity pool, a perfect yoga platform, and olive groves to walk up through and out on to the famous Corfu Trail. There is no doubt that this north-east corner of Corfu is the island’s most beautiful and exclusive area

The Rothschilds’ private estate there is a billionaires’ bunker, while the Durrell brothers, Lawrence and Gerald, brought literary éclat and, more recently, a huge television following to the dizzyingly picturesque bays of Kalámi and Kouloura.

We drove the four miles from luxurious Rou to Kassiopi. Full English breakfasts, Sunday roasts and fish and chips are all on offer here, but they are not for us when the warmest of Greek welcomes awaits at the Tavernaki taverna. A waterfront table, tzatziki zinging with garlic and lemon juice, charcoal-grilled sea bass and a hunky Greek salad remind us why we came here.

The Filippos family run a boat rental company from the quayside and are the Kardashians of Kassiopi, all glamorous wraparound shades and apricot bottoms snug in impossibly tiny white shorts, and, just like everyone else on the island, fluent in English. Aladdin, a nifty motorboat, bounced us around the bay, liberating and empowering as we anchored for a swim before lunch.

We all know Greek menus off by heart, but I could eat Galini’s (in San Stefanos) velvety taramasalata until I pop, and I would make a barefoot pilgrimage to Taverna Kerasia in Sinies for the best Briam vegetable bake on the island.

Comforting familiarity in every sense sums up Corfu. We’ve grown to know it and love it from watching The Durrells, but let me tell you, it’s much more beautiful and exotic to be there.

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