Inspiration doesn't come in front of a screen. No matter how hard we try and take breaks for ourselves it is difficult to get a block of time to rest the mind, recoup and repair.
It's been a long time since I just had a fly and flop holiday - I've always said my brain works too fast to just sit on a beach. But when a holiday to Skiathos was suggested with my family I realised it was exactly what I needed.
I've never been to Greece but draw a lot of inspiration from the Greek way of life, especially their food. I love their matching of flavours with their salads and their big use of seafood.
Skiathos is a small Greek island in the north west Aegean sea and forms part of a group of islands called the Northern Sporades group.
The island turned out to be so much more than a lounging holiday - it was relaxing and refreshed my eyes but also pleased my sense of adventure and curious nature.
The island itself is about 7 miles long and is served by one main road running along the island and a series of other narrower roads and dirt tracks that run through the mountains.
Skiathos has over 60 beautiful beaches, which is quite amazing considering the size of the island. Some of them obvious but we found the most breathtaking ones were off the beaten track, literally. The main residential area in Skiathos is the old town, but other main districts are Troullos, Kalyvia, Xanemos, Koukounaries and Achladias. A lot of your holiday in Skiathos will revolve around the Old Town but other parts of the island must not be forgotten for they have much to offer in their own right.
Flights to Skiathos currently stand at around £150-£180 on SkyScanner for Aug 2017.
There are a few options for getting around the island. There is a regular bus service that runs along the main road of the island from the old town on the east of the island to Koukounaries beach on the west side. The fare varies but it's under 5 euros each way - it's a fairly well run service but the buses can get busy and hot so a hand fan and a bottle of water is advisable.
The water taxi that runs between certain beaches is a joy to use - it runs on time but there is a gap in the middle of the day for some services so get a few timetables from the port of the old town when you arrive in Skiathos.
When you arrive in Skiathos you are instantly struck by how many jeeps and quad bikes zoom by - they are for hire all over the island and are popular for good reason - having your own transport means you can hunt out some of the best beaches and it's a much cooler way to travel in the heat (just make sure you wear sun protection).
Depending on where you are staying on the island walking to and from the old town might be possible, however the road is fast and I recommend sticking way to the side of the road.
We stayed at the Kassandra Bay resort - a resort wouldn't be my usual choice but it was good as resorts go - it has it's own beach and the water taxi stops there. The included buffet breakfast and dinner was delicious but drinks expensive. I didn't use the pool as I swam in the sea but my sisters reported they were gorgeous. I'm not sure I would award it the 5 stars it's meant to be (it just failed on a few things like placing of the beds under the air con and loud weddings going on until late) but it certainly felt like a pampered stay. I really appreciated the outdoor yoga on offer most mornings which I fully took advantage of. That said, next year (yip, definitely going back) we'll be looking at an AirBNB for a different island experience and the freedom to eat where we want for dinner. There are also a number of villas on the island for hire - I'm sure Google will be your friend on that one!
My favourite subject! There is a wealth of food available on the island, a lot of the menus have chunks of similar elements - greek salads, gyros (a bit like a posh donner!) and lots of fish (definitely eat some grilled octopus where available) - which isn't a bad thing. Most of the food is pretty good but there is also some mediocre food about on the island so do have a sneaky peek at what other diners are tucking into before you commit. I definitely recommend trying the tavernas on the less obvious beaches or in the back streets of the old town. As far as cheap and cheerful food went, I really enjoyed the food at Crazy Spoon which sits on the port of the old town.
Things to do
Despite being a fairly small island there is lots to do on Skiathos and you can fill your days easily. Scheduling in a few beach days is essential and I would buy a snorkel kit too. I swam every morning before breakfast - the seas are beautiful and it's a perfect way to start your day.
The old town offers a whole host of stuff to do. You can easily spend a whole day wandering around the boutiques and jewellery workshops - if you come off the main drag into the small side streets you will find shops full of beautiful wares but there's also a lot more to look at - the houses and the blooms that grow among them, houses of worship, as well as many restaurants and cafes. You'll also meet many street cats along your way. Be aware the shops shut around 2pm until about 5-6pm so you could spend this time looking around the streets or having lunch.
I was recommended to go to The Windmill restaurant, which sits at one of the highest points of the old town. Due to a planning error on my part, the restaurant was shut on the day we scheduled it in but we walked up to it and I can see it would be just amazing to sit there and have lunch. The walk was incredible, each set of steps unveiled a new view and gorgeous houses. Plus we met the worlds friendliest dog.
Skiathos has an abundance of street cafes and restaurants. As I said above, I definitely recommend wandering around to get a feeling what people are eating at each place. Seafood seems to be something Skiathos does particular well. I did try a Gyros but it wasn't for me really - I prefer my food clean and fresh but my sister very much enjoyed hers.
We found the coffee in Buondi Caffè was pretty on point and it came with a few well made, moist cakes - bonus!
The evenings in the old town are particularly beautiful and cocktail happy hour happens anytime between 7-9pm in various bars. My favourite was the Jasmine bar just up the steps to the west of the old port - the cocktails were made from fresh fruit and weren't laced with loads of sugar. If you haven't had your fill of cocktails by 9pm, while the cocktails were a bit erm.. seventies a visit to De Facto - a gay bar up in the back streets - is fun, chew the fat with the owner to get the best experience - she is full of stories.
For adventurers a day or two with quad bikes is essential - they are around 20 euros per day and are easy to drive. The quads allow you to access the dirt tracks and get to the best beaches on the island. We started from the old town and took the road right across to Koukounaries. Along the way we discovered a host of amazing places to eat and some shops asked to the rafters with anything you could possibly need in Skiathos.
We headed back on ourselves to Troullous where we stopped for lunch before picking up a dirt track.
The famous Skiathos dog shelter can be found in the Troullos area - the dogs are just so beautiful and when we visited they had all found their happy ending. Be sure to take up some dog food, kitchen roll and other bits to donate, you can see what to take on the website. You can also arrange to join the morning walk later on in your trip - you'll see sights of the island that just take your breath away.
Once on the dirt tracks you need to take it fairly easy on the quads - the roads become high and unpredictable. But it is so worth it, accessing these bits of the island were absolutely the highest point of our trip. You can't buy an experience like that - something that has to be done and enjoyed.
There are many beautiful beaches to discover and you will probably go on your own path for that - there are free maps available around the island and pick one up and plan your route. That said, we visited two beaches that stuck in mind - they are Little Banana (which was the best for snorkelling) and Kechria. Kechria isn't accessible for people with mobility problems due to a steep slop to and from it - that said I was fine with a fused ankle. We found a lovely log shower at Kechria and fresh octopus tendrils slowly dancing in the breeze while they dried for lunch. Just perfect.
7 days was a good amount of time to spend on the island but I do feel the optimal might be 10 days. There is still more we would have loved to have done - next year we will be taking a boat around the other islands and dolphin spotting.
I returned from Skiathos utterly rested and with some excellent memories made. It served to both relax and revitalise as well as getting the creative juices flowing again. And don't we just deserve that?!
Have you been to Skiathos? Do you have any tips? If so, leave them in the comments below, readers would love to hear them!
Formally Emma Gutteridge