AN hour after landing in Corfu, we were weaving our way through olive groves under a blue sky and blazing sun.
All very idyllic, all very Greek. Except we were actually driving through someone’s garden. Blame Google Maps.
We were rescued by a very understanding and helpful owner and after a couple more U-turns, were on our way to St Stephano and our own little bit of paradise.
Corfu has been a go-to Mediterranean escape for decades.
And loads more Brits have visited after watching The Durrells, the ITV show inspired by Gerald Durrell’s novel My Family & Other Animals.
While the family battle a crumbling house on the small screen, we were treated to a chic stone-built villa clinging to the cliffs, with a private pool jutting out above the sparkling sea.
We were there with CV Villas, which serves the luxury end of the market.
But you can still find a family break that won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
Villa Gallini is nestled on the north-east coast of the island in St Stephano, a beautiful fishing village with a handful of restaurants on the water’s edge.
Gallini’s huge terrace, pool and path down to the ocean can be had for £1,487 in the October half-term.
It sleeps eight — working out at less than £27 each per night over seven nights.
They do deals on flights and offer a private chef. The village is very popular with Brits.
So much so that the locals speak English and you can even get Crunchy Nut Corn Flakes in the village shop.
CV has a dozen more villas in and around the tiny fishing village — part of a holiday empire that stretches across Cyprus, Italy and Turkey. So there’s plenty of choice.
Our giant terrace was fabulous and we spent most of our time sunning ourselves there.
It offered a panoramic view of the Corfu Channel, with passing yachts and the occasional cruise ship adding to the backdrop of the Albanian mountains.
The pool, which was unheated, was suitably “refreshing” given we were there in autumn. But that didn’t stop the kids piling in at 9am each day.
Taking the private steps down from the villa to the sea, we were greeted with a rock-pooling paradise.
The warm, clear water was as smooth as a billiard table, barring the occasional ripple from a passing boat.
I was nursing a gashed leg after a spluttery first attempt at snorkelling by the rocks when we bumped into a friendly Brit on his jet ski.
He gave us a lift to a beach tucked into the next cove, which you couldn’t reach on foot, for a first-class picnic.
Inspired by our nautical taxi ride, we realised there was only one way to see the best of the island.
The narrow winding roads on Corfu make for slow progress by car.
Every trip to the local supermarket is an adventure of hairpin bends, dogs running free and kamikaze moped riders.
So we took to the ocean waves. Giannis Speedboats set us up with a 30hp chugger and a cool-box with ice for the day.
It was just ten minutes over the water from St Stephano to the White House in Kalami.
The Durrells’ former home is now a restaurant and friendly waiters are on hand to help you dock and disembark.
You can then pull up a chair and take in the glorious views over lunch while the kids lob chips at the fish (in the sea).
We took a couple of trips inland on rainy days. The crumbling fortress at Corfu Town was very much worth it for the spectacular views.
And we spent an afternoon in Old Perithia — the island’s richest village before it fell into ruins.
Now it is a curious sort of living film set, all abandoned houses and busy tavernas.
We swerved the crowds at the restaurant with pictures of Rick Stein everywhere and enjoyed a tasty rabbit dish on a rival terrace opposite.
I told the kids it was pork to spare any Watership Down tears but the tender casserole with sweet onions would have made Bigwig proud.
We stumbled up the narrow, cobbled hill paths to a find a man making a decent living charging 15 euros for a jar of honey, before winding our way back down in the shadow of Corfu’s highest peak, Mount Pantokrator.
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Our final treat was a night with a private chef, CV’s very own Spiros, who whizzed up a selection of local delicacies.
Deliciously crisp cheese parcels in filo pastry were served with jam, aubergine dips and grilled seabass.
But the tzatziki made us realise we have been doing it all wrong over here.
The silky yoghurt and cucumber dip with a tang of fresh garlic made our supermarket tubs taste like glue.
And that sums up Corfu.
It is like all the best bits of a Cornish holiday but with Mediterranean surf and sunshine.
That is why thousands more Brits will quite rightly keep coming every summer.
Just don’t believe everything your satnav tells you.
GETTING/STAYING THERE: A week’s stay at Villa Gallini, for up to eight people sharing, costs from £1,487 in total, including maid service (up to two hours for six days) and a welcome pack.
Return daytime flights from the UK can be booked from £225pp.
Contact cvvillas.com or call 020 7261 5401.
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