Goats potter around the Lixouri peninsula, where ruined homes and subsided fields still dot the landscape.
The largest of the Ionian Islands, it never feels crowded, even in high season on the photogenic sands of Myrtos, or among the swanky, marina-side restaurants of Fiskardo.
During August, the heat can border on the unbearable, but visit the island in the coming weeks and you’ll be rewarded with temperatures in the mid-20s, even quieter beaches and cheaper accommodation.
Plane. Thomas Cook (flythomascook.com), Monarch (www.monarch.co.uk) and Thomson (flights.thomson.co.uk) operate charter flights to the island from Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Gatwick, Luton, Manchester, Newcastle and Stansted.
At Myrtos Beach. Backed by almost sheer cliffs and lapped by unfathomably turquoise waters, it is one of the world’s most photographed stretches of sand. It fills up with boisterous Italians from around noon, so arrive early to claim a sun lounger (7.50 euros for a pair).
Geologists will be keen to visit the Melissani and Dhrogarati caves (7 euros each), near Sami, on the east coast of the island, but they are overpriced, and a little underwhelming.
At the Castle Café, found beneath the ruins of the 16th-century hilltop Castle of St George, near the small town of Peratata. Offering sandwiches and traditional snacks, it is set within a gorgeous, shaded garden and commands stunning views across the south of the island. It is run by an amiable Greek gent – whose mother tends the flowers – and his English wife, who is rather secretive about her recipe for spicy baked feta. Burn off your meal by inspecting the aforementioned Venetian fortress (Tue-Fri 8.30-7pm, Sat-Sun 8.30am-3pm; free).
At the monastery of Ayios Gerasimos (8am-1pm, 3pm-8pm; free). Nestled in a verdant valley a few kilometres to the north east of the castle, the monastery is modern, having been rebuilt in a Byzantine style following the devastating earthquake of 1953 that levelled the original 16th-century structure. The interior is adorned with colourful biblical scenes, and behind the building lies a small chapel, where svelte visitors can squeeze through a hole in the ground and inspect the caves where St Gerasimos is thought to have spent endless hours meditating.
Two annual feasts celebrate the saint’s life, on August 15 and October 20, during which the monastery is overrun with worshippers.
A trip to the nearby Robola winery (the tipple of choice for the drunken Father Arsenios in de Bernières’ novel) is worthwhile – not least for the free tasting.
A taverna. With their plastic chairs, paper tablecloths, lukewarm dishes (Greeks believe hot food is bad for the stomach) and feline visitors, these traditional Greek restaurants can feel like much of a muchness, but a few stand out. The Waterway bar and grill, on the beach below Spartia, has a lively atmosphere and sea views, and Tassia (www.tassia.gr), in Fiskardo, is good for lobster and Kefallonian meat pie.
Exploring the Lixouri peninsula. Kefalonia’s second city, and the surrounding villages, bore the brunt of the 1953 earthquake, and it still bears the scars. Goats, chickens – and the odd eccentric-looking local – potter around the farming region, where ruined homes and subsided fields still dot the landscape.
Finish the day at the Monastery of Kipoureon, which occupies a dramatic cliff top location on the west coast of the peninsula, and where each evening a score of tourist join the Orthodox priests to watch the sun set.
At all costs avoid…
Leaving the airport without a vehicle. Owing to its mountainous terrain and meagre public transport, this is an island best tackled by car. A portable satnav also comes in handy – the Garmin Nuvi 1690 comes with preloaded Greek maps (http://www.garmin.com/)