LAND OF LEGENDS; Clive Leighton Follows in the Footsteps of Achilles on the Greek Island of Skiros Travel

Article excerpt

A CHILLES made a mistake: he should never have left the Greek island of Skiros where local legend has it he hid, dressed as a girl, until discovered by Odysseus. The great warrior, thought invincible, was later felled by an arrow into the heel at Troy.

Perhaps if he'd turned down temptation of glory and instead stayed on the white beaches of this magical, ancient isle, set like a precious stone in the Aegean, he would not have met his death. But then writers for centuries would have lost a great story and the rest of us a handy synonym for weakness.

It is a beguiling, safe place to reconnect with yourself. So, let's get the cliches about Skyros holistic holidays out of the way first: life changing; a spiritual awakening; a starting point on the road to Damascus; a moment in time to discover your fields of possibility. A Skyros holiday can be all of those, and much more. It's your choice.

Skyros Holidays started in 1979 and is the world's leading alternative holiday company. It claims the holistic tag because it offers choice to the whole you.

Locally-sourced fresh vegetarian food, nearby beaches and walks take care of the body; writers' courses (Joyce Dunbar and DM Thomas took workshops during my stay) and a free-form Making Sense course with Gaie Houston catered for the mind.

And daily yoga - run by David, a goliath of an American, hewn from Colorado rock - released the body and took care of the spirit.

I chose a course called Moving Mindfully, a unique blend of yoga, Pilates, Alexander technique, t'ai chi and dance. Sounds complex? Judy Hammond made it simple and fun.

Skyros Centre, where I stayed, is perched at the top of the island's only major centre of civilisation. A spectacular hill town with cubist, whitewashed houses that cling precariously to the rockface, it's capped by the 10th century monastery of Saint George, which sits on the remains of a 5th century BC acropolis.

I flew from Luton with easyJet to Athens, where I was met by a Skyros representative and stayed overnight, then took two ferries to Skiros.

This is a real working village with real working people.

Meandering about the village in the coming days, finding myself constantly lost in the endless alleyways, was a joy.

I am writing this on a balcony, 30ft from a beautiful whitewashed Greek Orthodox church. …