Child friendly Corfu

A Generic Photo of Mouse Island and Vlacherna Monastery, Corfu. See PA Feature TRAVEL Corfu. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature TRAVEL Corfu.
A Generic Photo of Mouse Island and Vlacherna Monastery, Corfu. See PA Feature TRAVEL Corfu. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature TRAVEL Corfu.

It’s one thing to be called for a flight when you’re footloose, fancy free and capable of moving at speed, but it’s quite another with a baby in tow.

But here I am at Gatwick’s North Terminal, hurtling towards Gate 26 behind our three-wheeler buggy, while Ollie, my one-year-old, is enjoying the whizzy ride, blissfully unaware that we’re close to missing our trip to Corfu.

In terms of an introduction to taking a baby abroad for the first time, this is baptism by fire. Gone are the days of packing light, jumping on a train to the airport and strolling through security. Now it’s almost a military exercise, which has taken months of careful preparation.

In fact, the buggy itself was all part of the plan, because it has a simple handle that collapses it in one easy move, making it perfect for the last-minute handover to the cabin crew at the door to the plane, so it can be safely stowed in the hold.

But that’s pretty much the last thing on my mind as I count the gates flashing by and when we finally get to 26, with no other passengers in sight, I sheepishly hand over our boarding passes with a “first-time parent” apologetic shrug.

Despite having an entire weekend to pack for the trip - a massive suitcase for mummy and daddy, a baby suitcase for Ollie, a holdall of toys to carry onto the flight and the all-important change bag - it seems the travel gods are against us and, after leaving our house half an hour late (the norm with children, I’m discovering), we get stuck in rush hour traffic on the M25. Of course we do.

But all this panic is about to be washed away over the course of a seven-night stay at the sun-kissed Marbella Corfu Hotel on Greece’s greenest island. From the minute we (rather smugly) collapse that buggy and board the plane, my husband and I start breathing again.

Marbella Corfu is a five-star resort at Agios Ioannis, about half an hour’s drive from Corfu Town and the airport, on the Greek island’s south east coast. A year ago, they decided to boost their family-friendly facilities and have recently put in a splash park and pool area for children, while a kids’ club provides a creche to give tired parents a morning or afternoon of freedom.

We’re in a newly refurbished, sleek family room, which - except for the neon-coloured travel cot - looks like something from a James Bond film, complete with a hot tub on the decking on our enormous balcony.

Dinner tonight is a buffet in the main dining room, but there are also two a la carte restaurants, Greek and Italian, that you can book. And this is where Marbella Corfu might need to fine tune a little more in their bid to be completely baby-friendly. The buffet’s open from seven o’clock, but most babies have their tea earlier than mum and dad, and there’s no provision, other than costly room service. Thankfully, I packed a week’s worth of Ella’s Kitchen sachets.

Although it’s winter, we’re blessed with a week of sunshine and temperatures in the mid-twenties, so it’s hot enough to sunbathe but not too hot for delicate baby skin. We have a choice of the beach, the children’s splash park and what we come to think of as ‘the adult pool’, but none of the pools are heated and we soon learn (thanks to some high-pitched wails during a morning splash), the optimum time to swim with Ollie is towards the end of the day, once the sun has naturally warmed the water. He’s scared of the sea at first, what with it being the biggest bath he’s ever seen in his 13 months, but he’ll eventually sit in the surf, as long as it’s calm.

On our second day, we book Ollie into the creche for an afternoon session. Three baby-free hours are a luxury for any parent and it’s soon filled with a blissfully indulgent back and head massage in the spa for me, and a gym session for my husband, before we rendezvous on the beach to go snorkelling together. Feeling completely recharged, we collect Ollie, who’s been busy hand painting and clearly having fun without us.

Midway through our stay, we’re feeling rested enough to tackle the bus journey into Corfu Town. For just 3 euros each way, there’s an air-conditioned coach that goes direct from the hotel and wends it’s way north along the pretty coast road. Ollie loves spotting dogs from the window and he’s about to get even more excited - on his first boat ride.

The Kalypso Star is a glass-bottomed boat that departs every hour from the Old Port and does a loop around the small, wooded Vidos Island, which was once Corfu’s answer to Alcatraz. It stops halfway, and we descend into the boat’s blue glass bowels to watch as divers swim past the windows, followed by shoals of fish. The lobster and starfish they hold up to the window might not have been on the seabed where we stopped, but it’s a fun touch for the younger tourists.

Back on dry land, we head off through the old town’s narrow cobbled streets in search of lunch, and Ollie naps as we sit at a cafe on the famous Liston - a grand marble-paved, arcaded street that runs along one side of the Spianada square - watching the world go by.

Corfu Town bears repeated trips before we finally have to return home - all in one piece and with a stash of memories from our first family holiday.