October 5, 2008



MY 16-month-old son Joe sobbed and stared at me with a look of bewilderment and betrayal in his eyes as I handed him over.

I turned my back on him and walked away as his sobs turned to howls of despair. My crime? Leaving him with childminders for the afternoon at the Toddlers Club in the holiday centre on the Greek island of Kos.

My wife Eleanor and I were so distraught we nearly turned back to get him, then thought twice. If we couldn't leave him now, what would happen on his first day at school?

So we sat by the pool reading our books for all of five minutes until Eleanor decided she would "just check" to see if he was all right. This meant peeking at him from a discreet distance as the tots were taken to the beach for ice cream, to dance on the lawns and generally have a great time.

We learned a valuable lesson that first day - once he'd got over the initial shock, Joe loved his time singing songs, banging drums and giving the fantastic childminders the runaround.

We were then able to spend our afternoons enjoying the wonderful facilities. The enormous Lakitira village resort is designed to cater for your every need without having to venture out into the real world.

If you don't want to laze about on its private beach or around the pools, there is always the option of scuba diving, windsurfing, tennis and even sailing lessons. There are kids' clubs for all ages, a pile-your-plate-up lunch and dinner buffet, a Greek and Italian restaurant, a spa and a shop. You can spend the entire time without leaving the resort, but to do so would be to miss out on this treasure of the Aegean.

Kos, the third largest of the Dodecanese, is a long thin island about 45km long. It's mostly flat, although there are a few hills in the south.

As far as peace and quiet are concerned there is very much an east-west divide. As a rule of thumb, head east if you want to party and west to chill out. The nearest town to us was Kardamena, a 10- minute bus trip away and the liveliest resort on Kos. It has a sandy beach and watersports but its big attraction is its night life.

A big favourite is the Downtown club for cheesy dancefloor hits - this is not the place to come for a romantic tavern with gently- strummed balalaikas.

Climb on board a wooden gulet for a boat trip to the island of Plati, taking in the island of Kalymnos, where you can buy sponges caught by divers in the village of Vathi.

A cruise is also available to the volcanic island of Nissyros. A bus trip sets you down in the heart of the volcano... now dormant but, worryingly, not quite extinct. Its huge crater is 1,000ft wide and 100ft deep.

Take kids to The Waterpark Lido at Mastichari at the centre of the island. The park has slides, wave pools, adult and children's areas and twisty hair-raising slides up to 130 metres long.

Kos is dripping with history. The island's most famous son is Hippocrates, the father of medicine to whom doctors still have to swear an oath before they can practise.

His birthplace, Kos town, was founded in 700BC. It is a mix of the ancient and modern. There are earsplitting beach bars but also amazing Greek and Roman ruins to visit. A Roman temple dedicated to water nymphs and the floor mosaic in the House of Europa, which depicts the Phoenician princess Europa being abducted by Zeus dressed as a bull, are particular highlights.

The archaeological museum can be found on Kos's main Eleftherios Square. It has exhibits from ancient times and a statue believed to be of Hippocrates.

The castle at the entrance of Kos harbour was built in the 15th Century by the Knights of the Order of St John, who ruled the island for 200 years. The castle is reached by a bridge spanning an avenue of palm trees marching along the old moat. This leads to the busy marina where you can haggle for a trip around the island or a day trip to Turkey.

Take a 10-minute walk from the harbour and you find Mummy's Cooking, a small, family-run taverna. If you want to liven things up after dinner try bars such as the Cactus Saloon, Camel and Limit - and if you're homesick there's always the traditional British pub, The Sunburnt Arms.

For something more peaceful, visit Psalidi, which has plenty of quiet spots for undisturbed sunbathing as long as you don't mind the shingle beach. If you want long, sandy beaches, then head for Marmari.

There's no getting away from the fact Kos is an island which has reinvented itself for tourists. This is no unspoilt paradise, but has everything a holidaymaker could ever want.

You can party, lose yourself in ancient history, gorge yourself on wonderful food or - if you're anything like the Mottrams - just lie back and relax as you watch your baby son having the time of his life.

What's the deal?

A WEEK for a family of four at Lakitira Beach Resort cost from pounds 2,242 in June. The price includes half-board, flights from Gatwick, watersports and childcare for over-twos. For under-twos it's pounds 100 for the holiday and pounds 180 for six mornings' care (www.markwarner.co.uk or 0871 703 3944).

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