Thomson Holidays

Rupert Brooke's tomb at Tres Boukes

Many visitors to Skyros like to make the pilgrimage to Brooke's tomb, set is a small olive grove in an otherwise desolate location near Tres Boukes bay in the south-west of the island.

The tomb itself, restored by the Royal Navy in 1961, is not the site of the original grave. When Brooke died of blood poisoning on a French hospital ship anchored in the bay, the midnight burial party had no time for an elaborate funeral - they left for Gallipoli the next morning.

The original grave was just a pile of stones with a wooden cross and Brooke's mother commissioned the present white marble monument at Tres Boukes at the end of the First World War. Inscribed on the grave is Brooke's most famous poem, The Soldier.

The easiest way to reach the grave is to take an organised boat to Tres Boukes Bay, and then follow the track up the valley. There are plenty of trips that take in the nearby caves as well. The drawback is to view the site to a backdrop of camera clicking tourists.

There are taxis from Chora to Tres Boukes but they are not cheap. It is not an easy car journey either. South of Kalamitsa village the island is almost entirely uninhabited and the unsignposted road deteriorates as it rises through the mountains.

As you descend towards Tres Boukes you will see the grave tucked away on the left among an orchard of olive trees.

 

Aprokreis 'goat' carnival

Skyros is renowned for its traditional street festivals and none more so than the slightly scary Apokries or 'Goat Dance' carnival leading up to Easter

Three weird characters dance through the streets in Chora with dozens of other masked revellers. Many of the participants dress in goatskins and masks with large sheep bells hanging from the waist.

The masks are mostly fashioned out of kid skin and the waist bells can weigh up to 50kg. They also wear heavy wooden clogs that make a huge racket. The noisy procession makes its way up to the top of the Chora and back down again.

As they prance through the streets they adopt a swaying lope so that the bells make a heavy clonking sound. Other figures include a humpback dressed in rags and a 'foreigner' or 'Frank' dressed in motley clothes and long trousers and blowing a conch shell.

The carnival procession is believed to be a relic of goat and cattle cults that once held sway on the island and is one of its annual highlights.

Traditional houses

Skyros Town has many traditional houses whose interiors are considered living museums as they are adorned with hand beaten copper pots, carved wooden furniture and elaborately decorated ceramic and embroideries. Skyros islanders take much pride in their homes and furnishings and visitors are often invited in to admire them.

The unique style of home decoration originates in the days when islanders traded prized items from marauding pirates in exchange for food. Locals started making copies of ceramics, carvings and fabrics brought to Skyros from across the Mediterranean and the tradition has been handed down over generations.

Skyros has many shops selling pottery, carved furniture and other items made locally by highly skilled craft workers.

Skyros pony

The south of the island is also home to the wild and tiny Skyrian ponies. They are said to be related to the Shetland pony, though how is not particularly clear. The ponies are tiny, with a shoulder height of only about one metre, and they are possibly the smallest breed in the world.

They are rare sight these days and you are unlikely to spot a wild one in the barren plains of the south, though there are now belated moves to protect them so hopefully numbers will increase.

You can sometimes see the odd domesticated pony tethered in Skyros town and children have pony races on Magazia beach during the island's the August 15th festival.

Syrian ponies are thought to be the same breed as those sculpted in marble on the famous Parthenon frieze. in Athens