Hilltop refuge of Skiathos Kastro
Photo: Stefan Stojanovic
'once an island refuge from pirates'.
The Kastro was once the fortified capital of the holiday island of Skiathos and it is one of the island's more interesting sites. Located on the north east tip of the island the Kastro was a hilltop refuge where islanders could escape the attentions of the marauding pirates and seagoing brigands that were once the scourge of this part of the Mediterranean Sea.
It was built on a high rock outcrop in the 14th century and not only commands a dramatic position over the sea but was also easily defended.
When the Venetians took possession of Skiathos in 1453, the Kastro was recorded as being the only settlement on the island.
Not much remains of the Skiathos Kastro today but this was once a small township in its own right with more than 300 houses and 20 or so churches.
Today, only the ruins of two churches survive along with part of the fortress wall and the original gate of the old fort,
There are two ways to reach the Kastro. The easiest is on one of the many excursion boats that take tourists on day trips; the other requires a long, but pleasant drive or walk along dirt tracks that weave through forested hills above Skiathos Town.
Most walkers follow the path that leads off the airport road north of Skiathos Town. The path is well waymarked to Panagia Evangelistria'. About half way is the fountain of Agios Dimitrios and painted signs to the Kastro.
A good waymarking point is the chapel of Panagia Kardasi which is easily recognised by its belfry in the form of a ship' s mast and crow's nest and the glass fishing floats that stud the apex of the roof.
Next ate the pleasant and well maintained grounds of Agios loannis monastery, with gurgling fountains, flower beds and picnic tables and about 10 minutes beyond that the entrance to the Kastro.
The Kastro is a natural fortress with three of its four sides overlooking the sea and the only access was across a wooden drawbridge.
It once provided an impassable gap when it was raised. The drawbridge no longer exists and it has been replaced by rough cement steps.
The houses in the Kastro were built very close together and most must have been small and dark but the fortress had several water cisterns so the inhabitants could hold out against a siege for a considerable time.
During the period of Turkish occupation there was also a mosque, although it didn't have a minaret and, although there is still evidence of it, today the ruins are largely overgrown.
The two churches that have survived are reasonably intact, with some fine icons and some interesting frescoes.
Christos is a single-aisled basilica with walls built of rough stone. This used to be the main church of Kastro and there have been some attempts at restoration over the years.
Also intact are parts of the encircling wall and the old fort gateway but unfortunately nothing remains of the tower and the residence for the governor that built during the Venetian occupation.
Those who arrive on daily excursion boats arrive at a flat shingle beach that lies below the Kastro, It is a steep climb up a long series of steps.
Excursion boats also often visit a trio of nearby sea grottos, named Galazia (Blue), Skotini (Dark) and Chalkini(Copper).