“ Portmeirion is an Italianate resort village on the coast of Snowdonia in Wales. It has served as a location for many films and television shows, notably The Prisoner. Despite repeated claims that it was based on the real town of Portofino, Italy, Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, Portmeirion's designer, denied this, stating only that he wanted to pay tribute to the atmosphere of the Mediterranean. „
* Prices may differ from that shown
Portmeirion is a sort of model village where no one lives but you can stay in various cottages or the hotel when visiting. The village is in Gwynedd, North Wales and was designed and built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1975. Strangely as it is on the Welsh shore he chose to design this village in the style of an Italian village. It is now a very popular tourist attraction managed by and owned by a charitable trust.
SIR CLOUGH WILLIAM- ELLIS
Clough William-Ellis was an architect and obviously a very wealthy man as well as rather eccentric in my view.
If you search on Wikipedia his name brings up the most amazing number of places he was responsible for designing so he was pretty prolific. He not only designed places in the UK but also overseas too in places like South Africa and New York. Portmeirion was his own dream, his desire to create something that was his idea of perfection. He always said that a building should not only be functional but it should be beautiful too and that is what he wanted to prove with this village.
He owned the land which in itself must have been worth a small fortune and he then bought Castle Dreudraeth in 1931 to extend the village and this property also gave the village a driveway to the main road.
What I found stunning was that he appeared to have no real formal architectural training. This I quote from Wikipedia "After a few months at the Architectural Association in London in 1903/4 (which he located by looking up "Architecture" in the London telephone directory) he worked for an architect for a few short months before setting up his own practice in London."
How many people would go from that to becoming the popular and famous architect that he did?
He didn't leave this earth quietly either; he went in style at his own request his ashes were incorporated into a large rocket firework which was set off over the Portmeirion estuary in a New Years Eve celebration some time after his death in 1978.
Portmeirion is open every day of the year from 9.30am to 7.30pm for daily visitors. If you are staying in the village of course you are still free to wander around the village all night should you wish. Apparently over 250,000 visitors come to the village every year. Most just for the day but many stay in the village at the hotel or in one of the cottages like we did.
Parking is just outside the village and is free of charge. There are also free guided tours should you want one as well as an audio visual show which sadly we missed as we only found this out as we were checking out!
It costs £9 for adults and £6 for children 4-16 and that is for the whole day if you get there as it opens and stay till it closes that is good value! There are family tickets and if yiu arrive after 3.30pm then it is half price.
The whole village seems to be now Grade II listed, each individual building has its own listing and this happened in 1971.
PLACES TO SPEND MONEY IN THE VILLAGE
There are six cafes or restaurants in the village and if you are planning on eating there please read my reviews on The Terrace Self service Cafe and Castle Dreudraeth. Some of the cafes are closed in the winter months and both the hotel restaurant and Castle Dreudraeth are quite expensive.
There are also a few shops in the village selling gifts and souvenirs.
'The Battery Square' coffee shop was not open when we were there which a shame as it looked quite nice was. The cafe is on the ground floor of Toll House which was built by Clough in 1929. This is a sort of New England looking house with weatherboard cladding and a sort of lookout tower at the top. Apparently Clough described this as "that black weather boarded thing, looking rather Norwegian." This was one of the first buildings built as part of a group around Battery Square.
'The Ship Shop' was just below our room and sold a mixture of souvenirs and gifts and had a section for china with a good range of Portmeirion pottery too. This building is one of the three buildings which were on the site before Clough began building his beautiful village. This was originally the stable block for the Aber Iâ estate and was built around 1850.
The 'Golden Dragon Bookshop' as the name suggests mainly has books and is situated in Neptune Cottage which is one of the first cottages built by Clough and sits as one of a pair of cottages , the other is Mermaid Cottage and they are just in front of the main swimming pool. They were both built by by the end of 1926 and in were always used as an extension of the hotel for guests as they are today.
The strangely named 'Pot Jam Shop' is a small shop that sells conserves and also cooking equipment at a price. This little shop is on the ground floor of the Trinity building which was built between 1933 and 1934. This building has accommodation above and the shop was originally garage parking. This shop is the only on with a licence so you can buy Portmeirion champagne with a label designed by Clough himself here also at a price!
'The Prisoner Shop' unsurprisingly sells souvenirs of Portmeirion and the famous series 'The Prisoner' which was filmed here. The shop is in a building called The Round House which was one of the later buildings completed in 1959. This was used in the series 'The Prisoner' as Patrick McGoohan's as Number Six's residence in The Prisoner. The interiors however were filmed at MGM's studios as the inside is really too small.
STARING ROLES OF THE VILLAGE
The most famous is of course the series 'The Prisoner' which really made the village well known in the world beyond Wales. It is probably responsible for its popularity in the 60s and 70s. Today it is famous in its own right and many people have never even heard of the series.
Apparently ( also taken from Wikipedia) Clough wrote of the Prisoner, "Patrick McGoohan's ingenious and indeed mysterious television series The Prisoner...stands alone for its revealing presentation of the place. When seen in colour at the local cinema, a performance he kindly arranged, Portmeirion itself seemed, to me, at least, to steal the show from its human cast."
He was not a modest man either it seems and was very proud of his village. According to a book I read while we were staying in the village his wife said he was just so pleased to be able to do exactly as he liked rather than compromising when others were paying the bill and Portmeirion is truly his creation,
The film 'Kipps' had scenes shot here, a 'Dr Who' episode in 1976, an episode of 'Treasure Hunt in 1983 with Anneka Rice, scenes from 'Brideshead Revisited' in 1981 and so many more including a Renault advertisement and an interview with the Beatles with Jools Holland. The list is long and very varied and on the website they advertise the costs for using the place as a location should you be interested in making a film there.
If I went through every building and little item of interest this would be a very long review so I shall pick a few things that really took my eye.
Firstly if you are visiting the village don't forget to walk into the wilder wooded areas beyond the village as they are truly beautiful and offer a change from the actual village especially if you want to escape crowds.
My favourite building, that is hard as they are so different but I loved the buildings high on the sort of cliff edge by the shore as they climbed up and up and you can go through little archways and this leads to another place you can stay or just a view over the estuary. You can go in and up and around and down through all sorts of little paths and archways and everywhere you turn you see some quirky little statue or a spot where you can just stand and admire the view of part of the village or the coast that you can't see from anywhere else. The highest part you can get to along a small hidden path of steps in this area is the 'Grotto' which has no use at all apart from being somewhere to look at the view from. It is just under Cliff House. It is rather strange inside as it is a sort of shell decorated hiding place with five windows looking out to the se. The walls have shells pushed into the plaster and this is not actually that attractive, it looks a bit like those souvenirs you see with shells stuck on them, the kind of thing a child might create from their shell collection.
My favourite building is probably the 'Town Hall' as it is imposing and looks the most solid and in my view attractive. It is the building used for weddings so like many of the buildings in the village this is one you enjoy from outside only unless you are a wedding guest. This looks like a flat fronted sort of imposing place that might be the rich person's house in Italy or France it is part stone and part painted plaster with a fairly large window area above the front door. It was built specifically to house the ceiling from the ballroom that Clough rescued from the demolition of Emral Hall. He paid £13 for the ceiling! I lobve the idea that a building was created to house a rescued ceiling!
Another favourite of mine is the Pantheon Building which is a pretty muted pinky colour with a wonderful dome on the top. On top of the dome is a spire with a gold ball. Apparently Clough aged about eighty at the time, placed the gold leaf on this himself once the ball was in place. He was a total nutcase but isn't it wonderful that the world has rich eccentrics like him who can create places like this for us all to enjoy?
The village is just a strange mixture of styles, colours and interesting statues and memorabilia, like the original petrol pump that used to actually be serviceable and provide petrol to visitors to the village. You could spend a week there and still find something new. The individual buildings are beautiful in themselves but combined with the setting on the hillside and grouped together in the village makes it look like a real life Sylvanian Family village. It is almost too beautiful to be true although some buildings are in need of a little bit of DIY that may be the look they are aiming for as Italian places have a tendency to look 'shabby chic' as opposed to brand spanking new.
If you haven't been then it is certainly worth a visit and staying in the village can be reasonable if you keep an eye out for offers. If this is not an option then stay somewhere nearby and visit for the day. If you love it you can always come back again and if not then it is only a day from your holiday.
Thanks for reading and hope I might have inspired you to visit this little corner of eccentricity in our world.
This review may be posted on other sites under my same user name.
PORTMEIRION-A Lovely Place to visit.
You will find Portmeirion in the northern part of Wales it is a popular resort on the coast of Snowdonia.
When I first visited Portmeiron for the first time I just fell in love with the place. It was like visiting a magical village with its colourful painted houses and cottages and arches etc.Yes it has an Italian flavour to it and I was certainly very amazed with the various buildings and fountains and courtyards
So who created this wonderful place- Clough Williams-Ellis who was an architect had a vision and created Portmeirion just only a few miles from his family home.
In the 1930s it became very popular with a number of Artists and Writers like Bertrand Russell, George Bernard Shaw and H G Wells are just a few to mention. Also King Edward V111 also made a visit to Portmeirion before he was King.
When you arrive at Portmeirion after you have parked the car you will come across the Toll Gate which is near by. This is not the original structure but it was the the last building in which Sir Clough Williams-Ellis designed in 1977.
There is a magnificent arch called the Triumphal Arch which graces the road winding round the back of Portmeirion which is where the residents are allowed access from the toll gate. It has a tremendous backdrop and it is so breather taking.
Then there is the Town Hall another great place to see. Inside the Town Hall is not open to visits during the day but the outside of the hall is quite amazing. You will find it dates back as far as the Jacobean period in the seventeen century. It still has the original lead windows.
Portmeirion has been used in several film sets and TV Shows such as Treasure Hunt which was a programme on Channel 4, Citizen Smith was filmed there in1980, Brideshead Revisited had also filmed there and they filmed where the Watch House and Swimming Pool are.
The Prisoner was also filmed there and there were 17 episodes made and only when the final one was shown and the Credits came up did it actually reveal where the Prisoner was filmed this was to prevent day trippers coming in there thousands while the programme was been transmitted.
There is so much to see and I feel a day is not long enough to see everything as I felt I needed to potter around the gardens and buildings and just soaking up the magical present that it has for me.
Also I love the range of pottery they manufacture and I have a fair size collection now which I am proud off.
This is just a little taster of what my experience was when I visited Portmeirion, I could go on for longer but if you have not visited Portmeirion I should.
There is accommodation their either in self catering or there is a hotel I think it would costly but it would be magical if you were there when day trippers were not there and you would experience something different I feel.
The cost of coming to visit Portmeirion is as follows and also the location .
PORTMEIRION Open every day 9.30am - 5.30pm.
Admission Charges 2008 / 2009
(To 31 March 2009)
(Students, Senior Citizens, Unwaged)
(Under 5 free, up to 16 years)
Admission Charges 2009
(from 1st April 2009)
(Students, Senior Citizens, Unwaged)
(under 5 free, up to 16)
We hope these special rates help make it easy for families to visit Portmeirion.
1 Adult + 2 Children £13.50
1 Adult + 3 Children £15.50
2 Adults + 1 Child £17.00
2 Adults + 2 Children £19.00
2 Adults + 3 Children £21.00
2 Adults + 4 Children £23.00
FOR SAT NAV USE LL48 6ER
From Manchester Airport take the M56 (West) onto the A550. Follow signs for the A55 and North Wales. Follow the A55 expressway as far as the Caernarvon (A487) turn-off. Follow the A487 towards Caernarvon and Porthmadog. Portmeirion is 1 ½ miles South of Porthmadog signposted from the main road at Minffordd. 100 miles. Approximately 2 ½ hours.
From Birmingham Airport take the M6 (northbound). After junction 10 turn onto the M54 which leads onto the A5. Follow the A5 for Llangollen, Corwen. 3 miles past Corwen turn left onto the A494 for Bala. At Bala turn right onto the A4212 for Trawsfynydd where you turn right for Porthmadog. Follow signs for Porthmadog. Portmeirion is 1 ½ miles West of Penrhyndeudraeth on the A487 signposted at Minffordd. 100 miles. Approximately 2 ½ hours.
From London (Shepherd's Bush): Take the M40 then the M6 at Birmingham (use toll road if congestion is bad, then follow signs for M54). After M6 junction 10 turn onto the M54 which leads onto the A5. Follow the A5 for Llangollen, Corwen. 3 miles past Corwen turn left onto the A494 for Bala. At Bala turn right onto the A4212 for Trawsfynydd where you turn right for Porthmadog. Follow signs for Porthmadog. Portmeirion is 1 ½ miles West of Penrhyndeudraeth on the A487 signposted at Minffordd. 240 miles. Approximately 4 ½ hours.
Now portmeirion I have visited on so many occasions since I have had a home in Wales for so many years and every time I think it is fantastic so I have decided to tell you in this review why it is such a fabulous place to visit if you get the chance. I have been at least ten times and would go again in a second so here it is.
The address is as follows:
Now Portmeirion is in a fantastic place and very easy to find when you are driving around Wales. I am not sure how you would get there by public transport but the car park is massive and free so you are fine from that perspective. Also I do believe there are quite a few coach trips that go to Portmeirion so you should find a way to get there somehow.
Ok so when you are there it is just beautiful and there is so much to do so I will go through each one in turn.
Portmeirion boasts some pretty impressive walks around and it is fantastic. You can choose from easy walks and also some slightly harder walks and there are signs everywhere letting you know where to go so you wont get lost at all .
One of my favourite walks although it may sound a little macabre is the pets graveyard which is just beautiful. Then you can go walks around the castle and the gardens are just huge and so stunning with wonderful views of the Welsh mountains so you are bound to walk around just marveling at the beauty.
There is a wonderful beach which is fabulous and especially if you get to go on a day which has nice weather as the scenery is fantastic. It is nice to just take a stroll around it and when you come here you really do think you have been transported into a different place as it is so beautiful and you feel so isolated which I love.
As you can imagine there is a fantastic Portmeirion shop which has some great seconds if you are planning to make a collection. My parents come away with hundreds of pounds worth when they visit purely because it is such good value and they have the best selection.
Then you have a prisoner shop as the series which was extremely popular was filmed here so fans will recognise parts of where it has been filmed I am sure. Then there are several gift type shops where you can get some stationary, souvenirs, some fantastic pottery and then things such as toys and books.
In short the shopping here is fabulous and you are bound to find something you like there.
The hotel has a nice restaurant which is yummy and the prices at about £8 per main are not that bad in my opinion. There is also a bar and grill which has quite a few local ingredients which is nice for them to do and you know you are eating some good stuff there. The food is nice there! Then there is a self service restaurant which is ok and has good food for people who want to eat and go.
Now I haven't actually stayed in the hotel but it looks fantastic. There are a lot of rooms available and I believe that they are at an ok price but I have really only been there as a tourist for the day so have not had to stay there.
In short I think Portmeirion is a fantastic day out and definitely worth going to if you are in the area or even to go and spend a weekend there as there is enough to do to keep you occupied. I recommend to absolutely everybody as it is a fantastic place at all times of the year. It is so good that I am even considering doing my wedding there so we will see!!
Thanks for reading.
Warning: this review is somewhat unorthodox, in that it includes an account of my journey to Portmeirion as well as my experience of the destination itself. Those of you that are interested only in Portmeirion the destination are therefore advised to skip my preamble & proceed directly to THE DESTINATION (see below).
THE HOUSEGUEST It was the Thursday before the August Bank Holiday, 2003.
It had been an inauspicious week, but we had finally managed to put a long-standing and unwelcome houseguest onto a coach to Gatwick, and hed jetted back to Thailand to take up where hed left off eight weeks earlier, teaching his unique patois to unsuspecting natives. An untidy pile remained when we returned, a small and rancid reminder of the houseguests visit, and amongst it was the tent hed recently brought back from Glastonbury.
The following morning, my husband announced that he had made a decision. Apparently, we were going to Portmeirion, and we were leaving now. He seemed very pleased with himself and with the emphatic tone of this announcement. I didnt know what Portmeirion was then, let alone where it was, but I feared the houseguests harum-scarum impulsivity had become infectious. My alarm grew when I saw my husband pick up the Glastonbury tent, and toss it in the boot with our bags. Just in case! he said, laughingly. You never know!
By mid afternoon, we had reached Matlock, in the Peak District, and feeling too lazy to travel any further, decided to stay overnight. We found a peculiar hotel on the mountainside overlooking the town, full of chintz and ugly furniture. On every available surface, dusty, artificial carnations stood propped in the sorts of vases you tend to find in charity shops. The dining room, at breakfast, was awfully, shabbily genteel, and would, I imagined, have made the perfect setting for a scene in a B Grade Horror film.
Anyway, we continued on, through Buxton then veering due west towards Wales. We arrived at the Snowdonia National Park, and paused to ascend Britains tallest mountain in a little red mountain train. The views were a little disappointing. We walked down again, or ran down, as it happened, because my husband refused to be overtaken. We passed the elderly, the infirm, and harassed looking couples with screaming children in unsuitable buggies. Poor fools, we thought. What possessed them? Near the bottom, there was a picturesque little stream, so we undressed and swam about for a bit. This was more like it.
Its no fun, having dashed down Britains tallest mountain in two hours flat, being tired and fed up and pregnant, only to find no room at the proverbial inn but then, it was a Bank Holiday weekend. What did we expect? We scoured the region for somewhere, anywhere to stay, driving about foolishly for two full hours, from one little hamlet to the next, becoming increasingly agitated. It was certainly no fun for my poor husband, who was made to pay for his well-meaning impetuosity with a torrent of bitter invective... Finally, it grew dark. We were near a lake, somewhere, having tried umpteen B&Bs and every Travelodge on the nearby motorway Suddenly, the horrible truth dawned. We would have to use the houseguests tent.
BASE CAMP: The caravan park was black and forbidding. We found our little patch, and floundered about with pegs and ropes in the beam of the car headlights. Finally, the tent was erected, and we crawled inside, finding ourselves engulfed by the stench of stale beer, illicit weeds, and other, unthinkable things. Laughter and the chinking of glasses could be heard outside. How we shivered that night, in the dark, without sleeping bags or blankets, huddled hopelessly together in the Glastonbury Tent. After a long and revolting night, it was quite a shock when we awoke, to find ourselves in an almost impossibly beautiful setting, with mountains behind us, and a grey sea in the foreground. So it hadnt been a lake, after all...
Around us, the campers were awakening. They emerged fresh-faced from tents the size of small bungalows, stretching and yawning happily and taking in the views. Children meandered towards the shower blocks, with towels slung over their shoulders and toothbrushes in hand. To our left, a cheery-looking Scotsman was cooking up a full English for a large, ginger clan on a state-of the-art camping stove. Teas up!, he called lustily, as the kettle began to whistle... We scrambled into the car as quickly as possible and sped away, abandoning the tent where it stood.
THE APPROACH: The map revealed that we were almost there; Portmeirion, it seemed, was less than 20 miles away. The Scotsmans fry-up had left us both with a lingering sense of deprivation and desire, so we paused for breakfast in Porthmadog at the quaintly named Jennys Eating House. Afterwards, we were lurking about outside; I stood blankly inspecting a postcard display whilst my husband finished his cigarette. A large coach pulled up, and a noisy gaggle of middle-aged Americans emerged, cameras slung over their necks, the men in baseball caps and their wives in acreages of blowsy pattern. My husband sauntered across, stood beside me, pointed at the cards, and addressed me in a flurry of loud gobbledygook, as though speaking with a mouthful of marbles. Blechtu sporr Porthmadog blah blah.. The Americans, suddenly silenced, exchanged glances, nudged each other meaningfully and listened in. Oh for heavens sake! I said, and we walked back to the car, husband sniggering, me bad tempered like I said, I was pregnant.
Anyway, leaving Porthmadog, we approached Portmeirion across what was actually a road on a narrow isthmus, but looked and felt like a bridge. On the other side, a pimply adolescent was standing there with a bucket, collecting, unfathomably, a 5 penny toll Poor sod. If it hadnt been for the weather beaten signs legitimising this activity, I honestly would have assumed it was practical joke We took another turn, to the right this time, and we were there at last. Portmeirion.
THE DESTINATION: Portmeirion, for those unfamiliar with it, is a life-sized model village located on a craggy, isolated little peninsula on Cardigan Bay, south west of the Snowdonia national park, in Wales. It was the brainchild and lifes work of Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, an architect, eccentric, conservationist and visionary. Cloughs vision was of a perfectly proportioned, perfectly unique little village. In creating it, he sought to demonstrate that thoughtful development could neatly co-exist with a naturally beautiful setting, and that as much attention should be paid to the design of a town itself, as to the individual buildings of which it is comprised. He searched far and wide to find the ideal location for his Xanadu, discounting several islands off the coastline of England and Wales before realising that the perfect peninsula, a neglected wilderness, had lain right under his nose all along. He purchased the site, then known as Aber la, from his uncle, Sir Osmond Williams, for £5,000 in 1925. The site reminded him of the Mediterranean, in particular, Portofino in Italy, of which he was particularly fond. Work on the village began in that same year, and continued until shortly before Williams-Elliss death in the late 1970s Even then, it was still incomplete. It strikes me that when George Orwell described the British as a nation of stamp-collectors and pigeon-fanciers, he certainly hadnt reckoned with the likes of Clough Williams Ellis.
A profusion of Ps seems to surround Portmeirion, located as it is between Porthmadog and Penrhyndeudraith, and best known for the Prisoner and the Pottery... The Prisoner, of course, is that iconoclastic television series, shot in Portmeirion in the 1960s, whilst the Pottery is slightly twee and botanical, continues to be made to this day, and can be found in Profusion, cluttering up dressers and crystal cabinets across the length and breadth of the country....
THE VILLAGE: We parked the car near Castell Deudraeth, at the entrance to the village. The Castell, which was used as the Hospital in the Prisoner, has an ancient appearance about it, and does indeed stand on an ancient site, but was actually constructed by a relative of Williams-Ellis at the beginning of the 19th Century. It was completely renovated in 2001 and now serves as a hotel, to supplement the accommodation within the village itself. Across from the Castell stands a pretty twin-set of pink Palladian tollbooths. This is the entrance to Portmeirion proper.
It was still early as we wandered into the village, and we seemed to have the place entirely to ourselves. We ambled along the path, with herbaceous borders on either side, past a charming, lemon-yellow little building which turned out to be the Portmeirion Conveniences. From here, the path leads downwards, towards the sea. The entire village is constructed on a steep and rocky slope, with pathways meandering in all directions, affording spectacular views. The buildings are an eclectic lot, and there is no strict adherence to any particular aesthetic. The only guiding principal seems to be an almost surreal flight of architectural fancy. Reconstructed Georgian cottages rub shoulders with mock renaissance villas, and pastels colours predominate throughout. Clough referred to Portmeirion as his home for fallen buildings, as some of them were brought in from far-flung places, having been taken apart, stone by stone, and re-constructed on site. Other buildings are mere shells, or frontages, with eaves and windows painted on for effect, like film sets. It really is a rather diabolical melange, and yet somehow, it works.
The Piazza, arguably Portmeirions most striking feature, and one that features prominently in several episodes of The Prisoner, is perhaps the best illustration of this architectural unorthodoxy. It is fringed with topiary, and replete with a fountain pool, Gloriette, Gothic Pavilion and Burmese dancers on seven spectacularly ornate Ionic columns, which Clough had brought across from Mandalay. The Piazza was finally constructed in 1965, on the site of an old tennis court, having been postponed for several years because Clough had misplaced the seven columns that were critical to his design. I suppose such accidents are bound to happen when one owns an entire peninsula
Further along, near the waters edge, stands the Portmeirion Hotel, built in 1850. This was the original mansion of Aber Iâ. Deciding that his fledgling village would need an economic basis, Clough quickly transformed this derelict mansion into a luxurious hotel, complete with intricately carved doors and a massive carved Italian renaissance fireplace. It was first opened for business in 1926. Today, it is world-renowned, extremely expensive, and well known for a steady stream of celebrated guests, who in the past have included Noel Coward, Bertrand Russell, George Bernhard Shaw and Ingrid Bergman. It was easy enough to picture such luminaries strolling along the beautiful promenade at the waters edge, and beyond the eggshell blue arches that frame the placid waters of Cardigan Bay.
Other significant buildings include the pre-war Baroque style Ladys Lodge with stuccoed walls, which appears as the Shop in The Prisoner, and the Bell-tower, or Campanile. This was always intended as a key feature of Cloughs overall design. It houses an old chiming turret clock, rescued from a demolished London brewery, and incorporates stones salvaged from the ruins of the 12th century castle of Cloughs ancestor, Gruffydd ap Cynan, King of North Wales.
To stroll around the village is an enchanting experience, and unexpected delights emerge around every corner. It was warm and sunny, on the day we were there, and whilst the village was definitely reminiscent of the Mediterranean, it also felt very different. The overall effect, in fact, was almost otherworldly. We wandered on, along the coastline, towards the Observatory Tower, which houses a Camera Obscura salvaged from a German U-boat. Further along, a folly lighthouse on the cliff top marks the villages most southerly point. Finding a steep and narrow trail that appeared to wind its way up on to the cliffs, we decided to follow it. The views were breathtaking. After about ten minutes, the trail dipped back inland, leading into a densely wooded grove. Our map outlined a series of walking trails of varying lengths, but we simply followed the first one we came across. Massive Rhododendrons abounded, their twisted branches laden with heavy, scarlet blooms. There were waterfalls trickling into tranquil little pools, and a Chinese pagoda encircled by ferns and flowering Azaleas. We meandered about this lush semi-jungle for an hour or two, finally emerging into the sunshine near the Triumphal Arch, which, despite its name, is a rather discreet, almost apologetic structure, painted in white and baby-yellow.
We continued on to the Prisoner gift shop, which was doing a roaring trade, and was well stocked with an array of very stylish merchandise. The day-trippers had well and truly descended by now, and the village no longer felt like the peaceful, magical place that it had earlier in the morning. We walked back to Castell Deudraeth, where we had a deliciously fresh and very reasonably priced seafood lunch We enquired about accommodation, somewhat facetiously, given our track record, and were unsurprised to learn that there were no vacancies until the following Tuesday. On that note, we returned to our car and drove straight back to Suffolk. I should, however, be delighted to return. Without a tent.
ACCOMODATION: Whilst the principal accommodation at Portmeirion is within the main hotel, the rest of the village is dotted with little cottages that are available for rent as self-contained accommodation, housing between four and eight people. Further accommodation is available within the Castell. Rooms cost from approx £140 a night, and late deals are available on the website.
ADMISSION: Portmeirion Day Visit Admission Charges are as follows:
Child (4-16)......£3 (4.50)
Portmeirion is open 365 days a year from 9.30am to 5.30pm. The village shops are open from 10.00am to 5.30pm and the Town Hall self-service restaurant is open from 10.00am to 5.00pm.
Castell Deudraeth Bar & Grill is open from 11.00am to 11.00pm every day.
The perfect holiday spot if you fancy imagining that you are in a Mediterranean or anItalian resort – but it’s in Wales, so the weather could let you down a little bit! Portmeirion is a place I’ve always meant to visit, I knew how charming it looks, due to seeing those scenes from the 60s cult TV series, “The Prisoner”. Somehow I never got there until last Summer, but I can promise you, it will be the first of many visits! It’s one of those places that, to be honest, I don’t want to tell everyone about – I’d rather it stayed our little secret, but here goes… Portmeirion Village dates from 1926, when Clough Williams-Ellis started a project to demonstrate that a naturally picturesque site could be developed and still look unspoilt. A committed designer, he believed that buildings should ‘fit into’ their surroundings, and one look at Portmeirion tells you that he achieved this. Not only was the lovely hilly cove unspoilt, in my view it isn’t stretching it to say it was actually improved. Much of its charm lies on the fact that it is unique, and it’s such a surprise to see the village – if you’ve never heard of it or seen pictures of it, it really will take your breath away. Scattered around the gardens are many artefacts and special features – the courtyards, with the fountains and overlooking colonnade, are the most recognisable areas, from “The Prisoner”. But it’s not all Mediterranean in style. There’s a statue of Buddha, which was originally used in the 1958 film “The Inn of Sixth Happiness”, which was filmed nearby. The Shops are far more select than those in many tourist attractions – there are over 10 shops, and here’s a selection – Ship Shop, selling Portmeirion pottery, and other giftware Jam Pot, selling jam, and other edible delicacies The Prosoner Shop &
#8211; selling memorabilia connected with the TV series A bookshop, which features Welsh books The Dome Gallery, selling art prints. There are many walks through the surrounding forest and coastline. There’s an adventure playground for the kids. A swimming pool, near the beach, looks very inviting, but is for hotel residents only (more of which later). It’s open every day, all year round, from 9.30 am to 5.30 pm. Entrance costs are – Adults £5.00 Senior citizens £4.00 Children £2.50 (Under 4's – free) Many of the buildings around the village also form part of a very classy hotel. Now this is the important part – if you stay in the hotel, you get to see the village and the gardens at their very best. Once the day visitors have left, you can stroll in the peace and quiet of the delightful surroundings. It’s well worth tying in a visit to Portmeirion with a hotel stay there – but it’s on the pricey side – They vary according to the type of room, and it’s best to expect to pay at least £100 a night for a room for two. There are room-only rates as well as dinner bed and breakfast rates, so it can be quite flexible according to your needs. For a “superior” room, the cost would be £246 for two people for two nights (dinner bed and breakfast). If your are staying in the hotel, be prepared to either eat all your meals in the hotel (not cheap), or in the more basic cafeteria – there isn’t really an inbetween, and no grocery shop to buy your own food. Self-catering accommodation is also available, again in buildings around the gardens. There are some very special seasonal breaks. For instance, a 3-night stay over Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day (I’d dearly love to do this, but couldn’t afford to take the whole family, which would ruin Christmas) – includes dinner, bed
and breakfast, and, on Christmas Day, lunch as well. Cost is between £410 to £580 per person, depending on which room you stay in. There are similar New Year breaks, with similar prices. As you’ve probably gathered, a hotel stay is definitely for a luxury break, rather than a cheap family holiday. The Hotel Portmeirion Portmeirion Gwynedd, LL48 6ET Tel. 01766 770000 email = firstname.lastname@example.org There’s a website for the whole village at www.virtualportmeirion.com, which is very informative, as well as having lots of pictures and virtual tours. P.S. spooky coincidence - Portmeirion featured quite prominently in the final episode of “Cold Feet”, screened on TV last night, minutes after I’d finished writing this review!
In the 1960’s there was a classic TV series called The Prisoner, which was considered by many to be the most unusual and thought-provoking television series ever made. When it was first shown in England in 1967 there had certainly been nothing like it before and, many would argue, nothing has surpassed it since. The star of the series was Patrick McGoohan who played a man who resigns from a top secret position and is subsequently abducted from his London home. He finds himself in a beautiful village where everything is bright and cheerful - the people, their clothes, the buildings, the flowers. The main form of transport was the mini moke (remember those) and of course the penny farthing, everyone wore piped blazers. However despite this pleasant exterior, the village served a sinister purpose. People were forcibly brought there in order to have their valuable knowledge protected or extracted. Everyone in the Village was assigned a number instead of a name - the Prisoner was Number Six. Chief interrogator and administrator was Number Two, and the boss who was never actually seen, was Number One. Failure was not tolerated in the Village, and most episodes featured a new Number Two, though some were privileged to return for a second chance to break Number Six and discover why he resigned. The Prisoner struggled to keep this information from his captors and tried to find out which side runs the Village and where it was. He strived to discover the identity of Number One, and above all, he attempts to escape, often thwarted by a giant balloon – sounds incredible, but a great series nevertheless. All this may seem very familiar to many of you, and I’m sure that even the younger dooyooers amongst us will have heard of the series, which gained ‘cult’ status all over the world. What many of you won’t know is that the place the programme was filmed in, and which really was as much the st
ar of the show as McGoohan himself was Portmeirion, a beautiful Italianate village on a rocky peninsula on the coast of North Wales’ Cardigan Bay. This is the most remarkable and eclectic of villages. It is truly amazing and unusual, a ‘dream town’, full of colour, columns and cornices, boldly planted amid the slate grey rocks and estuary waters of one of the wildest parts of Wales. Portmeirion is definitely one of my favourite places to visit, for either a day out or a weekend away. Off the beaten track, south west of the Snowdonia National Park, it is undoubtedly the most un-Welsh village in Wales. You won’t find uniform terraces and grey slate roofs here! The village was created by Sir William Clough-Ellis, but not as an architectural folly to satisfy the whims of a rich man. Sir Clough's motives were largely educational. Born in 1883, he was one of Britain's early conservationists and an architect and iconoclast. He was intent on putting into practice his belief that to develop a very beautiful place didn’t necessarily mean to spoil it, and that good architecture can also mean good business. After fruitless visits to over twenty islands around Britain, he stumbled almost by accident over this obscure, densely wooded little peninsular. Eventually he acquired the entire peninsular naming it Portmeirion and fulfilled a lifelong dream by creating this unique and quaint combination of buildings, statues, gardens and curiosities. The village opened in the 1920's, and was later dubbed by its creator as a "home for fallen buildings," and indeed, many of its buildings were disassembled at sites hundreds of miles away, and shipped piece-by-piece to Portmeirion for reassembly Once inside the village you seem to be have been transported away from reality, from the pressures of everyday life and a feeling of relaxation and well being take over. Let me try and give you
a flavour of it. The village is built on a steep-sided, rocky slope, leading down to the water's edge. All the usual conventions are thrown to the winds, Renaissance Italy rubs shoulders with 18th Century England, flights of steep stone steps lead to nowhere in particular; narrow passageways, nooks and crannies infiltrate the pastel-shaded houses and shops; there’s loads of architectural jokes and unexpected touches (he had a tremendous sense of humour – a bit like Dali), whilst around every corner, elaborate facades front absolutely nothing, reminiscent of the early sets on Hollywood back lots. Harmony and uniformity are notable by their absence. Individual points of detail are as enchanting as entire buildings - for example the ‘painted in’ fake windows on the balcony of the Gloriette, a building named after the mighty structure which commands the skyline above Vienna's Schonbrunn Palace, which stands in the centre of the village, close to the piazza and ornamental gardens. Typical of many of Portmeirion's major pieces, it is a mixture of authentic period architecture and 20th century imagination. Yet somehow, this undisciplined jumble really works. The ‘campanile’, a needle like Bell tower which crowns the rocky hill behind the hotel is Italianate, the houses clustered alongside it come from 18th Century England and all around the village there are cunningly planned vistas, flights of steps leading to the most fantastic of views over the sand and tidal channels of the Traeth Bach. The starting point for the original scheme was an early 19th century house at the water’s edge, which is now a luxurious, world famous and very expensive hotel, containing a massive Renaissance fireplace, an 18th century fireplace and a library removed completely into the house from the Great Exhibition of 1851. Over the years it has been patronised by the rich, famous and fashionable.
Noel Coward was a regular guest (he wrote Blithe Spirit here in a week while staying at the ‘Watch Cottage’), whilst the guest list in later years reads like a showbiz Who's Who. Gregory Peck, Ingrid Bergman Brian Epstein and Paul McCartney have all stayed there. A rescued and reclaimed 17th century plastered ceiling adorns the Town Hall whilst at the opposite side of the gardens and central piazza, overlooked by a Pantheon-type Dome, stands a beautiful 18th century colonnade brought in pieces from Bristol and painstakingly reassembled, brick by brick. In contrast to this 'serious' architecture, you can always wander down to the seafront and board Sir Clough's life-size ‘concrete’ ship, permanently moored to the harbour wall. The land on which Portmeirion's amazing buildings are situated - a craggy, profusely wooded peninsular known locally as Gwyllt ( meaning wild ) was always essential for Clough-Ellis’ dream. Today the peninsula has been tamed and you can explore the surroundings without the benefit of a machete, by following miles of footpaths through one of the finest wild gardens in Wales. Hydrangeas, rhododendrons, azaleas, Hymalayan shrubs and trees, date and eucalyptus trees are amongst the many species that thrive here. The unusually mild weather of the peninsula means that sub tropical vegetation abounds. Portmeirion is not the sort of place to rush around, but to take time, sit and let your eyes roam around the buildings, architectural follies and the many unusual plants that grow there. It’s a place for sitting, contemplating and marvelling at the beauty of your surroundings. We used to stay for the occasional night with friends who holidayed in the self-catering ‘cottages’ here. Absolutely brilliant, out of our price range I’m afraid, but such an experience. Staying overnight you had the opportunity to take early morning and late ni
ght strolls, around an almost deserted Portmeirion - the highlight of any visit. So peaceful and tranquil - out of this world. As well as filming ‘The Prisoner’ here, Patrick McGoohan also filmed several of his ‘Danger Man’ (anyone remember that?) episodes at Portmeirion. It has also been used as a location for scenes from Dr. Who, Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited and The Inn of the Sixth Happiness starring Ingrid Bergman. Portmeirion is also famous for its uniquely styled Portmeirion Pottery, designed by Susan Williams-Ellis, daughter of Portmeirion's creator Clough Williams-Ellis. I can personally guarantee that anyone who reads my review and visits Portmeirion will love it, its so, so different - a riot of colour and architectural style. I wish I could include photographs with my review; check out some of the websites on Portmeirion (www.Portmeirion-village.com) and The Prisoner, you’ll be amazed that such a place exists in Britain But be warned, the place casts a strange spell over everyone who visits - as Patrick McGoohan found out - its difficult to escape.