No holiday in North Wales is complete without a visit to Portmeirion.
The beautiful Italianate village near Porthmadog is famous for two things in particular: the pottery that is named after it and the cult 1960s TV series The Prisoner, which was filmed there.
Portmeirion was the life’s work of architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis. He had a vision of creating a Mediterranean-style village in North Wales, partly inspired by his love for the Italian resort of Portofino.
Williams-Ellis designed and constructed Portmeirion between 1925 and 1975, incorporating parts of a number of demolished buildings. It is still painted in the sun-bleached colour palette specified by Williams-Ellis himself. Today Portmeirion is run by a charitable trust and is one of the top tourist attractions in Wales.
I have been visiting Portmeirion for over twenty years now; I go at least once a year when I am on holiday in the area. Even after all this time I am still discovering new things on every visit, and the beauty of the architecture – and the gardens – always lifts my spirit and nourishes my soul.
Portmeirion is open throughout the year. There is an admission charge (with discounts for families and older people) but all attractions within the village are then free. It is a wonderful place to spend half a day at least.
Here are a few tips for making the most of your visit…
- If it’s your first time be sure to take one of the (free) guided tours of the village. These start from near the payment booths and run throughout the day. They only last around twenty minutes, but you will pick up some fascinating information.
- The woodland train is another free attraction. It runs every half-hour or so, starting and finishing at the ‘station’ near the main shop. It’s a great way of seeing the woodland area (and lakes) behind the village. It’s especially good if you have mobility difficulties or young children with you and don’t fancy walking the trails yourself.
- You can also view an audio-visual presentation about Portmeirion. This runs continuously in a hut behind the Italian cafe.
- One thing to note is that dogs (except guide dogs) are not allowed into Portmeirion. I am sure this must be disappointing for dog owners, but the trustees have taken this decision to preserve the tranquility of the village.
- If you’re a fan of The Prisoner, look out for the Number 6 shop. This offers a range of memorabilia related to the series, including hats, blazers, and so on.
- Pottery is no longer made at Portmeirion – that all happens in Staffordshire now – but you can still buy pottery (Including reduced-price seconds) from the cafe/shop near the entrance and the main shop in the village itself.
- If you wish you can stay for a few days in Portmeirion. Options include the hotel at the front and also many of the small, quirky buildings. My personal favourite is White Horses, a cottage that stands in splendid isolation at the far end of the village directly over the sea wall. Trivia note: this is the place Patrick McGoohan stayed while the TV series was being made.
- You can have a full lunch or dinner at the hotel and in Castell Deudraeth, a Victorian mansion just outside the village. Light meals and snacks are also available in various restaurants and cafes around the estate.
- For more information about Portmeirion, including accommodation and dining, visit their official website at http://www.portmeirion-village.com.
If you go to Portmeirion, I hope you enjoy your visit and will want to return there soon. As they say in The Prisoner, “Be seeing you!”
About the Author: Nick Daws blogs at www.poundsandsense.com, a personal finance and lifestyle blog aimed especially at people over 60. He is a semi-retired freelance writer living in Burntwood, Staffordshire.