Exploring Portmeirion

Portmeirion, the candy coloured village on the North Wales coast, setting for the TV cult show The Prisoner and apparently a favoured haunt of the Beatles was a place Husband and I had visited years ago. The sun was still shining, it was just a ten minute drive from our Porthmadog hotel, so on the last day of our Bank Holiday trip to Snowdonia we headed for this folly to top all follies. Easy and convenient to get to, we arrived right at opening time and were only one of a few families there – everyone else must have been having a lie-in. We paid our entrance fees and set off to explore this unique and gorgeous village by the sea.

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The whole place was the brain child of an architect called Sir Clough Williams Ellis. Set on a wooded hillside with views of the sea and mountains, he designed a village with a whole series of quaint buildings all painted in candy colours.

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There is a lighthouse, castle, several grottoes, a campanile and watch tower. Williams Ellis found the site in the 1920’s and filled it with his own designs as well as endangered buildings and industrial salvage from the UK and abroad.

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He carried on with this project for about 50 years, collecting items as well from disintegrating stately mansions – including a grand old fireplace which became the front of a building – set them alongside his own creations and created this seaside village. At the age of 90 he decided the project was complete.

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It is a holiday village – no-one lives here and behind the Italianate facades are holiday rental places. Apparently it is modelled on Portofino, I thought it looks more like a stage or film set than a village.

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We loved the colours – pinks, yellows, blues and so different to what you would expect to find here.

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There is a hotel, restaurant and several gift shops. We just wandered, strolled and soaked up the atmosphere. In 1973 the village was scheduled as of architectural and historical importance and then designated a Conservation Area. It is owned by a registered charity.

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They show a documentary on Williams Ellis and the village in a little building above the central piazza. It is on a loop, so we arrived at the end of one showing and waited a few minutes for it to start. Informative and interesting, as was the 20 minute short guided tour.

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Our tour guide showed us a giant golden Buddha – apparently this was from the Ingrid Bergman movie Inn of the Sixth Happiness which was filmed here when Portmeirion doubled up as China.

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A light lunch where Son made friends with an inquisitive robin,  then we took the little tourist train up into the woods. Thinking it would be fun it was actually far too crowded and slow, we did get some great views but as soon as it returned to the village we hopped out and hiked the route ourselves.

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39 thoughts on “Exploring Portmeirion

    • It is really lovely – a beautiful village in a glorious setting, completely different to anything you would expect to find in this corner of North Wales too which makes it extra special.

  1. I’m sure it was a great place to explore at a leisurely pace. I’ve always wanted to stay in Portmeirion for a night but I’ve never (yet) managed to visit. I like how quirky it is and anything generated by eccentricity is of interest to me. Some day.

    • Absolutely Laura, we’d visited years ago and I loved it then, no different on this visit. I hadn’t realised until now that it is literally a holiday village and behind all those grand and wonderful facades are holiday rentals. I think it would be a great place to stay and explore, the village itself is interesting but the beach and woods around are gorgeous too. Hope you make it someday!

  2. I have been here, and seen The Prisoner, but I didn’t know that about The Inn of the Sixth Happiness which I’ve also seen. Maybe I saw it before I visited. Fascinating place!

  3. Joy, what an interesting little village and totally unexpected from what I saw of Wales last summer! Amazing that he lived long enough to see his vision finished! Thanks for sharing this! Pam @ Everyday Living

  4. This brought back some happy memories of our visit many years ago. Our kitchen cupboards are filled with Portmeirion Botanical Garden tableware which we’ve had for years but still seems popular today.

  5. Lovely to see your photos and learn a bit more about Portmeirion’s history – it’s been years since I last went, though it looks as if nothing has changed, a timeless place to visit!

  6. I always associated Port Meirion with pottery Joy! Had no idea this Italian style village existed! It does look like something out of a fairytale but despite the “folly” brightens up the whole countryside – such pretty gelato colours! Must be fun to stay there too – a bit different! Hope you’re having a lovely weekend – it’s like England here today cold and wet was even sleeting a bit earlier most unusual even in winter!

    • It’s a really quirky and unusual place Rosemary – I love how the architect/creator was such an eccentric and pretty much spent his whole life putting this place together. It’s great fun to explore, not least because you would not expect something like this in North Wales. Cold and wet here too Rosemary – given up on summer!

      • He sounds a very interesting and colourful character Joy and definitely not what you’d expect in North Wales! Do hope you get some sunshine too – Mlle is considering going to southern Europe for a few days as she is owed some holiday and says she needs to sit on a beach in the sunshine! Not much chance of that here at the moment either but we are in the middle of winter. Hope you have a good rest of the week 🙂

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