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