Are you looking for a day trip destination that is both stunning and off the beaten path? If so, consider visiting Portmeirion in North Wales. This Italian-inspired village was the brainchild of Welsh architect Clough Williams-Ellis and is now a popular tourist attraction. With its bright pastel buildings and gorgeous coastal setting, Portmeirion is well worth a visit. So what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and head to North Wales!
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Brief History Of Portmeirion:
Portmeirion is a beautiful Italian-inspired village in Gwynedd, North Wales. Designed and built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1973, Portmeirion is a pastiche of an Italianate village and draws its inspiration from Portofino on the Italian Riviera, a place he had fallen in love with.
Portmeirion Village was Clough’s dream for many years, even from the age of six he dreamt of being an architect and building his town. He also knew early on that if his dream was to come true he would need to depend on tourism for income. After scouring multiple sites he found the perfect location on the Snowdonia peninsula, a neglected estate called Aber la. He later changed the name to Portmeirion, “Port” due to its coastal location and “Merion” from the county it sits in.
Portmeirion village has a long and fascinating history, which began when Williams-Ellis bought the site in 1925. Work on the village began immediately, and continued for over 50 years, starting with converting an old house on the shore into a grand hotel which opened in 1926. The rest of the village was built in two stages, In the first 10 years or so the design of the village was ‘pegged out’ and most of its distinct buildings were erected. In the later years between 1954-76, he filled in the details.
The village has also been used as a film and television location, most famously as the setting for the 1960s TV series The Prisoner. Today, Portmeirion is owned by a charitable trust and loved by tourists and locals alike, and its unique design makes it one of the most recognisable villages in the world.
Things To See In Portmeirion:
There are several things to see in Portmeirion village, including the unique architecture, beautiful squares, ornamental gardens and beautiful scenic surroundings. There are also several shops and restaurants in the village.
An Architectural Stroll
Williams-Ellis’s village is a cleverly designed, compact space that feels larger than it looks. The Rough Guide to Wales called it a ‘gorgeous visual poem’. Take time out of your day and enjoy the many features within these walls for what they’re worth, admire the Gothic Pavilion as well as other exquisite pieces like Bristol Colonnade or Hercules Hall before you enter into Belvedere Garden for an even better view from up high!
Some notable buildings include:
The gatehouse – One of the first buildings to be built and utilises the rugged rock formations within its design. The deep arch is lit up at night highlighting the ceiling mural by Hans Feibusch.
Bridge House – Forms the second of Porthmeirion’s two entrance gateways. The design is similar to the gatehouse in which the arch rises from exposed brick from the living rock it sits upon.
Toll House – Overlooks Battery Square and has a lookout tower on the top floor. The Toll house is embellished with plaques, bells and signs including a life-size statue of St Peter.
Bell Tower – This tower was an integral feature of Clough’s design and houses an old chiming clock from a demolished London brewery.
The Round House – One of two Baroque buildings linked by an overhead walkway. For those who watched the 1966 series The Prisoner, the Round House was used as Number Six’s residence.
The Dome – An octagonal building surmounted by a dome and central cupola. This building was often assumed to be a temple however, as Clough was an atheist its use has always been secular.
Hercules statue and Bandstand – Hercules was cast around 1863 by William Brodie and was picked up by a pickup truck and driven from Aberdeen to Portmeirion by Clough himself. The bandstand was built to hide the site’s electrical substation which is still in use today.
The Town Hall – Also known as Hercules Hall is an Arts & Craft style village hall designed to house a Jacobean ceiling, panelling and mullioned windows salvaged from Emral, one of the great houses of Wales.
Stroll Around The Central Piazza
One of my favourite parts of Portmeirion village is The Piazza. This beautiful space was built in the 1960s to hide an unsightly tennis court that had been there since the 1930s. Clough had initially designed a central piazza but these plans were never executed until he was encouraged to build it by his daughter.
The focus point of the piazza is the ornamental fountain pool which is surrounded by the Gloriette and glorious Gothic Pavillion. Around the piazza, you will also see many other unique features such as the Golden Burmese dancers positioned on top of iconic columns.
Further up from the piazza you will also find the magnificent Bristol Colonnade which was originally built in 1760 for a Bathhouse in Bristol. The original structure had been damaged by bombs and then fell into disrepair before it was salvaged and returned to its former glory in Portmeirion Village.
The Piazza is the perfect place to sit and relax with ice cream, especially on a warm summer’s day. A few minutes here and you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to some Italian coastal town! This place does play tricks on your mind!
Battery square is surrounded by many of Portmeirion’s most iconic buildings such as the Bell tower and Round House. It also has a lovely little coffee shop making it the perfect place to take a beak on the outdoor tables positioned along the cobbles. For Prisoner fans, the Round House now houses a gift shop where you can pick up some nostalgic souvenirs.
The main feature of the Quayside is the Portmeirion Hotel which was the first building to be built in the village. If you’re lucky enough to stay overnight at the hotel or in some of the other properties around the village then you are also able to use the picturesque swimming pool located on the front lawn looking out towards the coast.
In front of the hotel, you will also find the Amis Reunis, half boat, half building. Originally there was a restored trading ketch boat moored alongside the quay, however, during a storm, it was damaged and washed out to sea. Clough then designed and installed this boat-like structure to replace it.
From the hotel, you can also walk along the coastal path which takes you to the Observatory Tower and further along, the folly lighthouse.
If you want to stretch your legs, then a walk through the Gwyllt is a must! There are several trails to choose from but all of them take you through some beautiful ornate gardens, woodland and a multitude of eye-catching monuments and stunning vistas.
The whole area covers 70 acres and 19 miles of the pathway which cuts through the subtropical forest, secret spaces and coastal coves. Whichever path you choose you are sure to be met with something unexpected. One of the more unique features found in the Gwyllt is the dog cemetery which was established by its former Tennent Mrs Adelaide Haig.
Williams-Ellis’ daughter Susan and her husband Euan began Portmeirion Potteries Ltd in 1960 after she took over Kirkham’s Pottery from Stoke-on-Trent. She made sure to keep traditional and contemporary designs alike, which is why this business has thrived all these decades after its inception! You can still buy some of their ware at discount prices from the Portmeirion gift shops around the village.
How To Get To Portmeirion And Admission:
The easiest way to get to Portmeirion Village is to take a leisurely drive or hop on the train and enjoy a scenic morning ride. The village is about a mile away from Minffordd station with plenty of visitor parking available near its entrance.
Sat Nav use LL48 6ER
For the latest train times and ticket information use The Trainline
For the latest bus timetables and routes check out Traveline
The Village is usually open every day from 9.30 am to 5.30 pm, apart from Christmas Day. Day tickets are available from the Tollbooth at the entrance. Check out the Portmeirion website for current prices and opening hours.
Where To Stay In Portmeirion:
Portmeirion Village has a lot of different accommodation options. There are two 4-star hotels, the luxury waterfront Hotel Portmeirion and the more contemporary Castell Deudraeth. There are also beautiful hotel rooms scattered within the unique village houses, some with terraces and balconies. The 13 self-catering cottages are available on a weekly or short break basis and most have gorgeous views over the Dwyryd Estuary.
The best thing about staying on-site is that once the day visitors have gone, you’ll have this magical place all to yourselves. If you wish to stay within the village be sure to book well ahead of time as these options book out very quickly!
If you prefer to stay within the local area, Porthmadog has places to suit all budgets, including historic country house hotels, family-run beach-side caravan parks and harbour-side self-catering apartments.
For booking accommodation I recommend using Booking.com. This website offers the best-priced accommodation catering for all budgets and styles. Just pop in your requirements and it will give you a list of available accommodation. Perfect for picking out the best hostels, B&B or even some luxury escapes.Booking.com
Other Places To Visit Nearby:
Porthmadog – Porthmadog is a bustling little town in North Wales with plenty to keep visitors entertained. One of its main attractions is its proximity to Snowdonia National Park, which offers plenty of opportunities for hiking, cycling and other outdoor activities. And of course, no visit to Porthmadog would be complete without taking a ride on the historic Ffestiniog Railway. So whether you’re looking for a shopping spree or a day in the great outdoors, Porthmadog has something for everyone.
Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways – The Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways are two of the most scenic railways in the world. The Ffestiniog Railway runs for 13.5 miles through the Snowdonia National Park in Wales, while the Welsh Highland Railway runs for 25 miles through the heart of the Snowdonia Mountains. Both railways offer breathtaking views of some of the most beautiful countrysides in Wales, as well as opportunities to spot wildlife such as red kites, eagles, and otters.
Harlech Castle – Harlech Castle is a spectacular medieval fortress located in Wales. Built by Edward I during his conquest of Wales, the castle was intended to serve as a reminder of English power. With its massive walls and imposing towers, Harlech certainly achieves this goal. The castle stands on a rocky outcrop overlooking the sea, and its position makes it very difficult to attack. In fact, during the Wars of the Roses, Harlech served as a stronghold for the Lancastrians. The castle withstood a lengthy siege by the Yorkists, eventually falling when supplies ran low. Today, Harlech Castle is a popular tourist destination, and its dramatic setting continues to impress visitors.
If you are looking for a unique and beautiful place to visit in the United Kingdom, I highly recommend Portmeirion. This Italian-inspired village is located in the heart of North Wales and is home to some of the most amazing architecture I have ever seen. The gardens here are also worth exploring, especially during springtime when they are in full bloom. Plus, there are plenty of places to eat and shop if you need something to do while you’re there.
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