Portmeirion is truly unique - a whimsical, surreal, folly Italianate village built on a beautiful remote Welsh headland. The site is only a couple of miles outside Porthmadog and sits right on the Wales Coast Path. It’s an ideal place to walk to on a “rest day” from Porthmadog though there are plenty of buses if you prefer. Those who really want to push the boat out should consider staying here a night or two and enjoy the village and headland in isolation once the day visitors have gone. There is a hotel and plenty of options to take rooms in the village see https://portmeirion.wales/.
It was the creation of the wealthy and eccentric self-taught architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, who lived nearby. His vision was to demonstrate that a naturally beautiful place could be developed without destroying that beauty. He took inspiration for his new village from the Italian fishing villages of the Mediterranean, rebuilt the derelict mansion Aber lâ and renamed it Portmeirion.
Clough’s new village opened in 1926 although additions continued right up until the 1970s. Many classical buildings were saved from demolition by being dismantled, brought here and rebuilt, including the beautiful Bristol colonnade, dating back to 1760, which had fallen into disrepair.
The buildings sit amidst wild and isolated headland of woodlands and manicured gardens, with the mountains and golden sands of this beautiful corner of Wales as a backdrop.
There is a surprise awaiting around every corner and you never know what you will find next - a lighthouse, a castle, a watchtower– you’ll find columns and cherubs, fountains and follies of all kinds here.
The magnificent Pantheon or Dome was introduced by Clough to rectify what he termed ‘a dome deficit’ and there is even a giant Buddha, salvaged from the set of the 1958 film The Inn of the Sixth Happiness. Aficianados of the 1960’s cult TV series The Prisoner will recognise the village as the place from which Patrick McGoohan, ‘Prisoner Number 6’ could not escape and today every year a Prisoner Convention brings devotees here.
There are no signs of ‘Rover’, the coercive balloon, bouncing down the streets, but you can visit the Prisoner Shop where you can buy a replica ‘Rover’, get yourself an ‘I Am Not A Number’ T-shirt, or a ‘Prisoner’ pair of socks. Look for the giant chess game, a scene from the series, which is often recreated in the central piazza.
There is plenty of natural beauty here too. Wander along twisting paths through the Y Gwyllt (The Wild Place) home to hidden delights such as the Ghost Garden and the Chinese Lake. Some of the largest trees in the area can be found here as you walk though exotic vegetation to the headland where you’ll find windswept beaches and fantastic views of the village and estuary. Add in a relaxing spa at the end of the day and you may not want to leave this most curious of places!