We doubt you’ll feel like a Prisoner on a visit here – more like a visitor to the Italian Lakes.
Portmerion is a Welsh village. All of it is the vision of architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis. He wanted to show how a beautiful site, basically a big steep hill overlooking the sea, could be developed without spoiling it. His motto was Cherish the past, adorn the present, construct for the future. It was built in two stages – from 1925 to 1939 the site was ‘pegged-out’ and its most distinctive buildings were erected. From 1954-76 he filled in the details
We arrived at the car park which is basically at the top of the steep hill. The entrance is there. Your main route through the village effectively snakes you through it. Most of the buildings are painted in bold colours, deep reds, yellows and blues. A number of gardens with plenty of benches to sit on and water fountains to gaze at are peppered throughout the site. There’s also the iconic chess board which we’re told was only put there after the famous scenes from the TV series the prisoner. We defy anyone not to want to start moving the pieces around.
If you are lucky enough to go on a day like we did when the sun was shining and it was gloriously warm, the architecture and feel of the place is very much like being beside Lake Como. At the bottom of the hill is the hotel that boasts an outdoor pool. Again on a sunny day you just want to dive in – sadly unless you’re a guest you can’t.
One of things we weren’t expecting was the wonderful walks in the land around the main village complex. We basically saw them on the map we were given on entry and decided to do them. Not only were the paths well maintained and easy to walk on, the views and scenery were incredible and periodically you come across a garden. The Japanese temple area with its various pools was a particular favourite. It also got us away from the crowds and made the whole visit much more of a day trip than just something to fill a few hours.
The site’s been used for a number of filming locations so whether you want to see where number 6 was so desperate to leave in the 1960s show The Prisoner or where Adam scattered Rachels ashes into the sea during the finale of Cold Feet in 2003 there’s plenty to spot.
All the buildings at Portmeirion are Grade 1 or 2 listed. During our visit for the day we realised that many of them are self catering cottages or hotel rooms and suites. We imagine staying there is an even more surreal experience as you get to enjoy the place when the hundreds of tourists have gone home – you may even get a game on that chess set.
Get there for opening to avoid the crowds
Make sure you walk the woodlands
Don’t bother buying the China unless you particularly like it. It doesn’t capture any of the essence of the place and is make in Stoke on Trent!
Adult admission to Portmeirien is £15 (2021 prices) but you can get in for free by booking for lunch or afternoon tea at some the hotels. Portmeirien village is open daily from 9.30am to 6.30pm although times can vary in different seasons.
LOCATION & MAP
Address: Portmeirion, Minffordd, Penrhyndeudraeth, Gwynedd, LL48 6ER
Tel: +44 1766 770000