Travellers guide to visiting Portmeirion Village by travel blogger Suzanne Tam.
Portmeirion is an Italian village in the pretty North Walian town of Penrhyndeudraeth. It’s a world-famous site and the most visited attraction in North Wales.
Sir Clough Williams-Ellis designed Portmeirion and the village took almost 50 years to complete. The architect took his inspiration from the Mediterranean and the site was constructed in the style of an Italian coastal village. Although Williams-Ellis was born in England, his father was Welsh. When the architect was 4 years old, his family moved back to his father’s home town in North Wales. Portmeirion is perhaps the most famous of all Williams-Ellis’ works, but he’s responsible for a long list of designs across the UK, Ireland, South Africa and China.
The architect’s vision for Portmeirion was to ensure it fitted in with the surrounding countryside and, as strange as it sounds, it does. The village name roughly translates as ‘port’ – from the location of the village, and ‘Meirion’, which is the seat of the old county of Meirionydd (now Gwynedd). This is clearly a good thing as PortGwyn doesn’t really have the same romantic ring to it.
The village covers quite an expanse of space. It has a wonderful piazza, complete with a beautiful Gothic pavilion in the middle. It includes a statue of Friga, the Goddess of Friday, Siamese twins, and a statue of Hercules.
The first I heard of Portmeirion was when I told my Mum I was moving to North Wales. She instantly recalled a TV show she watched as a child called ‘The Prisoner’. The show seemed to involve a man (Patrick McGoohan or ‘Prisoner No 6) being chased through the village by a large killer balloon. I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of this at the time, if I’m being perfectly honest.
When I relocated to Wales, I realised Portmeirion was just a few miles from home. I often spotted the colourful buildings across the estuary on my way to work and decided to get a closer look.
I have to admit that the time of year was less than ideal (I visited in winter). Although largely was crowd free, there were few of the bright rhododendrons and flowers the village is famous for. Meticulously painted in an array of pastel shades, the buildings looked slightly dull in the winter weather. It’s still impressive, regardless of the time of year but, if you can, wait until spring or summer. Wandering on winding paths leading to the ornate town square is quite a surreal feeling when you realise you’re in rural North Wales.
What I wasn’t aware of before my first visit is that Portmeirion is much more than just a pretty village. It boasts a hotel, self-catering cottages, restaurant, spa, ice cream parlour, café, and souvenir stores.
Portmeirion has seen countless celebrity faces over the years. As well as being famous as the set of ‘The Prisoner’, it played roles in Cold Feet and Dr Who. It’s also been the setting for music videos by Iron Maiden, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Supergrass.
One of my colleagues used to work in admin offices at Portmeirion and fondly recounts a tale of looking out her window one day. She was greeted by the sight of silver spray-painted man being chased around by a giant ball… If that doesn’t make you want to visit, I honestly don’t know what will.
Adult tickets for the site are £12. For details on opening dates and times, visit Portmeirion’s website.
Portmeirion also hosts the annual Festival No. 6 in the village, as well as a Food and Craft Fair. For further details of these and other events, visit the events page on the website.