Clough Williams-Ellis built Portmeirion from 1925 to 1975 on a peninsula off the coast of Snowdonia. His italinate designed village and gardens was to demonstrate how a naturally beautiful site could be developed without spoiling it. Its quite an unusual place to visit and worthwhile seeking out this remote part of Wales.
Its possible to stay in the village - at a price though - many of the buildings are available for rent and just above the entrance is a castle hotel. Portmeirion also won the Wales Tourist Board's Best Place to Stay in Wales award - certainly unique don't you think.
Hotel Portmeirion has 14 rooms in main building and 26 rooms and suites in the village
plus 17 self-catering cottages sleeping from 2 to 8 people
The Castell Deudraeth has 11 contemporary styles rooms and suites
Hotel Portmeirion is beautifully situated on the estuary front and was the original mansion of Aber Iâ. It was built around 1850 and first described by Richard Richards in 1861 as "one of the most picturesque of all the summer residences to be found on the sea-coast of Wales.” This would be my choice of place to stay in Portmeirion. Famous guests here include H.G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, Bertrand Russell, Noël Coward and Sir Kenneth Clark.
When we arrived at Portmeirion we had an hour to walk on the sandbar before it was too dangerous to do so (they recommend that you leave the sandbar three hours before high tide to avoid the quick sand). So, we walked around out on the sandbar for a while, then walked around in the gardens for a while. We found the playground and a couple of ponds. My son made some friends on the playground.
After that we decided we weren't hungry enough for lunch and had an ice cream instead. We watched the Portmeirion video (not really worth the time if you had the book, IMHO), did some shopping and sat in the garden.
The short history of Portmeirion - Clough Williams-Ellis on a peninsula off the coast of Snowdonia to show how 'the development of a naturally beautiful site need not lead to its defilement'. It is owned by a Registered Charity called The Second Portmeirion Foundation and managed by Portmeirion Limited. The BBC did an 80th anniversary show in 2006.
There is a pottery which was taken over and renamed the Portmeirion Pottery by Susan Williams-Ellis and husband Euan Cooper-Willis in 1960. Patrick McGoohan's television series The Prisoner was filmed on location at Portmeirion in 1966-67.
Portmeirion is open 365 days a year from 9.30am to 5.30pm. The village shops are open from 10.00am to 5.30pm and the Town Hall self-service restaurant is open from 10.00am to 5.00pm.
Castell Deudraeth Bar & Grill is open from 11.00am to 11.00pm every day.
The Hotel Portmeirion Dining Room is open for lunch and dinner daily except Monday lunchtime. The dining room is often booked for wedding functions on Saturdays.
Charges 2006 - 2007 are as follows:
Children under 4 free of charge
No dogs allowed (guide dogs excepted)
Always check tide times as printed on addmission tickets and never venture onto estuary sands within 2 hours of next high tide.
Grab a leaflet and walk one of the suggested routes through the surrounding woodland. There is a brilliant collection of plants and some are labelled for information - some really old Rhodedendrons and some more unusual plants like Ginko Biloba. There's also the pets cemetry and ghost garden. We tried to follow the leaflet map but must admit to getting lost - although it's great fun asking other walkers for directions to the tinkling tree or something. The whole area feels a little bit magical.
The Village is built to overlook the stunning estuary of the River Dwyryd. The estuary is noticeably long and sandy, making Portmeirion almost a beach resort. There's also a emerald green island sitting out in the sands of the estuary, although it might be risky to try and walk to it, due to the deadly quicksands.
The Gothic Pavillion was gifted to Portmeirion from Nerquis Hall in Flintshire, the owners of which felt it was a wart on an otherwise beautiful facade. Sir Clough Williams-Ellis took pity on the unwanted structure, and had it rebuilt to front the piazza in the centre of the village.
The ground in front of the Pavillion was used as the giant game of chess in The Prisoner.
The Pantheon was a late addition to the Village. In the 1950s Sir Clough Williams-Ellis decided there weren't enough domes in Portmeirion, so he remedied this with the construction of the Pantheon. It's the closest Portmeirion has ever come to having a church, but Clough refused to turn it over to religious uses. He declared himself strictly neutral.
In The Prisoner the building was known as The Green Dome, and was home to Number 2, the chief adminstrator of the Village.
The Bell Tower was intended to be the centre-piece of the village - a high profile building that would alert people to what was happening in the Village. As Sir Clough Williams-Ellis said of the Bell Tower: "It was imperative that I should open my performance with a dramatic gesture of some sort."
The Bell Tower also rescued a piece of a building from London. The chiming turret clock was taken from a demolished factory in London, and marked the hour every day in Portmeirion from the first day.
The Colonnade in Portmeirion is even older than the village itself. And no, it didn't sit all alone until the Village was built up around it. The clue to solving this mystery is in the name itself: Bristol Colonnade. It was originally built in that city in the 18th century, nearly a hundred years before the first brick of Portmeirion was laid. But in the 1950s the Colonnade was transfered to North Wales, piece by piece, and restored in all its glory next to the newly revamped Piazza.
Like much of Portmeirion, the Bridge House offers an illusion. Its tapering walls makes the house seem bigger than it is. The bridge is the gateway to the Village, and passing through it brings you from the ordinary, the car park, to the extraordinary, the eccentric Italianate village crammed onto a Welsh hillside.
Originally a tennis court, the area at the centre of the village was turned into a serene piazza. It's overlooked by the Gloriette, whose columns and arches resemble its namesake at Schonbrunn palace in Vienna. This, like much of Portmeirion, is a fraud. The trompe d'oeil windows are flanked by two-dimensional cardboard cherub statues. It's not a building at all, but simply a facade. You even have to crouch to enter the grand arches at its feet.
Portmeirion is surrounded by fantastic woodlands where you can follow the waymarked trails and enjoy the natural beauty this area has on offer. On entering Portmeirion Village you will be given a map of the area which also includes a map of the woodland walks which take you past some ornate fishponds with japenese bridges & Gazebo's. The climate is very mild here so you will find a wide variety of plants, shrubs and trees growing here. It is an oasis for wildlife and nature lovers alike.
There is a lovely coastal path at the foot of the village which goes past the Portmeirion Hotel, a model of a stone boat then towards the observatory tower on the headland. There are lots of pretty floral displays along the way together and plenty of benches if you fancy a rest or are looking for somewhere to eat your picnic.
Portmeirion is one of North Wales' popular tourist attractions. The Village is privately owned and run by a charitable trust. Visitors are only allowed to visit the Village during the day unless they are lucky enough to be staying in one of the charming cottages or the waterfront Portmeirion Hotel.
The buildings in Portmeirion are similar to those on the Ligurian coast of Italy. Many of the features and architectural styles of the buildings and colors are only seen in that part of the world. Some of Portmeirion's buildings have been dismantled, brought to this location, and rebuilt. Others have been purpose designed by its architect, Sir Clough Williams-Ellis to compliment the whole effect.
Once you have paid the entry fee you are free to wander around the paths and gardens and soak up the ambience.
Admission Charges for 2009;
Adult - £7.50
Concessions - £6.00
Children - £4.00
Half price entry after 15:30
Opening times; 09.30 - 19.30
The Colonnade was built about 1760 and formerly stood before a bathhouse in Bristol, England. It was falling into decay when the structure was relocated to Portmeirion. Several hundred tons of delicate masonry were disassembled and transported to Portmeirion with every stone numbered, and replaced according to precise measurements.