Address: Minffordd, Penrhyndeudraeth, Gwynedd LL48 6ER

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Phone: +44 (0) 1766 770000

 

Portmeirion History

Portmeirion is the well documented brainchild of architect Clough Williams-Ellis who bought the site in 1925 for under £5,000. Its original name was Aber Ia (Glacial Estuary), and the first change of his was to rename it Portmeirion. ‘Port’ due to its coastal setting and ‘Meirion’ from Merioneth, the county it lay in. It lies on the estuary of the River Dwyryd.

The design is based on Italian architecture, with the Italian town of Portofino thought to be an inspiration.

It was built in two stages. The initial part saw the most distinctive buildings erected and this was between 1925 and 1939. From 1954-76, the village was completed with many of the new buildings contrasting both in colour and style to the original ones.

The area had originally been a foundry and a boatyard in the 18th century and became a private estate in the middle of the 19th century. In constructing Portmeirion, Williams-Ellis incorporated four buildings from the existing estate viz. ‘White Horses’, ‘The Salutation’, ‘Mermaid’ and the hotel, the latter being the main residence of the original estate.

The village is now run as a Charitable Trust and is open for daily or weekly stays in either the hotel or in self-catering accommodation.

It had wide exposure in the 60’s and 70’s when it was the setting for the television series ‘The Prisoner’. It’s also been used for location filming many times over the years.

 

Portmeirion Visit

Whether or not you enjoy Portmeirion depends pretty much on what excites you. If you enjoy bungee jumping and playing football, it may seem a little sedate, but if you’re the type that prefers museums and watching sport, rather than playing, you’d probably love it. That said, there are enough walks within the site to tire out most people, and if you venture onto the giant sandbanks, you could walk for hours.

It’s certainly quaint, and one reason for this may be the limited public access within the grounds. There are a host of buildings, but all the houses you see seem to have the word ‘private’ on the gate. You don’t actually see anyone living in them, which seems bizarre, but I suppose if residents are there, they stay out of sight as you wouldn’t want 1,000 people looking through your window when you’re having lunch!

The place would certainly be  more interesting if you could wander in and out of the houses, or even just the odd house. But it would then lose a large amount of its quaintness and become more of a normal attraction, relying less on the facades currently on offer. The non or limited access to the private houses could have evolved over the years and may be something the site is now stuck with.

Summer obviously brings out the best in most places and when the sun’s out here, the colours come in to their own. For many, sitting here in the sun with a drink would be paradise.

It’s a site that’s quite heavy on the commercial side. Apart from the free film show, all accessible buildings seem to sell something, be it meals, drinks, ice cream, jams, pottery, paintings, toys etc. This may, to a degree, be to compensate for the upkeep as it could be fairly high in a place like this. I’m sure the painters are busy in winter!

The film show is interesting and takes the site through the early years to present day, with much of the narration by Clough Williams-Ellis himself. This goes beyond the normal precis of similar sites as much of the information expressed relate to his thoughts, inspiration and fulfilment.

The woodland walks are secluded and pleasant and form two loops, both indicated on the map provided. The colours and aromas in the summer are special and it’s a great place to relax and switch off from the outside world. Each loop takes from 30 minutes upwards, and could last hours if you wish. There are a few things to see along the way, but you get the feeling that they’re trying to make the most out of the woodland area, and almost something out of nothing.

There are a couple of swings and slides nearer the village and this should keep the small kids happy as there’s not much for them to do in the village apart from the paddling pool and ice cream. Further into the woodland there’s a summer house, a dog’s cemetery and a ghost garden. The summer house looks across a small lake and is a lovely setting. The dog’s cemetery is probably special to dog owners and adds to the quaintness. The ghost garden is disappointing, it has to be said. After walking for about 10 minutes along a beaten track, the path just seems to form a loop around a piece of scrub, which appears no different to that of the surrounding area. For the first time in your life, you’d almost welcome a guy in a white cloak with an axe in one hand and his head in the other walking around the corner!

A word of warning with the walks, take a map and get frequent bearings along the way. There were plenty of people looking lost and asking directions.

The sandbank area must be very flat as the tide goes out for miles. This produces a wonderful place to walk at low tide, viewing Portmeirion from a distance and taking in the sea air. Careful if you wander too far from shore as the tide will come in very quickly. Get good local advice on this.

All in all, if you want a relaxing time on a warm summer’s day, I couldn’t think of anywhere better!