If there were awards for ‘unique’ places to visit in Wales, then the village of Portmeirion would surely be in the running for a prize. Portmeirion is located in the county of Gwynedd in North West Wales, a county which is known for its large Welsh speaking population. The village was developed as a hotel resort and visitor attraction in the 20th century by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis.
Dubbed a ‘fantasy’ village by Visit Wales, Portmeirion was built in a Mediterranean style, perhaps also influenced by Portofino in Italy. The design and building incorporated remains of demolished buildings and the work of a number of architects. The result is a range of quirky colourful buildings and other features, gardens full of exotic plants, along with beaches, shops, a tea room, cafés and restaurants. There are also 70 acres of woodland surrounding the village with a choice of woodland trails and coastal walks you can follow.
Visitors wanting to explore this special place can either stay in the village, or pay an entry fee as a day visitor. If you want to stay in the village there is a choice between 17 self-catering cottages, which sleep 3-8 people, or the Hotel Portmeirion and Castell Devdraeth. First opened in 1926, these two buildings house a four star hotel operation, offering bed and breakfast, or dinner bed and breakfast to its guests. If you choose either option you could get a parking permit for the length of your stay, or receive transport from train or bus stops into the village. Day visitors can explore the village between 9.30am and 7.30pm. Discounted entry is available after 3.30pm, and during the winter months. Car parking is provided close to the village entrance, and this, along with the entrance fee, helps control visitor numbers and traffic.
250,000 people visit the village each year, to explore the grounds and gardens of the hotel, the beaches, and the woodland, and there are guided tours available for groups. You can book a tour of the woodland and gardens, or find out more about Clough Williams-Ellis and the development of the village on an architectural tour.
Although the nature of the village itself, its design, location, and facilities, are an attractive prospect for visitors on their own, Portmeirion has also become one of the top visitor attractions in Wales, thanks to 1960’s television show ‘The Prisoner’. The cult show filmed many of its exterior shots in the village. A Prisoner themed souvenir shop, fan conventions, and unchanged filming locations continue to attract fans to Portmeirion. This is by no means the only link to film and television, but it’s the most well-known, and has helped this unique part of Wales become an inspiration for many writers and producers.
Look at the images available of the village, and you’ll begin to understand why it has been such an inspiration, and a mecca for visitors since it opened, but to truly experience its character and charm, you have to pay a visit yourself.