Portmeirion is a much-loved Italianate-style fantasy village near Porthmadog, North Wales. A day out at Portmeirion is the perfect day trip in North Wales. A wonderful day out for the whole family.
You know what a folly is, right? A piece of decorative and completely indulgent architecture which serves no real purpose beyond pleasing its author and those who pass it. A faux-gothic tower at the bottom of the garden, a whimsical-Rapunzel tower, an ornamental rotunda done in Greek temple style.
Well, Portmeirion is a whole village of such follies, designed by Welsh Architect Clough Williams-Ellis in the early 20th century. The architectural equivalent of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, it is a collection of Riviera-inspired houses, ornamental gardens and – Wonka fans you might want to hum it – a world of pure imagination. It really is the perfect day trip in North Wales.
It is the place where cult 1960s TV series The Prisoner was filmed, starring Patrick McGoohan as ‘Number Six’. Portmeirion also sells pottery of the same name, with a ‘pottery seconds’ shop as well as a fab gift shop. Oh, and as music fans will know, for the last few years Portmeirion has hosted the fantastic Festival Number 6.
The Portmeirion Dream
Portmeirion was Clough’s dream for more than thirty years. As the story goes, even as a small boy, Clough was determined to be an architect. More precisely, he decided at a very young age that one day he would choose a site and build a group of buildings purely for his own satisfaction.
The result is this beautiful jumble of wonderfully coloured Italian-style buildings – think ochre, blue, muted reds and pastels – which sit nestled into a hillside on a wooded peninsula overlooking the sea. It’s mind-blowingly incongruous, a little bit barmy, and utterly intriguing.
Your admission fee (£12 for adults or £10.50 concessions) buys you a full day out. Buy online via the Portmeirion website and you can get a 10% discount.
Our Portmeirion Highlights
The centrepiece of Portmeirion, look out for Riviera inspired houses, ornamental garden and magnificent Italian-style bell tower. Your first sight of the village, this is a riot of form and colour. Check out the giant chess board and enjoy the scent of rose-planted alleys. If you have an Instagram account you’re going to be busy.
The Ice Cream
You can’t have a decent day out without an ice cream! We say ice cream, but of course we mean Italian-style gelato, made on site, in Portmeirion village. Head to the Caffi’r Angel for a retro-style cafe experience, and the most delicious gelato including the heavenly bara brith flavour. Great coffee and cakes here too.
The Hotel Portmeirion
Clough Williams-Ellis wanted Portmeirion to be a tourist destination, and the Hotel Portmeirion was designed to be its waterfront hub. Outside, kids can play pirates in the Amis Reunis, a stone sculpture of an old ketch or sail-boat. Enjoy lunch or a splendid afternoon tea on the terrace overlooking the sea. You’ll be hard-pushed to find a better view in the UK.
This pretty little plaza is home to guest accommodation, including an aromatherapy spa and a café with outdoor tables on the cobbles – a great spot to grab a coffee, Mediterranean-style. The Round House, the cottage where Number Six lived in The Prisoner, is now a shop selling nostalgic memorabilia.
The Gwyllt Woodland
The Gwyllt is a ten-hectare woodland which includes an Edwardian wild garden designed by Caton Haigh, a world authority on Himalayan flowering trees and exotic plants. The woodland is lit up by camellias, rhododendrons, azaleas and magnolia and maidenhair trees at various times throughout the year.
They were a talented family. Clough Williams-Ellis’s daughter Susan, a ceramics designer, first sold her designs in Portmeirion. In 1960, she took over a Stoke-on-Trent pottery and named it after dad’s village. There are a few shops selling pottery on site, including a Portmeirion ‘seconds’ shop. If you like earthenware and kitchen ware, you’ll love the Portmeirion gift shops.
As if that wasn’t enough the perfect day trip in North Wales also includes a beach. Portmeirion is built overlooking the estuary of the River Dwyryd near Porthmadog. At low tide there is a vast expanse of sand extending well out into the estuary, and it’s a lovely walk – close to shore – with beautiful views in every direction. Be careful though – this beach is home to fast-moving tides and quick sand mud flats.Tempting though it may look, we don’t recommend walking across the estuary.