Drive around the Welsh coastline and you may just stumble upon a delightful surprise: Portmeirion, an Italian-style village that seems to both clash and simultaneously blend right into a land of castles, dragons, and gaily-dressed traditional Welsh ladies.
Enchanting and beguiling visitors since 1926, spend a few hours (or longer!) at Portmeirion and you, too, will probably find yourself falling under the village’s spell.
Here’s why you should add Portmeirion to your travels around Gwynedd, Wales, and even the UK as a whole:
Beautiful beginnings with a focus on tourism
Portmeirion was the brainchild and fantasy of an architect named Sir Clough Williams-Ellis. He wanted to show that it is entirely possible to develop an area of natural beauty in a way that complements, rather than destroys or degrades, the surroundings. With a strong Mediterranean twist, the village was always intended to be a site for tourism. Indeed, many of the buildings on the private peninsula were, and still are, places where guests can stay and enjoy the charms of the village.
Whilst some buildings were already present on the site, having been part of a previous estate, the buildings were given a new lease of life and several licks of paint! Other buildings were added, with some newly constructed, and others brought in from elsewhere as partial demolitions and relocations.
Gorgeous architecture that begs to be photographed!
The village may be fairly small, but thanks to slopes, arches, rocks, and other design details, the site actually feels more spread out than it is. The pastel colours, different sizes of buildings and windows within the buildings, stonework, and decorative touches, such as lanterns hanging outside doorways and paintings beneath archways, create a lovely place to simply wander and enjoy the ambience.
No two buildings are the same, and there are domes, balconies, patios, porches, and turrets, ensuring that no stretch of the roofline is the same. Buildings are from different time periods, with Gothic, Regency, and Jacobean amongst the styles on display.
There is a building that is meant to represent a Town Hall, complete with an ornate ceiling in the main hall that was painstakingly removed from another building and transported to Portmeirion. You will also see a church, cute cottages, a lighthouse, a gloriette, pavilions, and more!
Do note as you wander around that, to ensure the privacy of guests, some areas are off-bounds to non-residents.
Lovely gardens with colourful features
The gardens of Portmeirion are just as interesting as the quirky architecture. You can enjoy an abundance of colourful flowers and interesting plants, all complemented by fountains, statues, lampposts, and ponds. There are plenty of benches where you can rest for a while if the weather is fine.
If you’re feeling even more active, head into the surrounding woodland for some long walks in nature. A Victorian pet cemetery is amongst the more unusual sights you may come across when exploring the grounds.
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Watch out for the whimsies!
There are many whimsical features located around Portmeirion. As you wander along the path from the main entrance and pass beneath an archway, the arch will tell you the story of the village’s creation. Be educated by talking walls!
A golden Buddha is ensconced in a small elevated pavilion, mermaids are seen in several places, and decorative tiles depict interesting stories. Look up above what was the Welsh Wool Shop and you’ll see perhaps one of the most magnetic shop signs you’ve ever seen. A black sheep is suspended from the balcony! Even quirkier, however, is perhaps the fact that the balcony hosts a vibrant statue of St Peter reading the bible!
Easy access to the beach
The village of Portmeirion sits up on the cliffs overlooking the estuary of the Dwyryd River. At low tide, you can wander out onto the wide stretch of sand and paddle in the water. Sunny days are especially great for chilling out on the beach. The coastal views are nice at all times of the day. Do be aware that, for safety reasons, you are strongly advised to leave the beach in plenty of time before high tide. You will be informed of the times for high tide when you enter the site.
Eat, drink, sleep, and relax
Whilst Portmeirion can be visited as a day trip, many guests choose to spend some time in one of the cottages, villas, apartments, or hotel rooms available throughout the lovely village. With whimsical features, high standards of comfort, and engaging names, a stay at Portmeirion is sure to be charming!
There are several restaurants and cafes throughout Portmeirion, with an array of different cuisines on offer. You definitely won’t go hungry or thirsty! Grab a refreshing and cool ice gelato in Caffi'r Angel Ices, enjoy light bites like paninis and salads, as well as pasta dishes and pizzas at Caffi Glas, and visit the Town Hall Café and Hotel Dining Room for even more delicious fare. Feeling thirsty? Then unwind in the Town Hall’s lounge bar.
Grab some local gifts and souvenirs from one of the onsite shops. Portmeirion is especially known for is pottery. You’ll also find a shop dedicated to selling all things related to the British cult TV show The Prisoner, which was filmed at Portmeirion.
The village spa offers a selection of treatment and techniques – a perfect way to unwind after a day of sightseeing!
Practical information for visiting Portmeirion
If you want to enjoy the whimsical and eccentric village for more than just a few hours, check out the prices for the diverse accommodation options on the official website.
The admission charge for day guests to the village is 11 GBP (approximately 15.50 USD), with a charge of 8 GBP (approximately 11.30 USD) for children and 10 GBP (approximately 14.10 USD) for senior citizens and other concessions. Discounts are available for online bookings, and you can book up to a month in advance.
There is a large, free car park close to the main entrance of the village, and it is well-signposted around the local area.
Sometimes said to be one of the most fanciful and bizarre attractions in all of Wales, don’t miss paying a visit to Portmeirion!
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