With stunning coastlines, rugged mountains and castles aplenty, Wales has plenty of delights for visitors. But one of the country’s most charming places is easily the village of Portmeirion, located close to the town of Porthmadog. Designed by architect Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1976, Portmeirion is best known as the filming location for iconic TV series The Prisoner and still remains a popular visitor destination.
It’s obvious that Portmeirion is a little bit different when you see the first road signs directing the way towards it. Instead of the traditional brown tourist attraction signs, the village has its own ornate versions which provide a hint of things to come. On arrival, you find yourself driving down a winding road past a hotel until you reach a fairly large car park. Car parks are never particularly inspiring and Portmeirion’s is no different, but things improve rapidly once you pass through the admission gates.
An individual adult ticket costs £11 on the gate (it’s £10 if you book online in advance) and there are other options available for families and regular visitors. This is much changed from Portmeirion’s early days as the village’s admission fee could increase during the day if Williams-Ellis felt it was getting too crowded as he wanted to ensure visitors felt relaxed!
Your entrance ticket includes helpful information such as the opening times of the various shops and cafés in the village along with the time of high tide and a Wifi password to help you plan your day. A map is also provided although wandering aimlessly is just as fun as searching out specific sights.
Quirky and interesting buildings and features lie around every corner and there is such much to explore; pictures are the only way to truly showcase the beauty of Portmeirion. Forest paths are also located around the village if you fancy a stroll and there is also the beach – except during high tide! Shops and cafés are dotted around, and there are also restaurants within the hotels for more substantial meals.
There are two things that strike you about Portmeirion: the serenity and the climate. Its peaceful and relaxed atmosphere is probably down to the fact that it’s solely a holiday resort and has no permanent residents, while the mild climate makes it feel like you’re in a Mediterranean village – not North Wales!
Thanks to the fairy tale buildings and exotic gardens it could, with a little stretch of the imagination, be seen as a Welsh version of Disneyland – just without the rides. In fact, one of Clough Williams-Ellis’ inspirations for Portmeirion was Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens: a place which also struck a chord with a certain Walt Disney.
But, despite some similarities with other locations, Portmeirion remains very much its own place with a serenity not found at other attractions. Clough WIlliams-Ellis’ main aim was to show that a naturally beautiful spot could be developed without spoiling it – and he definitely achieved it.
Portmeirion, Minffordd, Penrhyndeudraeth, Gwynedd, Wales, LL48 6ER.
Looking for more things to do in Snowdonia? See my guide to climbing Snowdon.