Catarina, my youngest, is 8; Alexandra, my oldest, is 13 years older. Mostly, they (and I) have different favourites. However, Portmeirion, a fairytale seaside village in Northern Wales, is an exception. We all adored Portmeirion at first sight. It’s a crazy, beautiful place.
Going south from Caernarvon, our first stop is Porthmadog. Odd name, isn’t it? Nice enough little coastal town, though. In Notes from a Small Island, Bill Bryson stops by Porthmadog. Why he didn’t visit nearby Portmeirion is a mystery. Maybe he was discouraged by Welsh rain. Or maybe it’s so hidden away, he didn’t see it.
Portmeirion and the eccentric architect
The village was conceived by architect and conservationist Clough Williams-Ellis. Although architect is perhaps not the correct title. After 3 months in school, he decided he had learnt enough. Then, firmly believing a planned community could be beautiful, he began creating Portmeirion. It’s an absolute masterpiece and unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
We enter the village through a michelangelesque archway – reminiscent of the Sistine Chapel. After that everything is magic: a piazza with a pool, a fountain, golden statues on tall pedestals and heaps of flowers everywhere.
Houses with lofty bell towers, with odd little balconies, statues in niches along the walls, a colonnade, a Gothic pavilion, secret grottoes, a gazebo, a bandstand, gargoyles, a giant golden Buddha in a temple even. Flowers come in every imaginable colour. Tall firs, oaks, willows, a giant sycamore; all greener than green.
We visit just after a spell of rain. That could have something to do with the vibrancy of the hues. I’ve never seen such lush colours anywhere: the bright turquoise of the pools, houses painted in warm lavender, rich persimmon, shimmering cerise and golden honey, all the shades of the desert in the midday heat.
Portmeirion has been used as a set in a few films, most famously the 1960s’ series The Prisoner and The Laughing Prisoner from the 80s (with Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry). More recently, parts of the final episode of Cold Feet was filmed here.
The little village has attracted a host of famous people, writers in particular: Noel Coward, H.G. Wells and my countryman, explorer Thor Heyerdahl. Ingrid Bergman and the Beatles liked hanging about here as well.
It’s possible to stay in Portmeirion Hotel by the seashore; very nice for taking long walks along the beach at low tide. You can also stay in one of several cottages – quaintly named The Mermaid and White Horses – dotted around this fantastic little village. Or, you can stay in the slightly spooky-looking Castell Deudraeth in the woods immediately outside the village.
As we drive away, Castell Deudraeth looms in the rear view mirror. George Harrison celebrated a major birthday here. Hm… October might not be the best time, but my Halloween birthday could be suitably spooky in Portmeirion … something to think about.
When I was a child The Secret Garden was a favourite book, this place looks like it’s right off the pages.
Beautiful Sohie. Definitely fairy tale. I thought Wales was rather drab, thanks to you I now know otherwise.
Yes, the Welsh rain might be a bit discouraging – however, were I to visit, I am sure I would be expecting Patrick McGoohan as No.6 to appear around every corner.
@David – Oh, wow, you’ve seen The Prisoner! I’ve been trying to find it on DVD, but no luck so far.
Yes, It’s weird, over-the-top, hallucinogenic, and great acting.
Love the colors of the place. It really does look like something from a fairytale. Nice work on the shots and write up.
Looks so charming! I just love the colours and style of architecture. Wales would be very interesting to visit
[…] of the UK, Sophie’s World has a photo essay on Portmeirion, Wales. Looks […]
Beautiful photos 🙂
It does seem like the perfect place, almost like a fairy-tale.
Loved the photos and story. Thanks for sharing !
What a great set of photos and a lovely story. I wouldn’t have guessed Wales in a million years glancing at the top picture.
Wales hasn’t been on my radar, but your photos are gorgeous. So nice to find a place that you all enjoyed.
I can definitely see why you all agree on this one! This village is charming, beautiful and is calling me to visit. Never heard of Portmeirion before so I am very glad you shared this beauty with us all.
Wales! I love Wales- and this seems like something I would adore. Must remember this place when we head to England in the fall.
Such an interesting and unusual place. You wouldn’t expect to find it in Wales. I heard of Portmeirion before because of The Prisoner series — I was a big fan of Patrick McGoohan and that show when I was very young. (I’ve the the DVD set, too!) Great to see all of your photos.
Looks like something out of a fairy tale.
Thanks for another great week of Travel Photo Thursday.
What a wonderful place. It looks like it comes right out of a fairy tale novel. Almost expect to see fairy tale characters running around. As a child it would have been wonderful to get lost in a place like this. However, since I am still a ‘child’ I could still get carried away to an enchanted world! Thank you for sharing.
i SO want to go!! the colors and shapes are magical! i assume this is where portmeirion dishes are from? beautiful!
@Jessie – Yes, this is where Portmeirion kitchenware is from. I meant to buy some, but decided against, since it would be too heavy to lug around. Gorgeous china, though.
This is just beautiful. How haven’t I heard of this place…?
I’m with Louise – I’m English and haven’t even heard of it. Looks absolutely stunning, like a fairy-tale. I’m sooo going to Wales now!
What a find! Had never heard of this place but it is on my list now. No wonder ‘kids of all ages’ would agree that it is a pretty fantastic destination.