Magical Portmeirion

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.

Portmeirion1, Wales

Going south from Caernarfon, 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.

Portmeirion2, Wales Portmeirion3, Wales

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.

Portmeirion4, Wales Portmeirion5, Wales

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.

Portmeirion6, Wales Portmeirion7, Wales

Portmeirion8, Wales Portmeirion9, Wales

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.

Portmeirion10, Wales

Portmeirion11, Wales Portmeirion12, Wales

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.

Portmeirion13, Wales Portmeirion14, Wales

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.

Portmeirion15, Wales Portmeirion16, Wales

Portmeirion17, Wales Castell Deudraeth, Portmeirion, Wales

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.

Portmeirion18, Wales

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  1. Ayngelina 4 April 2011 at 1825 - Reply

    When I was a child The Secret Garden was a favourite book, this place looks like it’s right off the pages.

  2. inka 13 May 2011 at 1309 - Reply

    Beautiful Sohie. Definitely fairy tale. I thought Wales was rather drab, thanks to you I now know otherwise.

  3. David from Quillcards 13 May 2011 at 1356 - Reply

    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.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 13 May 2011 at 1414 - Reply

      @David – Oh, wow, you’ve seen The Prisoner! I’ve been trying to find it on DVD, but no luck so far.

  4. David from Quillcards 13 May 2011 at 1419 - Reply

    Yes, It’s weird, over-the-top, hallucinogenic, and great acting.

  5. Randy 13 May 2011 at 2239 - Reply

    Love the colors of the place. It really does look like something from a fairytale. Nice work on the shots and write up.

  6. Andrea 14 May 2011 at 0103 - Reply

    Looks so charming! I just love the colours and style of architecture. Wales would be very interesting to visit

  7. Sunday Travel Reads for May 15, 2011 | |: Travel Via Words :| 16 May 2011 at 0306 - Reply

    […] of the UK, Sophie’s World has a photo essay on Portmeirion, Wales. Looks […]

  8. Muza-chan 19 May 2011 at 1338 - Reply

    Beautiful photos 🙂

  9. Sensibletraveler 19 May 2011 at 1433 - Reply

    It does seem like the perfect place, almost like a fairy-tale.

  10. RyukyuMike 19 May 2011 at 1452 - Reply

    Loved the photos and story. Thanks for sharing !

  11. Leigh 19 May 2011 at 1623 - Reply

    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.

  12. Laurel 19 May 2011 at 2133 - Reply

    Wales hasn’t been on my radar, but your photos are gorgeous. So nice to find a place that you all enjoyed.

  13. 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.

  14. jade 20 May 2011 at 0457 - Reply

    Wales! I love Wales- and this seems like something I would adore. Must remember this place when we head to England in the fall.

  15. Cathy Sweeney 20 May 2011 at 1829 - Reply

    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.

  16. Nancie 22 May 2011 at 0042 - Reply

    Looks like something out of a fairy tale.

    Thanks for another great week of Travel Photo Thursday.

  17. Kerry-Ann 24 May 2011 at 0630 - Reply

    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.

  18. wandering educators 25 May 2011 at 1859 - Reply

    i SO want to go!! the colors and shapes are magical! i assume this is where portmeirion dishes are from? beautiful!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 26 May 2011 at 1248 - Reply

      @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.

  19. Louise H. 26 May 2011 at 1421 - Reply

    This is just beautiful. How haven’t I heard of this place…?

  20. Tim 7 June 2011 at 1042 - Reply

    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!

  21. Jackie Smith 16 November 2012 at 1521 - Reply

    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.

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