Newest Review: ... the whole day if you get there as it opens and stay till it closes that is good value! There are family tickets and if yiu arrive after 3.3... more
An Eccentric's Gift To Future Generations
Member Name: catsholiday
Advantages: A beautiful place and one man's dream creation
Disadvantages: It can be expensive to eat there and stay in the accommodation in the village
Portmeirion is a sort of model village where no one lives but you can stay in various cottages or the hotel when visiting. The village is in Gwynedd, North Wales and was designed and built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1975. Strangely as it is on the Welsh shore he chose to design this village in the style of an Italian village. It is now a very popular tourist attraction managed by and owned by a charitable trust.
SIR CLOUGH WILLIAM- ELLIS
Clough William-Ellis was an architect and obviously a very wealthy man as well as rather eccentric in my view.
If you search on Wikipedia his name brings up the most amazing number of places he was responsible for designing so he was pretty prolific. He not only designed places in the UK but also overseas too in places like South Africa and New York. Portmeirion was his own dream, his desire to create something that was his idea of perfection. He always said that a building should not only be functional but it should be beautiful too and that is what he wanted to prove with this village.
He owned the land which in itself must have been worth a small fortune and he then bought Castle Dreudraeth in 1931 to extend the village and this property also gave the village a driveway to the main road.
What I found stunning was that he appeared to have no real formal architectural training. This I quote from Wikipedia "After a few months at the Architectural Association in London in 1903/4 (which he located by looking up "Architecture" in the London telephone directory) he worked for an architect for a few short months before setting up his own practice in London."
How many people would go from that to becoming the popular and famous architect that he did?
He didn't leave this earth quietly either; he went in style at his own request his ashes were incorporated into a large rocket firework which was set off over the Portmeirion estuary in a New Years Eve celebration some time after his death in 1978.
Portmeirion is open every day of the year from 9.30am to 7.30pm for daily visitors. If you are staying in the village of course you are still free to wander around the village all night should you wish. Apparently over 250,000 visitors come to the village every year. Most just for the day but many stay in the village at the hotel or in one of the cottages like we did.
Parking is just outside the village and is free of charge. There are also free guided tours should you want one as well as an audio visual show which sadly we missed as we only found this out as we were checking out!
It costs £9 for adults and £6 for children 4-16 and that is for the whole day if you get there as it opens and stay till it closes that is good value! There are family tickets and if yiu arrive after 3.30pm then it is half price.
The whole village seems to be now Grade II listed, each individual building has its own listing and this happened in 1971.
PLACES TO SPEND MONEY IN THE VILLAGE
There are six cafes or restaurants in the village and if you are planning on eating there please read my reviews on The Terrace Self service Cafe and Castle Dreudraeth. Some of the cafes are closed in the winter months and both the hotel restaurant and Castle Dreudraeth are quite expensive.
There are also a few shops in the village selling gifts and souvenirs.
'The Battery Square' coffee shop was not open when we were there which a shame as it looked quite nice was. The cafe is on the ground floor of Toll House which was built by Clough in 1929. This is a sort of New England looking house with weatherboard cladding and a sort of lookout tower at the top. Apparently Clough described this as "that black weather boarded thing, looking rather Norwegian." This was one of the first buildings built as part of a group around Battery Square.
'The Ship Shop' was just below our room and sold a mixture of souvenirs and gifts and had a section for china with a good range of Portmeirion pottery too. This building is one of the three buildings which were on the site before Clough began building his beautiful village. This was originally the stable block for the Aber I‚ estate and was built around 1850.
The 'Golden Dragon Bookshop' as the name suggests mainly has books and is situated in Neptune Cottage which is one of the first cottages built by Clough and sits as one of a pair of cottages , the other is Mermaid Cottage and they are just in front of the main swimming pool. They were both built by by the end of 1926 and in were always used as an extension of the hotel for guests as they are today.
The strangely named 'Pot Jam Shop' is a small shop that sells conserves and also cooking equipment at a price. This little shop is on the ground floor of the Trinity building which was built between 1933 and 1934. This building has accommodation above and the shop was originally garage parking. This shop is the only on with a licence so you can buy Portmeirion champagne with a label designed by Clough himself here also at a price!
'The Prisoner Shop' unsurprisingly sells souvenirs of Portmeirion and the famous series 'The Prisoner' which was filmed here. The shop is in a building called The Round House which was one of the later buildings completed in 1959. This was used in the series 'The Prisoner' as Patrick McGoohan's as Number Six's residence in The Prisoner. The interiors however were filmed at MGM's studios as the inside is really too small.
STARING ROLES OF THE VILLAGE
The most famous is of course the series 'The Prisoner' which really made the village well known in the world beyond Wales. It is probably responsible for its popularity in the 60s and 70s. Today it is famous in its own right and many people have never even heard of the series.
Apparently ( also taken from Wikipedia) Clough wrote of the Prisoner, "Patrick McGoohan's ingenious and indeed mysterious television series The Prisoner...stands alone for its revealing presentation of the place. When seen in colour at the local cinema, a performance he kindly arranged, Portmeirion itself seemed, to me, at least, to steal the show from its human cast."
He was not a modest man either it seems and was very proud of his village. According to a book I read while we were staying in the village his wife said he was just so pleased to be able to do exactly as he liked rather than compromising when others were paying the bill and Portmeirion is truly his creation,
The film 'Kipps' had scenes shot here, a 'Dr Who' episode in 1976, an episode of 'Treasure Hunt in 1983 with Anneka Rice, scenes from 'Brideshead Revisited' in 1981 and so many more including a Renault advertisement and an interview with the Beatles with Jools Holland. The list is long and very varied and on the website they advertise the costs for using the place as a location should you be interested in making a film there.
If I went through every building and little item of interest this would be a very long review so I shall pick a few things that really took my eye.
Firstly if you are visiting the village don't forget to walk into the wilder wooded areas beyond the village as they are truly beautiful and offer a change from the actual village especially if you want to escape crowds.
My favourite building, that is hard as they are so different but I loved the buildings high on the sort of cliff edge by the shore as they climbed up and up and you can go through little archways and this leads to another place you can stay or just a view over the estuary. You can go in and up and around and down through all sorts of little paths and archways and everywhere you turn you see some quirky little statue or a spot where you can just stand and admire the view of part of the village or the coast that you can't see from anywhere else. The highest part you can get to along a small hidden path of steps in this area is the 'Grotto' which has no use at all apart from being somewhere to look at the view from. It is just under Cliff House. It is rather strange inside as it is a sort of shell decorated hiding place with five windows looking out to the se. The walls have shells pushed into the plaster and this is not actually that attractive, it looks a bit like those souvenirs you see with shells stuck on them, the kind of thing a child might create from their shell collection.
My favourite building is probably the 'Town Hall' as it is imposing and looks the most solid and in my view attractive. It is the building used for weddings so like many of the buildings in the village this is one you enjoy from outside only unless you are a wedding guest. This looks like a flat fronted sort of imposing place that might be the rich person's house in Italy or France it is part stone and part painted plaster with a fairly large window area above the front door. It was built specifically to house the ceiling from the ballroom that Clough rescued from the demolition of Emral Hall. He paid £13 for the ceiling! I lobve the idea that a building was created to house a rescued ceiling!
Another favourite of mine is the Pantheon Building which is a pretty muted pinky colour with a wonderful dome on the top. On top of the dome is a spire with a gold ball. Apparently Clough aged about eighty at the time, placed the gold leaf on this himself once the ball was in place. He was a total nutcase but isn't it wonderful that the world has rich eccentrics like him who can create places like this for us all to enjoy?
The village is just a strange mixture of styles, colours and interesting statues and memorabilia, like the original petrol pump that used to actually be serviceable and provide petrol to visitors to the village. You could spend a week there and still find something new. The individual buildings are beautiful in themselves but combined with the setting on the hillside and grouped together in the village makes it look like a real life Sylvanian Family village. It is almost too beautiful to be true although some buildings are in need of a little bit of DIY that may be the look they are aiming for as Italian places have a tendency to look 'shabby chic' as opposed to brand spanking new.
If you haven't been then it is certainly worth a visit and staying in the village can be reasonable if you keep an eye out for offers. If this is not an option then stay somewhere nearby and visit for the day. If you love it you can always come back again and if not then it is only a day from your holiday.
Thanks for reading and hope I might have inspired you to visit this little corner of eccentricity in our world.
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Summary: A rich eccentric's dream fulfilled for us all to see and enjoy