Portmeirion is a family attraction that is a superb family day out or place to take a holiday. Situated not far from Penrhyndeudraeth and Porthmadog in north-west Wales, on a private peninsula, Portmeirion was the backdrop to cult 60s TV series The Prisoner, fronted by Patrick McGoohan. Its Italianate village was put up between 1925 and 1976 by conservationist Sir Clough Williams-Ellis and is a novel and bewitching family attraction. Just the ticket for calm and tranquility.
An estate mansion existed on the site in the 1840s, and Portmeirion (also known as Aber Lâ – meaning Glacial Estuary) nestles in some of Snowdonia’s most breathtaking vistas on a coastline warmed by the Gulf Stream. Portmeirion’s micro-climate ensures that exotic plants abound across its 70 acres of sub-tropical gardens, with more than 5000 species, notably rhododendrons, camellias, Californian redwoods, Gingko biloba, Brazilian Gunnera, Japanese Acer, Douglas Fir, Wellingtonia, Himalayan Fir, sessile oak, Portugal and Cherry Laurels, Tulip Tree, Monkey Puzzle, Weeping Silver Lime, Bay Trees, and the highest Chilean maiten in the UK.
Among Portmeirio’s stunning features are plush restaurants, cafes and two magnificent hotels. The elegant Grade II-listed Hotel of 1850 was refurbished by Williams-Ellis in 1935. Hit by a fire in 1981, it resumed seven years later and boasts 42 rooms and suites, past guests numbering H.G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, Bertrand Russell and Noël Coward. Also available are 17 self-catering cottages, the Hercules Hall, the Tudor Room, and Castell Deudraeth, with 11 suites and bedrooms, exhibit space and a Victorian wall garden that caters for wedding parties.
Portmeirion charity looks after some 50 buildings, many re-creating architecture from across the globe, making it a jaw-dropping family attraction. Williams-Ellis’ mission was to “Cherish the Past, Adorn the Present, Construct for the Future.” The village he created was forged in two stages, most edifices going up between 1925 and 1939, with classical and Palladian additions arriving between 1954 and 1976. Some were rescued from demolition sites, the last being a tollgate.
Novel features that ticket holders can see at Portmeirion include a Dogs’ Cemetery founded by the eccentric Mrs. Adelaide Haig, who nurtured mongrels in the Mirror Room and read sermons to her congregation from behind a screen! Not something you’d get on any ordinary family day out.
Another must-see are the spellbinding gardens and Gwyllt – or wild place – which takes in a Triumphal Arch, the Salutation Woods, lakes, avenues, a Chinese bridge and pagoda, a Classical temple, heathers and mosses on rocky promontories, drystone sheepfolds, lawns and terraced flower gardens.
Boasting more than 20 miles of paths, several beaches, cliffsides and salt marshes at Trwyn y Penrhyn and Whitesands Bay, the family attraction also includes the Grade II-listed Plas Brondanw, of 1550, which was restored following a blaze in 1951. As well as its flaming urn atop a chasm, there’s a children’s play zone at the foot of the castle rock, and picnic areas with fabulous panoramas. Among the variety of shops on site are the Portmeirion Seconds Warehouse, gift, jam-preserve and book shops, the Prisoner Shop, the Dome Gallery and a Plant Centre. With disabled parking, access and two wheelchairs at the tollgate, it’s an all-year round family attraction that can be enjoyed by everybody.
Portmeirion, Gwynedd, LL48 6ER
Tel: (+44) 01766 770000
Times: Depends on attraction, use contact number for more information.