Everything you wanted to know about Portmeirion

Portmeirion is a beautiful sea-side village in Gwynedd, North Wales. It was designed and built as a kind of “folly” by the extremely flamboyant architect, Sir Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1975. The design of Portmeirion is in the style of an Italian village and apparently based on the town of Portofino in Italy. Though Sir Clough Williams-Ellis denied this and stated only that he wanted to pay tribute to the atmosphere of the Mediterranean. Portmeirion has served as the location for numerous films and television shows.



The main building of the hotel and the surrounding cottages called “White Horses”, “Mermaid”, and “The Salutation” had been part of a private estate called Aber Iâ (Welsh: Ice estuary) and developed in the 1850s on the site of a late 18th Century foundry and boatyard. Williams-Ellis changed the name (which he had interpreted from the Welsh language as “frozen mouth”) to Portmeirion: “Port-” from its place on the coast and “-meirion” from the county of Merioneth (Meirionydd) in which it was sited.

The very minor but impressive remains of a medieval castle (known variously through the years as Castell Deudraeth, Castell Gwain Goch and Castell Aber Iâ) are in the woods just outside the village and were recorded by Giraldus Cambrensis (Gerald of Wales) as long ago as 1188.

As impressive as the village is, there are some truly fantastic woodland walks around the grounds of Portmeirion which contain an important collection of rhododendrons and other exotic plants in a wild-garden setting. The gardens were begun before Williams-Ellis’s time by the previous owner George Henry Caton Haigh and has continued to be developed since Williams-Ellis’s death.

Portmeirion is now owned by a charitable trust and has always been run as a hotel and a very expensive one at that. The majority of the buildings are used as hotel rooms or self-catering cottages, together with shops, a cafe, tea-room and restaurant. Portmeirion is today a top tourist attraction in North Wales and day visits can be made on payment of an admission charge.



The best-known filming location for Portmeirion was between 1966 – 1967 for The Prisoner TV series, a surreal spy drama in which Portmeirion itself played a starring role as “The Village”. On request from Williams-Ellis, Portmeirion was never identified on screen until the credits of the final episode of the series. The show became a cult classic and fans continue to visit Portmeirion, which hosts annual Prisoner fan conventions. The building that was used as the lead character’s home in the series currently operates as a Prisoner-themed souvenir shop. Many of the locations used are virtually unchanged after more than 40 years.



As you can see, it wasn’t a very nice day weather-wise when we visited Portmeirion and you should bear in mind that is IS in North Wales which isn’t blessed with too much sunshine. However, when the sun does shine, it is an amazing place to be. On the day of this visit, it was too wet to walk around the woodlands so unfortuantelty for now, I don’t have photographs of this to hand but it IS really beautiful.

If you want to know more, perhaps even visit, this is the official website – http://www.portmeirion-village.com/

Oh and for those not-in-the-know, despite it’s close proximity to England, Wales does have its own language that bears no relation to English and especially so in the North.

Welsh (Cymraeg or y Gymraeg) is a member of the Brythonic branch of the Celtic languages spoken natively in Wales, by some people along the Welsh border in England and in Y Wladfa (the Welsh colony in Chubut Province of Argentina). Historically, it has also been known in English as “Cambrian”,”Cambric”and “Cymric”. The Welsh Language Measure 2011 gives the Welsh language official status in Wales, making it the only language that is de jure official in any part of the United Kingdom.

A greeting in Welsh is one of 55 languages included on the Voyager Golden Record chosen to be representative of Earth in NASA’s Voyager program launched in 1977. The greetings are unique to each language, with the Welsh greeting is “Iechyd da i chwi yn awr ac yn oesoedd” which translates into English as “Good health to you now and forever”.

Here is a nice little poem in Welsh from the author William Ambrose (Emrys) 1813-1873 🙂

Yr Hwyr

Wele’r hwyr a’r haul a’i rin
Yn lliwio y gorllewin,
Y nen mewn gwrid ennynawl
A’r môr yn darnguddio’r gwawl;
Y don lariaidd dan loywrid,
Awel leddf heb chwa o lid
Yn hebrwng teyrn yr wybren
I wely’r lli islaw’r llen.

Y lloer a’i mantell eirian,
A’i gemwisg ddisgleirwisg lân,
Di-wres frenhines y nef
Arweiniai gôr y wiwnef;
A’r sêr yn rhesi arian
I gyd yn disgleirio’n gàn:
Holl len y ffurfafen faith
Oedd lawen hardd oleuwaith.

Be seeing you…


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