Set in its own peninsula
south of Minfordd, in North Wales
, Portmeirion is Clough Williams-Ellis
' masterpiece and a triumph of landscape architecture. Used as the setting for the cult
sixties TV series The Prisoner
, the peninsula boasts some of the most beautiful yet unobtrusive façades in Wales, as well as some spectacular woodland and breathtaking views across the bay.
Sir Clough Williams-Ellis started his work at Portmeirion at the Easter of 1926, funded by the takings from the hotel he opened there as well as by his architecture business. Building was interrupted by the war, but resumed in the forties with unlessened vigour. His guiding principle was "to demonstrate how a naturally beautiful place could be developed without defiling it." He was certainly successful in this aim, as have been his daughter Susan (a designer) and his grandson Robin Llywelyn, the current managing director of the project. Right through from the twenties to the present day, Portmeirion has been flooded with day visitors eager to see the splendour of the village.
Nowadays, Portmeirion is owned by the Second Portmeirion Foundation (a registered charity) and run by Portmeirion Ltd. as a tourist attraction. The village itself boasts the Upper Fountain Suite (where Noel Coward wrote Blithe Spirit in 1941), a statue of Buddha used in the 1958 Ingrid Bergman film The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, an estate owned by the inventor of the eletric telegraph, and a classical colonnade from Bristol. Most of the village is part of the hotel, and is booked all year round by Prisoner fans. The rest is now shops of various sorts, including a Cadwalader's ice cream shop.
The architecture is entrancing. There are follies all over the place: some of the 'buildings' are merely frontages, many of the houses' windows are painted on the outside, and murals are plentiful. The houses are brightly painted in diferent colours, and the whole village is tightly interwoven with trees and bushes. Some of the village's features can only be seen from one particular place, or from one angle, and you can explore for hours and still find new things to see. It is this that gives the whole village a feel of wonderland, and it is this that makes pictures inadequate in expressing the beauty of Williams-Ellis' dream.
The surrounding woodland has about three times the area of the village and is equally beautiful. Spectacular trees and breathtaking views across the bay are difficult to reach for some: the four walking routes range in duration from 45 minutes to 2 hours and pass an oriental garden, a lake, the remains of Castell Deudrath (built by one of Williams-Ellis' ancestors in 1188), many species of rhododendron, the largest maytenis arboaria in Britain, several small beaches (these are very tidal and people are required to leave the beach two hours before high tide), the ghost garden, and a folly lighthouse on Portmeirion's southernmost point.
To avoid making this node an unreadable jumble, there is much I have had to leave out. Readers interested in finding out more about Portmeirion may wish to visit its website at http://www.portmeirion.com .