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A north-western Welsh village with a distinct, colourful Mediterranean style

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Photo by Mike Lawrence
If you stumbled across this north-western Welsh village without being told about it first, you'd be forgiven for thinking that someone had uprooted part of Italy, and shipped it over. The buildings here are all in a distinct, colourful Mediterranean style, that seems somewhat out of place on Great Britain's western coast. Nevertheless, Portmeirion is enduringly popular with tourists.

Photo by fairlybuoyant
The idea for this unusual settlement was conceived, designed, and put into place by a single man, a wealthy architect called Clough Williams-Ellis. After coming up with the plan, he purchased a plot of land on a small promontory, close to his home. At the time, he described the area as a "neglected wilderness", but over the next few decades, it was to change into something unrecognisable. Work began in 1925, with dozens of new structures being erected. Many of these were created using the ruined remains of old, forgotten buildings, which were either already standing in Portmeirion, or were rescued from demolition sites in other areas of Britain. This has led to the village being described as a home for fallen buildings.

Photo by fairlybuoyant
Surprisingly, Portmeirion has no residents. Instead, it is run exclusively as a tourist destination, welcoming either day visitors, or overnight guests, who can stay in one of the village's cottages. Other buildings house shops, cafes, and restaurants. The undoubted highlight of a visit here is to just wander around these beautiful structures, admiring their shapes and colours. There is a great variety of structures on show, including cottages, towers, domes, statues, and countless other architectural wonders. The entire settlement is filled with trees and plants, making it incredibly photogenic from just about any angle.

Tourists wandering the streets of Portmeirion
Photo by lostajy
One particularly notable structure is Castell Deudraeth, a restored castle situated just outside of the main village centre. It's the largest building in Portmeirion, and has recently opened as a hotel and restaurant. Another highlight is the Observatory Tower, a square white lighthouse that looks out to sea.

Castell Deudrath
Photo by Chris Jones

The Observatory Tower
Photo by Damian Cugley
If you're interested in the life of Portmeirion's architect and creator, you can make the short journey to his former home, Plas Brondanw. This tall, stone house is situated within a large estate, which contains an extensive garden. Arranging and designing the various plants, flowers, and statues on display here took up almost as much of Clough Williams-Ellis' time as Portmeirion did. In fact, some people consider these gardens to be his finest creation!

Part of the Gardens
Photo by jamesdedogs
The village, though, remains his most famous work, one that has been enjoyed by thousands since its completion. It is also popular in film and television, and is often used to represent various idyllic Mediterranean locations. The most famous example of this is the cult 60s drama,The Prisoner, in which the main character is held captive within a mysterious village. This strange settlement was, of course, acted out by Portmeirion, a role which earned it a certain level of fame! Even today, one of the village's houses holds a merchandise shop, selling all sorts of memorabilia from The Prisoner.

Buildings in Portmeirion used during the filming of The Prisoner
Photo by Mike Lawrence
There are hundreds of attractive buildings and fascinating details, spread throughout the entire settlement. It would take years to describe them all. But as Clough Williams-Ellis himself said: Portmeirion is intended to speak for itself.
Visitor Information
Portmeirion Village is open daily from 9:30am to 7:30pm. Entry costs around £9 for adults and £6 for children. Portmeirion, Porthmadog, Gwynedd County, LL48 6ER. Tel: 01766 770 000

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