May 222014

Portmeirion is a hotel and village complex two miles south-east of Porthmadog in North Wales. The village is one mile from Minffordd railway station which is served by the narrow gauge Ffestiniog Railway and Arriva Trains Wales on the Cambrian Line.

Portmeirion was designed and built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1975 in the style of an Italian village. It has been used in many films and television shows, most notably the 1960s classic ‘The Prisoner’, starring Patrick McGoohan, a personal favourite of mine.


The Village of Portmeirion

As a family, we have visited Portmeirion for over 30 years, and it was a place that we always used to say that we would spend a holiday there ‘when we won the Lottery’. We never expected to win the Lottery, but our time came in August 2008, and in May 2009 we achieved our ambition and spent a long weekend in the village. We stayed in a small two room cottage called Watch House which overlooked the Hotel and estuary. We had breakfast and evening meal in the Hotel restaurant which was a short walk down a steep hill to the quayside.

View down to hotel

Looking down on the Hotel and Estuary

Five years later, we decided to return to the village, this time choosing to stay in the Hotel to save the daily walk up and down the hill. Unfortunately, this wasn’t such a good idea as the Hotel wasn’t as peaceful and quiet as the Watch House and on two days there were weddings. They weren’t too noisy, and didn’t cost us any sleep, but the peace and tranquility we wanted was missing.

I wouldn’t put anyone off staying at the Hotel, it just wasn’t what we wanted. We will undoubtably stay at Portmeirion again, but will probably choose one of the self-catering cottages away from the Hotel.

Bridge and pagoda

The Chinese Lake – my favourite spot in Portmeirion

Another thing that surprised me about the village was that they now have a land train. This took visitors up into the hills and gardens, allowing the less able to see parts of the village that they wouldn’t be able to get access to otherwise. Although the train was free, I couldn’t help thinking that the train belonged in a holiday park, not somewhere like Portmeirion.

The main purpose of our break was to visit the newly extended Porthmadog Harbour station. When I was last there in August 2013, work was taking place to build extra platforms to accommodate the Welsh Highland Railway which was recently extended in to Porthmadog. The line now runs the full 25 miles from Caernarfon passing through the foothills of Snowdon, and the delightful village of Beddgelert. The two and a quarter-hour journey was amazing, with spectacular vistas at every turn. Highly recommended.

Palmerston at Porthmadog (2)

Palmerston at Porthmadog Harbour Station

The railway was celebrating 60 years of preservation and there was an extensive train service on the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways. I have never seen the station so busy, although the surrounding area was remarkably quiet for a Bank Holiday weekend.

We had some excellent meals in the Portmeirion Hotel and the restaurant at Castell Deudraeth, in the Portmeirion grounds. We also visited Beddgelert, where we stayed about 30 years ago when our eldest, Jamie, was still a toddler. On our way to Portmeirion, we stopped off at Trevor, near Llangollen, and took a barge ride over the Pontcysyllte aqueduct, We also took a detour through the Horseshoe Pass, which we have driven passed many times, but never seen. 


Barge Eirlys waiting to depart over the viaduct from Trevor Basin.

I feel very lucky that I can stay at such amazing places and I would urge everyone to spend at least one night in Portmeirion. It is a truly magical place when all the day trippers, and wedding parties, have left.

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