There’s a place in North Wales that looks like it stepped out of a fairytale.
It draws on the coloured facades of Portofino for inspiration and was described by its founder as “a home for fallen buildings”.
It was also the backdrop to a cult TV series and a haven for artists and musicians from Noel Coward to The Beatles.
For me, it’s the ultimate daydream hideaway in North Wales.
Can you guess where?
Portmeirion is the creative vision of the architect Clough Williams-Ellis. He acquired the land in 1925 and dedicated his life to building his site on a private peninsula on the Snowdonia coast, where architecture and nature can live together.
The construction was in two phases, the initial buildings until 1939. Then from 1954 to 76 to filled in the details, often salvaging classical buildings from demolition in a before-his-time take on upcycling.
The American architect Frank Lloyd Wright was inspired by the harmony of design and nature when he visited Clough in Portmeirion in 1954.
Clough died in 1978 but his legacy lives on at the 130-acre site with buildings such as the Gothic Pavilion, Bristol Colonnade and Hercules Hall, all celebrating his motto: ‘Cherish the Past, Adorn the Present, Construct for the Future’.
For some, however, Portmeirion is best known as the backdrop to for cult Sixties television series, The Prisoner, starring the actor Patrick McGoohan.
The village provided the perfect canvas for the psychedelic storyline and became a symbol of the counter-culture spirit of the Sixties.
Portmeirion village [pictured above] recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first Prisoner episode, Arrival. Catherine McGoohan, daughter of the programme’s star, returned to unveil a bronze statue of her father.
Portmeirion village had always attracted arty types from the Jazz Age to the Sixties.
But following success of the Prisoner, the Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein rented Gate House cottage as a long-term retreat and George Harrison joined him in 1993 to host his 50th birthday party.
In the year we mark 50 years of the Abbey Road recordings, we can now explore not just the Italianate follies of Clough but also the sites associated with The Beatles.
Unlike the protagonist in the TV series, you are free to leave The Village.
I suggest that we head to nearby Porthmadog to visit the new Portmeirion Shop. Formerly Kerfoots, is thought to be the oldest department store in North Wales in Porthmadog, dating 1874.
The Prisoner famously declared “I’m not a number. I’m a free man.”
But I suspect that once we’ve visited Portmeirion, like me you will always be a prisoner to its charms.
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