Tag: Wales

A Prisoner-themed tour of Portmeirion, North Wales

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?

Creative vision

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’.

Cult TV

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.

Nearby attractions

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.

More: Portmeirion

A quick guide to the Wales’ Penderyn Distillery in the Brecon Beacons

I’m now into my training for Wales Best Guides and here’s a taster of an idea for a tour based around the renaissance of Welsh whisky.

More news of themed tour of Chester and North Wales to come in the new year.

 

How to visit the most historic harvest festival in North Wales

North Wales today hosts the annual Conwy Honey Fair, a historic harvest festival dating back to the reign of King Edward I.

I was in Conwy last week to preview the event and find out more about the walled city with its Unesco-listed castle.

I also visited the National Beekeeping Centre of Wales [pictured above].

Here’s a sample of my story:

The Fair dates back more than 700 years to the reign of Edward I when local beekeepers were given the right to sell honey, without charge, within the walls of the town for one day only.

Harvest festivals were always part of the church calendar but the right to hold the Honey Fair was formally decreed by the King in the town’s 13th-century Royal Charter.

“It’s an event frozen in time,” says event organiser Peter McFadden, “and still generates a huge sense of community.”

The town also hosts the Gwledd Conwy Feast, a weekend food festival with street food, show-cooking displays and live music from October 25-27.

Read the full article in Telegraph Travel, Is this Britain’s sweetest town?

How To Raise A Glass To North Wales’ Real Ale Trail

I joined a real-ale-themed tour of North Wales recently for Guardian Travel.

It was a trip around the hidden-gem rural pubs and microbreweries [pictured above] often overlooked by the stampede down the A55 towards Anglesey.

Based around Caernarfon, it highlighted the rise of community pubs at a time when our traditional village hostelries are struggling to survive.

There has been an explosion of local microbreweries and craft-ale pubs in recent years with The Albion Ale House in Conwy one of my favourites.

Here’s a preview of the article.

As the afternoon gave way to dusk, I was nursing a pint of Clogwyn Gold from the Conwy Brewery at The George in Carneddi, near Bangor, currently the Gwynedd a Mon branch of CAMRA’s Community Pub of the Year.

It was a tiny, no-frills bar with cheese rolls on the bar, beers stains on the carpet and a queue of people for the pool table but, an early Saturday evening in spring, it was bustling with a mix of regulars and ale-trail day trippers.

Landlord Dewi Sion says: “I still believe that serving a proper pint of local ale in a proper pub can create a place where a community comes together.”

Read the full story coming soon in The Guardian.