Portmeirion: A Little Taste of Italy in Wales

It’s been 18 months since I last left the country, when I visited Reykjavik, Iceland. It had long been one of my bucket-list destinations and I loved every minute but I haven’t been on a sunny holiday for 22 months and even that was visiting Córdoba, Spain, where I used to live anyway. So, technically, I haven’t been on a proper holiday since August 2018- a 3 day trip to Lake Como and Milan. That was 35 months ago.

It’s safe to say that I, like everyone else, am dying for an escape from the same scene of my home country to experience again the joys of a holiday abroad. Britain has some very beautiful places and the Covid-19 pandemic and not being able to travel internationally has had the pleasant advantage of spending more time visiting places here and discovering new corners of the country which had long been overlooked.

When a friend told me last year that there is a village in north Wales which was designed as a kind of mini Italy, I know I had to go. I was searching for a place to take my boyfriend to mark our one year anniversary then I remembered it and the answer of where to take him became clear.

Portmeirion was constructed between 1925 and 1976 by the Welsh architect Clough Williams-Ellis after being inspired by a trip to Portofino in Italy. He borrowed £5000 and set about his plans to show how a beautiful site can be constructed upon without spoiling it. Portmeirion is located half an hour from Snowdonia National Park and the 2 hour drive from Liverpool took us on a lovely, scenic route.

Portmeirion
Portofino, Italy- an inspiration for Portmeirion, Wales

I pre-booked our tickets three days beforehand, costing £13 each (this included parking). I thought it was going to be absolutely packed- especially after lockdown 3 and everyone rediscovering daytrips- but it was nicely busy yet calm and still well spaced.

We were very lucky to have warm, sunny weather for our visit to Portmeirion which at times gave you the holiday feeling of being abroad. The pastel colours of the buildings along with arched windows, ornate stone pillars and walls, exotic plants and trees and dome-topped buildings called to mind places like Cádiz in Spain or Lake Cómo in Italy and it definitely does have the style and air of Italy above all.

There are a couple of gelato shops and Italian style cafés but I was surprised that there weren’t more food venues given its whole design being based on Italy. The menus were limited due to Covid and we both had disappointing ‘Italian salads’ and wine was served in a plastic cup (but it meant we were allowed to sit out on the grass so it seems a fair trade-off to me).

There is a beautiful hotel at the back of the village and facing Tremadoc Bay called The Port Meirion Hotel which had a much nicer menu but it was hosting a wedding that day so external guests couldn’t enter. The wedding guests were very lucky to have such weather to sit out on the terrace overlooking the bay and I thought that they must have felt like they were attending a wedding abroad. It can be so hit and miss with weather in the UK, even in June, that I bet they were relieved to have gotten lucky with a date where the sun actually shone all day.

Heading down towards the hotel terrace and the bay

Speaking of the bay, Portmeirion does not only offer a picturesque village to walk round but a beautiful, vast beach with stunning views. The water still would have been very cold but we saw a couple of people swimming in wetsuits. There is a strong smell of salt and seaweed in the air and at times, sewage, which really doesn’t fit the idyllic visuals all around this place.

Portmeirion Beach & Tremadoc Bay

The architect of used many parts from old buildings to create the ornate styling of his village and one feature brings a touch of Liverpool to Portmeirion. Railings from the old Liverpool Sailor’s Home were brought to Wales to be used at the village and there has apparently been a debate as to whether they should be returned to Liverpool or not owing to their value of around £100,000. Portmeirion and its buildings are listed which means the railings cannot be removed anyway.

Between the village and the bay, there are some Japanese-style gardens thrown into the mix including rusty coloured acers, a lake with lily pads and a red bridge and a trail that scales uphill towards a pagoda and views over the village. It isn’t a steep climb and it was refreshing to be in the shade of the trees after sitting out in the sun for a couple of hours earlier.

You could definitely spend a whole day here and you could even stay overnight when the hotels are back open.

It is an intriguing little place and so beautiful, all day I was walking around in awe at the attention to detail and intricate design. It has a lovely, chilled vibe too and definitely gives you the placebo feeling of being on holiday abroad. I’m only surprised that it isn’t more known about but that only adds to its charm. 🙂

Check https://portmeirion.wales/ for more information and be sure to add it to your list for British staycations or daytrips!

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