What is Portmeirion?
My partner had been promising me a Portmeirion trip for ages. and last month, we decided to go. Portmeirion is both an Italianate fantasy village, set on the north Wales coast and the name of a pottery: both connected. It is now owned by a charity.
Background to Portmeirion
The village was built by Welsh architect Clough Williams-Ellis, with work starting in 1927. His daughter Susan helped to establish the prosperity of the village shop, which was losing money when she took over. A fledgling potter, she and her husband later bought two small unsuccessful potteries in Stoke on Trent, naming them Portmeirion after her father’s village.
Her father helped her by selling her works in the village shop. The company grew to be the million-pound turnover business it is today. Its biggest success is probably ‘Botanic Garden’. Susan found some photographic plates in a book in an antique bookshop in London and from these devised a series of designs. The designs were all different. Department store buyers told Susan customers wanted all matching pieces and they wouldn’t sell. Of course, it’s the story we all love to read as the range was an international success and I expect most readers have at least one piece of Botanic Garden in their family. I even had coffee and sugar jars at one time.
Arrival at the village
We paid a £12 entrance fee each that includes free parking. It was fairly busy on the day we went but it was the school holidays and one of those beautiful, hot days that persuades everyone outdoors to enjoy the sun.
Facilities at the village
Immediately, ice cream was called for. I was relieved that the price for this homemade treat was reasonable (£2.50) and that we weren’t going to be ripped off all day. You have to eat and drink on-site, although you can bring your own sandwiches, I imagine. There are several cafes and a couple of nice eating spots as well as self-catering and hotel accommodation. There’s an art shop and a shop selling – Portmeirion pottery – as well as other items.
Time for lunch
There is a nice hotel with a bar that overlooks the bay. Tides here are treacherous, so do take care if you decide to go paddling. Hotel Portmeirion has a pretty terrace overlooking this bay. Unfortunately, there was a long queue for lunchtime cancellations, so we consoled ourselves with a drink in the bar. However, we had only been there half an hour or so when we were offered a table in a prime spot, thanks possibly to my partner’s charm. Sometimes, Lady Luck is shining down on us.
I wasn’t expecting much as a vegetarian. In North Wales. But as it happens, my favourite thing was on the menu. A cheeseboard. And instead of it being French, it was all Welsh. I couldn’t believe my luck. It was a proper selection, mild to blue, served at room temperature. It’s ages since I’ve had a good cheeseboard. Probably in around 2017 at the Isle of Eriska in Scotland.
The Italian Job
There’s not a lot to do here apart from wandering around, browsing in the small shops and staring at the sea, but that’s what we enjoyed doing for around five hours. As a half-day diversion, it’s a mighty fine thing to do, especially if the weather is fine. Out of season, I imagine you have the place to yourself, so it might feel more relaxed. Bring a book and pretend you’re in Portofino.
How to get there
It’s a two-hour drive from Chester, with wonderful scenery on the way.
(We made a short detour to Llandudno on the way back, which I wish we hadn’t.)
More information on Portmeirion village website.
A Self-funded trip. All images by Olivia Greenway and may not be used for any reason without written permission prior.