Portmeirion is a popular and picturesque tourist village. From its inception in 1925, Sir Clough Williams-Ellis spent 50 years designing and building this unique, Italian-style village, paying tribute to the Mediterranean architecture that so enthused him. The village forms its own discrete, yet distinctive, landscape and apart from being an internationally famous architectural tourist attraction, it is commonly associated as being the filming location of The Prisoner, a cult 1960s television series.
The main building of the hotel, and the cottages "White Horses", "Mermaid", and "The Salutation", had been a private estate called Aber Iâ (Ice estuary), and were developed in the 1850s on the site of a late 18th century foundry and boatyard. Williams-Ellis changed the name to Portmeirion. Port, because of its coastal location and Meirion, from the county of Meirionnydd in which it was sited. Several paths near the Triumphal Arch, lead into Salutation Wood where Sir Clough's garden design can be observed. Narrow vistas capture a number of striking shapes, such as 'Plenty', a sheet metal cut-out by Hans Feibusch.
Set within 70 acres of mixed woodland, Portmeirion famously boasts a rich diversity of rare and unusual plants. This renowned variety is epitomised in the magical wilderness that is the Gwyllt wild gardens that were largely developed by the previous owner, George Henry Caton Haigh, a world authority on Himalayan flowering trees and exotic plants. Tall conifers and maidenhair trees, Ginkgo Biloba and large rhododendrons, notably Rhododendron Falconeri with its fine brown-backed foliage, dominate the woodland. The climate of the peninsula is very mild due to its low lying sheltered position between the estuaries of the rivers Glaslyn and Dwyryd and the warming influence of the Gulf Stream. Frosts are rare allowing verdant growth of many plant species, such as the huge leaves of the Gunnera Manicata from the Brazilian rainforest. Notably, the majority of the Oaks spotted today, would have been planted or regenerated as self-sown seedlings since the planting of exotics around the 1840’s.
When the tide is low, ambling across the sands at Whitesands Bay towards the Trwyn, allows you to appreciate the true scale of the Gwyllt. Explore below the cliffs and you will discover hidden caves and gullies. Interestingly, where windswept sand forms pockets of alkaline soil, there is a noteworthy assemblage of native plant species; the spindle tree Euonymus Europaeus forms a thicket in one place, pink Gentians flower in another.
Towards the end of the peninsula the vegetation changes dramatically. Patches of heathland, with a mixture of native heathers on the rocky outcrops, remain virtually untouched by the planting of more exotic flora. On the estuary it’s possible to observe Ospreys fishing, and Little Egrets and waders in action.
During the day, guests pay an admission charge to access the village. However, children under 4 do not pay and entry is half price after 3.30pm. Sufficient parking facilities are available next to the village entrance, including several disabled parking spaces.