The Italianate village of Portmeirion was created by the architect Clough Williams-Ellis after he bought a neglected mansion surrounded by a wilderness in 1925. He changed its name from Aber Iâ (Ice Estuary) to Portmeirion. The village contains artistic buildings rescued from demolition elsewhere and took 51 years to complete. Located on a peninsula, it proved the perfect prison from where Patrick McGoohan, inmate Number Six of The Prisoner TV series, repeatedly tried to escape.
On entering Portmeirion, follow the lane through the Gate House and Bridge House archways to picturesque Battery Square. On your left, the Round House (now The Prisoner Shop) was the residence of Number Six while Lady’s Lodge, beside it, served as the village stores. To your right is a loggia (a recessed balcony) housing a large Buddha salvaged from the filming of The Inn of the Sixth Happiness in villages nearby. Above towers an octagonal building with a dome where Number Two controlled the village in The Prisoner.
From the square, descend a cobbled path to the village green. On your immediate right stands the Gothic Pavilion, the scene of marching parades in some episodes. Human chess was played on the lawn in front of the façade while brass band concerts took place in the 18th-century Bristol colonnade, farther right.
Look ahead to where endless parades of villagers circled the main piazza and fountain. Behind the pool stands the Gloriette where Number Six stood on the balcony and proclaimed, “I am not a number, I am a free man!”
Pass the Hercules Statue, a 19th-century work brought here from Aberdeen and emerge in the village street, opposite the Town Hall with its Jacobean ceiling. Bear left to Portmeirion Hotel, the old people’s home in the series. Dating from the 1850s, it was derelict when bought by Clough Williams-Ellis. Famous people, including HG Wells, Bertrand Russell and Noel Coward stayed here. Just before the hotel, take the path signed ‘Beach’. Beside the quay is Amis Reunis, a stone boat that was the location of several scenes in The Prisoner.
2. ONE QUARTER OF A MILE
After the boat, go through a gate and bear left to Nelson’s Walk. Continue beside the Dwyryd estuary, the scene of Number Six’s many futile attempts to escape.
Pass the Observatory Tower and the former fisherman’s cottage known as the White Horses where Patrick McGoohan stayed with his family while filming at Portmeirion.
The path enters woodland and passes the folly lighthouse above a cove where Number Six found a drowned man.
3. THREE QUARTERS OF A MILE
Turn back here or continue to a footpath signpost where you can walk back through the woods to the village. Alternatively, go left to explore Y Gwyllt, the ‘Wild Place’, with its huge diversity of trees as well as ponds, gazebos, viewpoints, a children’s play area, Dogs Cemetery and Ghost Garden.
The peninsula boasts a mild climate and exotic trees were first introduced here in the 1850s. A free map showing the main paths and points of interest can be picked up at the Toll Gate.
Surfaced paths and steps – some steep – in the village. Sturdy footwear is advisable to explore the woodland paths of Y Gwyllt.
HOW TO GET THERE
By car: Portmeirion is signposted at Minffordd on the A487, between Penrhyndeudraeth
By public transport:
Minffordd is on the Cambrian Coast Machynlleth-Pwllheli railway line. From the station, Portmeirion is about 20 minutes’ walk on a footpath that passes Castell Deudraeth.
Ordnance Survey Landranger Map 124.
Grid Ref: SH 592 373
Portmeirion, Minffordd, Penrhyndeudraeth,
Gwynedd LL48 6ER
Open daily, except 25 Dec, Oct-Mar 9.30am-5.30pm, Apr- Sept 9.30am-7.30pm.
Download a free winter entry voucher from the website (valid 2 Nov 2009-1 Mar 2010), also available from Portmeirion shops in Porthmadog and local tourist information centres. Admission charge at other times, adults £7.50, children £4 (under-5s free), concs £6, family rates available. Half-price entry after 3.30pm.