It’s a cold winter friday with no plans for the weekend what do you do? How about a trip to North Wales and that cute little village you’re always going on about? Yes that’s right, a long weekend in North Wales and Portmeirion is on the cards!
You can’t help but be in awe of the colourful village of Portmeirion. After many a trip to Italy, and I’m sure many more to come, it has a distinct Italianesque feel to it making Matt and I feel as if we were on the coast of northern Italy not North Wales!
Portmeirion in North Wales is as close to an Italian Village outside of Italy as you can get. The village’s colourful architecture is a mixture of Welsh, Baroque and Italian styles surrounded by beautiful walks and picturesque landscapes. Even if you’re not a fan on the village itself you can’t help but love the area with over 70 acre of exotic woodlands with mile upon mile of coastal and woodland pathways.
Designed and built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis from 1925 to 1975, it was designed to show how a naturally beautiful site could be developed without spoiling it. Now owned by a charitable trust and with around 225,000 visitors every year, Portmeirion is the home of award winning restaurants and hip hotels alongside historic cottages and unique squares. One square has its own giant chess board!
Originally calles Aber Iâ, meaning ‘frozen river mouth’, Sir Williams-Ellis renamed it Portmeirion, from ‘Port’, on the coast and ‘Meirion’, the correct spelling of Merioneth / the county where it is situated.
Central Piazza –
Upon walking into Portmeirion you are greeted with brightly coloured buildings left, right and centre. At the heart of them all is the Central Piazza. With a giant chess game, made famous by The Prisoner, water features and the reconstructed Bristol Colonnade, (Clough took it apart brick by brick after it was hit during the war, and rebuilt the monument at Portmeirion), all nestled within stunning gardens, even on a grey wintery day!
Salutation & Battery Squares –
These two squares are filled to the brim with quirky shops and cafes in the multicoloured architecture. Just to walk along and marvel at the colourful details to the iron work and stonework is time consuming enough! As well as that, Battery square even has a large statue of a golden Buddah! It was a plaster cast film prop that Clough obtained after filming in the grounds.
The views from here across the estuary are spectacular, even with a blustery cold wind! Theres a lovely coastal walk to follow that winds back into the village as well as a fake boat in the walkway, which I honestly thought was in the bay at first! Walk down the main road to the quay then make your way back up along the winding, slightly precarious, cliff top trail. This leads you along to the Cliff top Grotto.
Cliff top Shell Grotto –
This little grotto is often missed when people visit Portmeirion, but it is incredible! The inside is decorated with hundreds of shells found in the local area as well as beautiful blue tiles. The views from it are stunning too. It sits along side the Dome which is an open gallery for artist Rob Piercy who’s works are just as stunning as the landscape.
Woodland Walks –
There are a number of walks through Salutation Wood where you can wander and find hidden sculptures and rare plants at every corner. There are numerous species of Rhododendrons alongside enormous oaks and redwoods. There is even a Chinese bridge and a pagoda for you to stumble upon, a flash of brilliant red amongst the greens and browns of the wood.
On the way to or from North Wales we had the opportunity to drive through the Elan Valley and the series of man-made reservoirs and dams, from the Elan and Claerwen rivers, in Mid Wales.
There are 6 dams altogether however Matt and I only stopped at the 4 dams along the Elan River. These alone create an incredible backdrop all year round for walkers, cyclists and car drivers alike.
Craig Goch Dam
This dam is the highest upstream, located at 317m above sea level. Craig Goch is often seen as the most attractive of the 6 dams, with beautiful arches beneath the roadway which crosses over the reservoir above. The wind howls through the valley at this point though so a bobble hat may be required, just be careful you don’t lose it over the edge!
Garreg Ddu Dam
The Garrge Ddu Dam is a low completely submerged dam, which considering I have been to the Elan Valley a few times I didn’t know about until recently! Due to this it doesn’t look like any of the other dams until the water within the Elan Valley drops significantly. However it maintains a constant supply of water to Birmingham through a gravity fed system.
The middle dam is a possibly one of the tallest along the route. The view down over the edge is far enough for me to say its damn tall, excuse the pun! It has a beautiful copper roofed down structure in the centre of the dam which must have some pretty awesome views when you access it. (This is off limits to the public!).
Caban Coch Dam
The lowest dam of the 4 built along the Elan River is Caban Coch. The water from the reservoir above falls over 120 feet down to a river that rushes past the identical stone buildings below which house electric turbines. Sat in the visitor centre at the base of the dam it honestly could be a natural waterfall if it weren’t for the obviously engineered side walls!
Today the dams are not only beautiful engineering feats but a way to safeguard the natural environment. If you’re lucky you may even see a Red Kite or two!
Whilst away for the weekend we stayed in a delightful little AirBnB in the village of Talsarnau, within the Snowdonia National Park and with close links to both Portmeirion and perfect to visit Mount Snowdon, Wales’ highest peak. But be warned phone reception can be a bit spotty!
Just a short walk from where we were staying leads you to one of Wales’ beautiful estuaries with views across the Dwyryd River to Portmeirion. Beware the tides along here though, we ventured along just after high tide and needless to say the marshy land was boggy. We even found a jelly fish way up the bank just to prove to us how deep the tide can get.
Thank you for AirBnB for hosting me and my group during our stay. As always, the content and opinions expressed within my blog are entirely my own.
– – – –
And there you have it, how to spend a long weekend in North Wales, including Portmeirion!
Keep up to date with where I have been / will be going by signing up to my mailing list!
Gemma i.e The Travelling Tedaldi
P.S. Get following my instagram for more updates about where I’ve been bumbling about – gemma_tedaldi