As we sat on a step with our ice creams looking out onto the estuary which surrounded the famous Welsh village of Portmeirion I really learned the importance of peaceful reflective periods we all need sometimes. The sun basking down on us I felt incandescently happy. I had left my worries of not being ‘enough’ contemplating if I needed my nose, lips and chin altered back in Leicestershire and remembered just how wonderful life can be. Corny I know, but I think it takes the outdoors and the simplicity of nature to make you remember what truly matters to you, and what can keep you consistently happy and not just happy in a moment. I will always be grateful I took my sister up on the offer of a spontaneous Monday road trip to Portmeirion
We set off at 8 am on an uncharacteristically hot Monday morning. We soon scrapped the idea of leaving at 6 to beat the traffic. Whilst we did hit some congestion as we approached Birmingham, on the whole, the roads were fine (you can tell I was not driving) and we soon learned we would have struggled to fill the day had we arrived at 9 am.
The drive took us nearly 4 hours arriving at Portmeirion just before 1 pm, predominantly due to the fact I was so thirsty, needed toilet breaks and the views were so spectacular I didn’t want to miss out on the photo opportunity. The route took us around Snowdonia, we passed some of the most beautiful rolling hills and glistening reservoirs. The drive around wales alone left me feeling as though I had seen enough incredible sights to not need to see anything else that day.
The highlight of the day was by far the private tour around Portmeirion village by an employee of the site in his golf buggy which was gifted to us FOC. (I won’t include his name so apologies for the overuse of he) but we were greeted by the friendliest, most passionate employee I have ever met who gave up nearly 2 hours of his day to show us around the village. He explained the history, the whole background story of the architect Sir Clough Williams- Ellis whose imagination was responsible for the design and build of this incredible coastal village. Clough wanted to demonstrate how a location could be transformed without spoiling what is already there and that his work could enhance the scenery which was already there through clever and imaginative development.
The site was purchased in 1924 for a few thousand pounds. Apparently, there was a lady living in the main house, now the central hotel who owned 14 dogs and read the bible to them every night. A story I loved, there is a dog graveyard there for all her beloved pets but this is really me going off on a tangent. I am sure there are many reading this post who can relate to any lady who would like a huge house filled with dogs with a sea view so remote that no one really visits, just me?
From what I can remember from our tour ( I wasn’t expecting to write a post so took no notes), Portmeirion was built in two stages, the start of it is pre World War two and then the major buildings and developments started again after the war ended and continued until his death in 1978.
Our tour guide informed us after the war Clough was contacted by various city councils, country estate owners etc whose buildings had been heavily bombed in the war and were beyond repair or whose homes the owners could no longer afford to run. These buildings were often torn down, resulting in some owners not wanting historical parts of the buildings turned to rubble. The town hall was a fully rebuilt 17th-century house which I think is now grade 1 listed. The whole building was purchased and rebuilt in the village (this is what I was told and whether or not our tour guide was having a giggle at our expense as he left or not I do not know) I am however happy to believe these stories to be true. From what we were told Clough rehomed and gave new life to a historic and iconic architecture from across the UK. I am so pleased this dream of someone’s gave life to so many buildings which would have been lost.
Clough seemed to have the wildest and incredibly vivid imagination. There was a home for everything. The attention to detail that went into the design to make the village looked worn and lived in, lengths you could not make up. He reminded me of Walt Disney, imagination wise ( I know little about either man’s character so don’t quote me on that) everything was a little bonkers, a dream only one individual could make a reality, a person who dared dream so big and dared to run with it.
Our tour wrapped up fortunately as my camera memory began to run out. We had covered the village, the hotel, we had explored the woodlands, whizzed past the twisted jungle and Japanese trees, to one of the most peaceful, beautiful views of the ocean. We stood there for a few minutes just soaking it all in before driving via the Chinese lake and up to the final view up where the original castle stood over 1000 years ago to look down over the whole village. Without a cloud in the sky, it was easy to believe I was looking down on a little Italian town on the Amalfi coast and not a rural part of Wales.
Once our tour was over and we thanked our amazing tour guide about 100 times and promised to return with more of the family we decided to stop for a bit of lunch. In the low season, which February was, the Italian restaurant is closed but there are still two large cafes and an ice cream parlour open. All reasonably priced with lovely food and service. I can imagine in the summer months this gets booked up fast but there are plenty of places to eat a picnic which I think would be more effective and enjoyable use of time there.
After our lunch we took a wander around the village on foot, we climbed steps and enjoyed seeing things in a little more detail than the golf buggy could offer. To finish the day off we decided to stop for ice cream before we started our journey home.
The ice creams were all locally made and oh lord they were good. I thought at £4.50 for two scoops it was a bit pricey but when you saw the size of the scoops I began to realise why it came with the price tag. My older sister, being less greedy than I asked for a smaller scoop, in hindsight I should have done the same, but no regrets they were delicious. We took our towering ice creams to my (now) favourite little step and that is when we sat in complete peace and quiet absorbing everything around me. At that moment little winter road trips to random UK places tipped it as one of my favourite things to do.