There were a lot of jobs on the list yesterday. P had expected the super-duper ladder that would allow him to tackle the three metre high hedge running up a steep slope to have arrived, but as ever the best laid plans... So after establishing there was some technical glitch with the ladder's delivery, we decided on a complete impulse to take ourselves off to Portmeirion. We'd read the weather forecast, it was rain, rain and more rain, but we thought sod it, we'll take the kagools and wellies and have a great time anyway.
Portmeirion village
So we headed off, aiming for coffee in the plush comfort and warmth of Castell Deudreath, which looks out onto a beautiful formal garden. We thought that would set us up well for a cold wet walk, but as we drove north, the weather got better and better until on our arrival we had blue skies and glorious sunshine.

Portmeirion isn't everyone's cup of tea, although I've never understood why. People often stare at me in disbelief when I say it's one of my favourite places on the planet. It's got everything, especially if you're looking to get the design juices flowing. Words like naff, twee, kitsch and even hideous are bandied around, when all I see is an absolutely gorgeous place chock full of inspiring decorative design - the vision of the celebrated architect/designer Clough Williams-Ellis, who was unafraid to transform his dreams into reality.

Susan Williams_Ellis' cut-out black sheep,
designed for The Welsh Wool Shop

The Italianate village is sometimes said to sit uneasy under grey Welsh skies, but I've been many times in all weathers and it never fails to excite, inspire and educate me. As far as I'm concerned it's refreshing to witness unabashed eccentricity - a veritable visual feast!
Clough with Frank Lloyd Wright Portmeirion 1956
I refuse to believe that anyone who's ever walked in Y Gwyllt (the wilderness) could truly say it's not a heavenly place. Looking across the magnificent estuary, with beautiful beaches, caves and wildlife, planted in the true Williams-Ellis eclectic style of wild exotic is one thing. But then there are the towering canopies of rhodos, camellias, magnolias and sitka spruce, underplanted with Portuguese laurels, hydrangeas, tree ferns, skimmias, bamboos and lovely naturalised wild flowers and bulbs, all punctuated by exuberant gazebos and hidey-holes and surprises. I noticed yesterday with great approval that all the bluebells were the native variety and not the invasive Spanish ones.
Reflections in the lake with pagoda and bridge
Maybe Portmeirion sometimes gets a bad press because of its association with the 1960s series The Prisoner, and it's true to say there is a shop dedicated to its merchandising. Even this I can't understand as from what I can remember from way back, it was quite a quirky and interesting show. There are probably many more visitors on the prisoner trail than there for the wildlife or planting, but the place has to be sustained somehow and if that's what it takes...  It certainly does nothing to inhibit its very special locus genii (spirit of the place) and it's great to see the place flourish, so obviously still loved and well looked after.
Golden buddha from the film
The Inn of the Sixth Happiness
Clough Williams-Ellis was certainly very eclectic and maybe it's this that I identify with most. The diverse range of wacky objects and buildings he's assembled at Portmeirion are a life's work, each item added with love as and when the opportunity arose, whenever he could afford to indulge his passion. For me wandering around enjoying this man's vision and catholic creativity is a joy. In 1957 after The Inn of the Sixth Happiness was shot up the road near Beddgelert, he managed to acquire a gold-painted Buddha used on the set - seems his designer's hat was always on, forever on the lookout for new and interesting pieces to add to his work in progress.

View of the estuary inland
View of estuary towards Bardsey Island - high tide
You can probably tell by now that I'm totally and hopelessly in love with this place.  I could write a whole book on its charms. For now though, I'm going to show you a few more images to whet your appetite and encourage you to visit this magical place at some time in your life. Enjoy!

Stairway to heaven!
Mermaid with Clough's signature turquoise on ironwork

Another one of many mermaids

Armillary sphere
Soldier with lizard

View of estuary framed through arch
Friendly lion at the entrance

Tile insert

Tulips by river
Even the hosepipe is part of the design


Amazing old Sitka spruce

Sitka Spruce shadows
Pagoda on lake

Waterlilies on the lake

Wonderful spring green

Tree fern unfolding

The dog cemetry
Rhodo petal strewn path

The dancing tree, with apologies for not dancing, I needed a rest!

Tide going out
Lichen on rocks

Ebbing tide revealing the fabulous beach


  1. How lovely in a delightfully quirky way! And I thought it was just where my pretty dishes came from. I wish I had gone there.

  2. I too have only ever associated the town with the pottery. Love the story and the photos which have now brought the town to life for me


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