Portmeirion – Surrealism by the Seaside

Portmeirion – Surrealism by the Seaside

Portmeirion is part rural seaside resort, part working village (yes, people actually live here…and visitors stay here too!), but most of all it’s a whimsical, neo-classical folly, the surreal, decades-long pet project of the architect Clough Williams-Ellis.

Williams-Ellis saw it as a labour of love as he had a bold vision that an aesthetically-pleasing village could be built that would lure in paying customers whilst at the same time blending in with, rather than spoiling, the surrounding countryside; which around here is an area of natural beauty in its own right. Portmeirion, built in the neoclassic-inspired Italianate style, is the bizarre, multi-coloured result.

The village of Portmeirion is also, of course, where the classic, countercultural, hugely influential, and just downright cool 1960s TV series The Prisoner was filmed. If you’re a big fan, like me, then ambling through the streets of Portmeirion is akin to immersing yourself into a living, breathing film set, albeit a weird one.

The Prisoner was all about the struggles of a secret agent, known only as No.6 and played by the late Patrick McGoohan (who also had a hand in creating, writing and directing the series), trapped in a strange and isolated place known only as ‘The Village’ with no obvious means of escape. As No.6 encountered many weird goings on – from giant sea-straddling bubbles that are sent to catch those who try to run away to brightly-coloured human chess matches – postmodern Portmeirion could hardly have been a more apt setting.

Fan of this TV series or not, Portmeirion is undoubtedly something of an oddball treat. The blending of religious and mythological symbolism – statues are in just about every direction you care to look – with all the colours of the rainbow splashed along the walls makes for a compellingly bonkers mix. It does help that the village has the gorgeous Gwynedd coastline as its backdrop, and the manicured lawns and flower arrangements give things a pastoral vibe.

This being a tourist-friendly place, there are plenty of outlets – a pottery shop, tea rooms and, yes, a Prisoner memorabilia store – to help you part with your money. It’s worth emphasising that Portmeirion is a village in the truest sense of the word: with people living there, not every nook and cranny is accessible. In spite of this, Portmeirion is still a wonderfully weird slice of Italianate architecture on the North Wales coastline, and very much worth a visit.

Be seeing you!

8 Comments

  • Stacey B

    January 16, 2018 at 6:20 pm Reply

    Very interesting!

  • Melanie

    January 17, 2018 at 6:44 pm Reply

    So interesting and eerie! I love your blog! It’s so fun to follow your travels.
    Melanie recently posted…CityPASS Boston Review | Historic Charm Meets Modern Day ExcitementMy Profile

  • Christina

    January 18, 2018 at 2:02 am Reply

    Very interesting the town. I love the well manicured lawns and gardens. I have never heard of the prisoner but I may be taking a look into it soon. I do love the architecture as well. Seems like a nice city to visit.

    • Joe

      January 18, 2018 at 7:28 am Reply

      It’s more of a village than a city 😉 And indeed, in The Prisoner it is referred to as ‘The Village’…

  • amit

    January 18, 2018 at 2:53 am Reply

    Sounds like such a surreal and satire place to visit – I must haha – I’ve never actually watched the prisoner but from how you described it I might have to just look it up 😀 – Thanks for bringing this village to my attention, I’m really curious about it now.
    amit recently posted…Budget traveling Marrakech: Inside the MedinaMy Profile

    • Joe

      January 18, 2018 at 7:29 am Reply

      You’re welcome, thanks for stopping by 🙂 And yes, do check outa The Prisoner if you can, a great cult classic!

  • Jackie

    January 18, 2018 at 2:54 pm Reply

    What a quirky destination with a fun TV connection! The premise of The Prisoner is very intriguing, as is the architectural project of Clough Williams-Ellis. Thank you for bringing both to my attention.

  • Medha

    January 19, 2018 at 6:35 am Reply

    I haven’t heard of or watched The Prisoner but this little town does look pretty interesting! I’d love to see more pictures of the statues and quirky architecture that you mention!
    Medha recently posted…7 things that made us go WOW on our trip to NorwayMy Profile

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