21. Day Three in Llwyngwril: Portmeirion and a Sunset

When I was last in this part of Wales in 2018, I visited a place I’d longed to see since I was a little kid: “The Village” from the 1960’s series “The Prisoner.” I had seen the show as a child, and it made a big impression; I’ve watched the complete series several times, repeated on TV and more recently on video and DVD. 

A few years before 2018, I’d become a little obsessed with Snowdonia in N. Wales (after seeing some photographs online), and it turned out I had a friend who grew up there. He informed me that Portmeirion Village was nearby. When I later started planning my trip, and decided to stay in Llwyngwril, I had forgotten this important fact, but it *just so happened* Portmeirion is an hour north by train and a mile’s walk. I was thrilled to bits and got a ticket as soon as they went on sale that year. And I did exactly the same this year!

The day started off a bit threatening, but I didn’t care. Waterproof jacket packed!

Harlech village is on the way to Minffordd, the train stop for Portmeirion Village. There is a major castle ruin there, and I spent a day in 2018 (but not this year). I did snap this photo of a brutalist building, Theatre Ardudwy, viewed from the train window. I wish I’d looked it up before THIS VERY MOMENT. I’m not sure it was open when I was there, but it would have been worth a look! It pairs nicely with that other major brutalist building, Harlech Castle!

Harlech Castle, built by Edward I in the late 13th Century. It is am mighty fortress!
The sheep brighten up a gloomy scene!
The mountains of Snowdonia National Park.
Welcome to Portmeirion Village. So many of these whimsical Gilliamesque touches throughout!

I encourage you to embiggen many of the photos below, just to see the detail throughout the architecture and design of the village. The attention to small things is just astounding. Sr. Clough Williams-Ellis worked on this much-loved project for 50 years! It was always intended as a resort for guests, but it’s so much more. The skilled labor he employed to build it, and the high quality of that skill and materials used, makes it the opposite of a folly (although it was a bit of a vanity project). While there was nothing “new” to see this visit, there were new things to notice. It’s an extraordinary place.

One of many grottos.
One of many two-tailed mermaids. Williams-Ellis reportedly salvaged them from an old sailor’s home, but I’m having trouble finding the source for that information. I think there are 18 to be found around the property.
You can see how the village was build into the hillside. One of Williams-Ellis’ goals was to incorporate the village into the landscape, rather than dominate it.
A saint and a hanging sheep. Whut.

Patrick McGoohan, creator and star of “The Prisoner,” had been to Portmeirion Village to film an episode of his series “Dangerman.” When he set off to create “The Prisoner,” he returned to Portmeirion as the location of the The Village, where retired spies are forced to live in isolation from all but each other, under a weird authoritarian hierarchy. As Williams-Ellis said, “Portmeirion itself seemed, to me at least, to steal the show from its human cast.” I’m not sure that’s true, as the series itself was culturally revolutionary — but it IS what remains. When I went in 2018, I was the only person on the Prisoner tour, and I’m not sure they are still offering it. I’d love to see a new generation of folks appreciate the show.

Another mermaid!
Iconic bell tower.
The courtyard. The last time I was there, cosplayers from Six of One were playing chess on the living chessboard. And marching around the Village. Great fun! They have a convention every year here. (Well, every non-Covid year. Maybe 2023?)
Buddha grotto
This little fellow hidden ‘mongst the rocks.
Merman and mermaid, two tails each.
A lovely villa and garden. Some of the houses are offices, others are short-term and vacation rentals.
SO much trompe l’oeil everywhere.
Another grotto. I’m not sure the story of this sculpture. Like many, it is naked or half-naked. Sir Clough was no puritan.
The courtyard is typically quite busy. I got there as the village opened, and the weather was spotty, so I had practically it to myself.
Special label ale, and coronation chicken jacket potato. Yum!
The statue stands at the end of the main piazza which is nearest to the sea. The sculptor was William Brodie, and it was created in 1863. Sir Clough Williams-Ellis moved it from Aberdeen to Portmeirion in 1960.
I love this sculpture very much.
Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, between two Pans. I think he was a bit of a hedonist.
Chinese gazebo, all to myself for a spell after walking through the glorious gardens.
The estuary with tide out. Those familiar with “The Prisoner” will recognize it as the “no man’s land” through which there was no escape from The Rover.
Now, the only rovers are waterbirds. Like this grey heron.
The Lighthouse.
And the grotto beneath.
Monkey puzzle tree.
Concrete boat.
Sea cave.
The very lovely courtyard.
Cavorting is happening here.
A nod to The Prisoner.
“Be seeing you.”
Stormy skies on the train ride home.
Stormy skies make beautiful sunsets.
The last bits over the Bay.
Yawning, not growling.
I was really missing this face.

17 May, 2022


One response to “21. Day Three in Llwyngwril: Portmeirion and a Sunset”

  1. The colors and the whimsy are just breath-taking! I love the fishboy. I want to go there!


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