What if I told you that, somewhere in the Welsh mountains, there was a perfect replica of a Mediterranean village?
The passion project of architect Clough Williams-Ellis, Portmeirion is one of the most iconic spots in Wales. Williams-Ellis wanted to show that a beautiful landscape could be developed without ruining it and so, in the 1920s, set to work renovating the land's existing buildings, and salvaging others from all over the uk, to create the pastel-coloured village that stands today.
With cafes and hotel rooms, shops and a spa, it's perfect for day trips and relaxing mini-breaks - my boyfriend James and I opted for the latter, spending a night in one of their unique Village Rooms. We loved exploring the village, wandering the grounds and taking advantage of the spa facilities!
We arrived on an October evening (on Halloween actually!) and wandered down to the main reception to check in. When it comes to accommodation, Portmeirion has a few options: you can stay in their flagship 4-star hotel down on the waterfront, in Castell Deudraeth (another 4-star hotel), in a self catering cottage or, as we chose, one of the "Village Rooms". We didn't initially know where in the village this would be, so when a member of staff led us up from the reception to the building that our room was in we followed with anticipation and excitement!
Our room, it turned out, was situated above one of the village's gift shops, with great views of the main square. It was comfortable, cosy and contemporary - complete with an ensuite bathroom, a fridge and a tv - and despite being right at the heart of the village, it felt very private.
We actually left Portmeirion that evening to have dinner in the nearby town of Criccieth, at a restaurant called Dylan's which is a firm favourite of my family's (who know the area well). Dylan's is housed in a striking, glass-fronted art deco building which, coincidentally, was also designed by Williams-Ellis! The food there is delicious, with a menu ranging from locally caught seafood to burgers, pizzas, steaks and traditional roasts. The desserts are also to die for but, after opting for a starter of veggie tacos and a pizza each, we were far too full to sample any of them this time! Stomachs at bursting point, we headed back to Portmeirion and curled up in our room, watching Halloween films and sharing a bottle of locally made cider.
Our stay also included a breakfast down at the main hotel, so we wandered down bright and early next morning and were shown to a table in the dining room. The traditional full English - sorry, full Welsh - breakfast included lots of local produce, and everything was cooked to the highest standard. It was, without a doubt, the fanciest breakfast I've ever had! Then again, this whole experience was much more luxurious than I was used to.
After breakfast, we headed over to the spa, where James and I had both booked ourselves in for a back, neck, shoulders & scalp massage. The spa was across the main square from where we'd been staying, in another quirky, brightly coloured building. We filled out some pretty thorough forms about our health and lifestyles, and then were guided into our separate treatment rooms.
Throughout, the masseuse made me feel like I was in very safe hands. She offered me a choice of scented oils and made sure I was happy with the level of pressure. The time flew by, and before I knew it I was reclining outside the treatment room with a complementary cup of herbal tea, feeling utterly zen. A massage isn't something that I treat myself to very often, but after the masseuse's comment that my back and shoulders were "very bad" (direct quote!), I think I might just take her advice and invest in one more often.
We emerged from the spa feeling relaxed, much lighter (after losing some knots in our shoulders!) and ready explore the site. The day was a mix of sunshine and showers, so we were glad that we could duck into the various tea rooms and cafes when we needed shelter! Completely by accident, we stumbled upon a free guided tour that was just beginning, and decided to tag along. It was a short but interesting insight into the history of the village, full of little anecdotes about Portmeirion's founder and some of it's famous visitors!
The tour finished at the edge of the village, where a number of different walking trails begin; we set off first into the gardens, and later found ourselves on the coastal path. The gardens are a weird and wonderful mix of landscapes. There are Japanese style pagodas and lily ponds, traditional British woodlands and shrubs, paths lined by twisting, gnarled trees in the eerie Ghost Garden, and even a dog cemetery. At one point, we found ourselves on a rocky viewpoint that looked out over the spectacular estuary.
If you're staying in Portmeirion for longer, you'll be in a brilliant position to explore other parts of Snowdonia and North Wales, with everything from beautiful sandy beaches to soaring mountain ranges on your doorstep. By mid-afternoon, though, it was time for us to set off. We left Portmeirion thoroughly relaxed from our little taste of luxury!
Find out more about Portmeirion at the village's official website: portmeirion.wales