Take a look around Hotel Portmeirion, the luxury hotel at the heart of this unique Italianate village on the Welsh coast.
Enchanting, eccentric, magical. These are all words that spring to mind when I think of Portmeirion.
It’s a small village in North Wales, but one that is quite unlike any other Welsh village you may have visited. Instead of cosy cottages and corner shops, it is filled with Italianate villas, classical piazzas, and unusual sculptures.
The village of Portmeirion in North Wales had long been on my list of places that I wanted to visit. I’d seen photographs and TV footage from the village – of course, it was the location for The Prisoner TV series in the 1960s.
Everything about the village looked absolutely amazing to me. So when I was invited to stay at Hotel Portmeirion for the night, I accepted the offer eagerly.
And when I arrived in the village, it was everything I hoped for and more.
The History of Portmeirion
Sir Bertram Clough Williams-Ellis was the architect who created Portmeirion. Architecture, landscape design and conservation were his lifelong passions, and for some years he had hoped to create a coastal village.
In 1925 Clough purchased the site of the village, and changed its name from Aber Iâ to Portmeirion. At that time, there were just a few houses, Castle Deudraeth and the mansion house on the land.
Clough’s motto was “Cherish the past, adorn the present, construct for the future”. Through building Portmeirion, he aimed to show that a naturally beautiful site could be developed without ruining it.
Read more about Portmeiron Village in my full feature – coming soon
The first stage of construction took place between 1925 and 1939. The village site was laid out and some of Portmeirion’s most distinctive buildings were constructed, including the Gatehouse, the Bell Tower and the Town Hall.
Development was paused during the Second World War and then between resumed 1954 and 1976. In this phase, the details of the site were filled in, and classical buildings like the Pantheon and the Gloriette were added.
The Italianate style of these buildings contrasts with the Arts and Crafts style of the earlier buildings. Along with the brightly coloured paintwork, it all contributes to Portmeirion’s unique style and character.
During this part of the site’s construction, several buildings such as the Bristol Colonnade were saved from demolition and transported to Portmeirion. Clough commented that the village was a ‘home for fallen buildings’.
Clough knew that his village would need to be economically viable, and tourism was the obvious way to bring in money. So in 1926 the mansion from the original site of Aber Iâ opened as a hotel. Clough extended and redeveloped it over the following years, and added a swooping curvilinear fronted restaurant in 1931.
A fire caused substantial damage in 1981, but the hotel reopened in 1988 after a brilliant restoration . And in 2010, the curvilinear entrance hall became the building’s most recent addition.
How to get to Portmeirion
The village of Portmeirion sits on the Welsh coast, towards the northern end of Ceredigion Bay. Although no motorways run over to the West coast of Wales, it’s easy to reach the village by road.
Travelling by car to Portmeirion takes just under 3 hours from both Birmingham and Manchester. This means that it’s very easy to reach if you’re flying into the UK from either of those airports. And the route is mainly along major A roads, so it’s a simple drive.
Your journey will take you through the beautiful surroundings of the Snowdonia National Park to the village of Minffordd. From there, it’s just a short drive up the wooded driveway to the carpark and tollbooths at the entrance to Portmeirion.
But if you’re not driving, it’s still easy to get to Hotel Portmeirion. The train station at Minffordd is just a mile away, and the hotel can arrange to collect you and your luggage from the station.
My journey across Wales took me from Shropshire, past the Welsh towns of Wrexham and Langollen, and then onwards towards the coast.
Arriving at Portmeirion Hotel
Check in at Hotel Portmeirion isn’t until 3pm, but you’re welcome to look around the village until your room is ready.
I arrived at Portmeirion mid-morning, and left my car in the main car park while I explored the village. When 3pm arrived, I walked the short distance down to the coast to the hotel.
The hotel’s reception is bright and airy, with a chair that lends a nod to the sci-fi design of the control centre in The Prisoner.
Check in was simple, and a porter took me back up to the car park in a golf buggy. I was given a parking permit, and brought my car back down to park in front of the hotel.
My luggage was then taken up to my room. You can take a lift up to the first floor of the hotel, or alternatively you can use this gorgeous staircase.
And in the photo below, you can see a hint of the hotel’s delightfully eclectic decor!
An Elegant Room at Portmeirion Hotel
After seeing the extravagant decor of the hotel’s entrance hall, I was actually surprised at how restrained my bedroom was!
The cool mint green of the walls and fabrics contrasted nicely against the pristine white bedlinen and dark wood furniture. The bed was very comfortable, and I loved the elegant bedside lights.
Altogether, the room had a very calm and relaxing air.
The room was a reasonable size, with a TV on the wall and free WiFi. The small seating area at the side of the bed had two leather armchairs, and the small dressing table held guidebooks to the village as well as the guest information folder.
A decent selection of tea and coffee was provided, together with some delicious crumbly shortbread biscuits.
The complimentary decanter of sherry was a nice added touch, and of course the mugs are Portmeirion china!
The pristine white bathroom was quite small, with a shower over the bath. Fluffy towels are of course provided, together with robes and slippers in the wardrobe.
And the room was completed by a selection of complimentary L’Occitane toiletries and bottles of mineral water.
And just look at the view from my window!
The hotel sits on the estuary of the River Dwyryd, and the room looked out over the river and the mountains beyond. It felt like the perfect place to be on a beautiful Spring afternoon.
My stay at the Hotel Portmeirion was complimentary, but prices for a similar room start from £189 per night midweek for a double or twin room on a bed and breakfast basis.
As well as rooms in the main hotel, you can also book a room at one of the properties around the village or at Castle Deudraeth. Self catering properties are also available.
Take a look around the Hotel
After I’d settled into my room, I headed back downstairs to explore the hotel. I had been hoping that it would be as vibrant and interesting as the rest of the village, and it certainly didn’t disappoint.
The entrance hall has a chequerboard floor, and this intricately carved Renaissance fireplace. The fire was roaring away when I arrived, and with comfy leather chairs surrounding it, it certainly looked like a tempting place to relax.
In fact the ground floor of the hotel is full of places to unwind and escape from the world.
The lounge leads off from the entrance hall, and is a relaxing space full of comfortable sofas and armchairs. The neutral colour scheme makes it feel light and airy.
But as with the rest of Portmeirion, there are plenty of details and decorations to give the room plenty of character.
The room centres around a large dramatic wood fireplace, and an impressive carved mirror hangs on the opposite wall. There’s nothing bland or boring to be found in here!
And leading off from the lounge, you’ll find this pretty little hideaway.
The room has an arc of window seats overlooking the garden at the front of the hotel. With its delicate colour scheme and period furniture, it’s a refined place to sit and chat.
The Mirror Room
The decor in this room could not be much more different from the calming neutrals of the lounge.
The vibrant colours in the Mirror Room are energising and large mirrors on three of the walls add light to the room. It sets off the various curios around the room perfectly.
One of the aspects that I loved about Hotel Portmeirion is the paintings and ornaments that decorate the rooms. The Mirror Room is a perfect example of this.
And details like the intricate gold decoration around the door frame of the Mirror Room really add to the quirky nature of the hotel.
The Cockpit Bar
The Cockpit bar was heavily damaged in the fire of 1981. It was originally fitted with timbers from HMS Arethusa, the last man-of-war ship to sail into action.
But as you can see, the restoration of the hotel has resulted in this gorgeous Art Deco Style room with strong lines, geometric features and a clean finish.
Once again, a fabulous fireplace dominates the room. But this time, it doesn’t have intricate carvings of people or flowers.
This fireplace exhibits the clean lines associated with the Art Deco period, and the lights on the mantelpiece complement it beautifully.
And what could be nicer than to take a drink out onto the terrace and watch the sun set over the river estuary.
The Dining Room
And the Art Deco style continues into the hotel’s 2 AA rosette restaurant, with interiors designed by Sir Terence Conran.
Large windows span the curvilinear front of the Dining Room, while glass topped wooden pillars and curved wooden panelling add a touch of Art Deco.
It’s a beautifully airy space, and I was very much looking forward to dinner there later that evening.
Dining at Hotel Portmeirion
Fine dining is taken very seriously at the Hotel Portmeirion restaurant. Under head chef Mark Threadgill, the hotel serves up imaginative menus using local and regional produce.
Lunch and Afternoon Tea can be taken in the lounges or on the terrace, while dinner and breakfast are served in the gorgeous Dining Room. And on Sunday, you can enjoy a traditional Sunday Roast as well.
The restaurant offers both table d’hote and tasting menus in the evening, and menus are also available to suit vegan and vegetarian diners.
After I’d been shown to my table, I took a while to peruse the menu. I was still feeling quite full from lunch, so decided to order from the table d’hote menu rather than indulging in the delicious-sounding tasting menu.
A selection of delicious warm bread was soon brought over with soft salted Welsh butter and a light lemon zest butter. The sourdough was particularly gorgeous, and I had to be careful not to fill up on it!
I was drinking mineral water but the wine list had an excellent selection, with several wines available by the glass. The bar also has a good range of gins, if that’s your tipple, and some interesting mocktails and alcohol-free beers.
My pretty first course was soon brought out to my table. I had chosen the roasted beetroot and orange tart, and it was beautiful both in taste and presentation.
The perfectly crisp pastry base was topped with discs of sweet, earthy roasted beetroot and a tangy orange gel. The balance of the two flavours was delicious, and the creamy goat’s cheese served alongside complemented them both perfectly.
Other starters on the menu included a crispy duck egg served with black truffle and smoked duck soldiers. There was also a rabbit ballotine served with a confit leg Caesar salad, as well as a French Onion soup with Caerphilly cheese gougeres.
This was an excellent starter and really upped my anticipation for the rest of my meal.
Choosing a main course was very difficult, because everything just sounded so delicious!
For meat-eaters, there was a choice between local Welsh beef or lamb, each served with a fabulous array of side dishes.
And vegetarians could choose between a broad bean and wild garlic risotto, or a very tempting Marmite butter roasted cauliflower, which was served with black truffle, kale and yeast puree.
I nearly went for the roasted cauliflower, because it just sounded so good.
But in the end, I picked the hake which was served with a crisp Nant Conwy mustard crust. The fish was cooked absolutely perfectly, flaking beautifully and without any hint of dryness.
I wasn’t mad about the potato ‘risotto’ that the fish sat upon, it was a little bland for my taste. But the cauliflower dotted around the fish was very tasty, and the creamy chive sauce served alongside was absolutely delicious.
The restaurant is very elegant, and the service is excellent, but it doesn’t feel stuffy at all. The personable staff were attentive throughout, checking if I needed any more drinks and generally making me feel very much at ease.
After I’d finished that excellent piece of hake I was feeling quite full. So I took my time to mull over the dessert menu for a while before picking my pudding.
I was tempted by the Mint Choc Chip souffle, as well as by the artisan Welsh cheeseboard. And Tiramisu is always appealing!
But I was completely intrigued by the ‘Apple Crumble’. The waitress explained to me that while she didn’t want to give away the surprise, I shouldn’t expect a traditional crumble with custard.
Well that certainly piqued my interest, and I simply had to order it.
I’m not sure quite what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t this!
The apple is cleverly made of a creamy cheesecake mousse, with an apple pie filling at the centre and a chocolate stalk on top. It sits on a bed of creme anglaise, and the crunchy granola surrounding it provides the crumble.
It was dreamy to eat, and certainly an imaginative twist on apple crumble. I might have been a little more light handed with the micro-leaves dotted around the plate, but that would really be nit picking!
My meal was complimentary apart from my drinks, but would have cost £55 for three courses. There’s a £2.50 supplement if you choose to have cheese for your third course. Of if you just want to have two courses, the price is £47.
Feeling completely full and satisfied, I headed through to the bar for coffee. I absolutely loved the heavy silver coffee service and the elegant Portmeirion china, and the coffee was excellent. The delicious petit fours served alongside were a runny salted caramel and a boozy rum and raisin fudge. It was the perfect way to round off a wonderful meal.
On that note, I headed up to my room and soon drifted off into a deep and restful sleep.
After a good night’s sleep, I woke to this gorgeous view from my bedroom window. The sky was a little cloudier than the day before, but the scene in front of me was still beautiful.
I always like to go downstairs for breakfast early when I’m reviewing a hotel. That way you get to see the buffet at its best. But the clocks went forward an hour on the Sunday that I was at Hotel Portmeirion. And that made getting out of bed early just a little more painful on this occasion.
But I still managed to drag myself out of my cosy bed and headed downstairs!
The arc of windows on the curvilinear Dining Room really flood the space with light in the morning. It’s really one of the loveliest hotel dining rooms I’ve seen!
I ordered some coffee and toast, and made my selection from the breakfast menu. While I waited for my breakfast to arrive, I headed over to check out the continental buffet.
I don’t often have anything from the continental breakfast selection, other than a glass of juice and maybe a sweet pastry to finish my meal.
But the selection at Hotel Portmeirion was certainly tempting. As well as the large jugs of orange and apple juice, there were little shot glasses of beetroot and carrot juice as well as a berry smoothie.
Large platters of fresh melon and pineapple sat alongside dishes of fresh fruit salad and dried fruits, and a selection of cereals and yoghurts.
My breakfast soon arrived, and what a pretty plateful it was!
Although the full Welsh breakfast was very tempting, I fancied for something a little lighter.
So I’d picked the avocado and poached eggs on sourdough toast and it was just about perfect. The eggs were cooked beautifully, the avocado soft and ripe, and coriander and chilli on top added an extra zing.
And of course I had a pot of that excellent coffee to enjoy. In fact it was so good, that when I finished the first pot, I asked for another so I could sit and watch the sky lighten over the Dwyryd.
After that I went for another wander around the grounds around the hotel before it was time to check out.
Things to do at Hotel Portmeirion
While you’re staying at Hotel Portmeirion, the obvious thing to do is to explore the Village properly.
There’s plenty to see there, with the fabulous colourful architecture and beautiful gardens. There are several places to shop and eat, and the village even has its own spa.
And obviously, if you’re a fan of the cult TV show The Prisoner, you’ll love spotting all of the locations that were used in the outdoor filming.
You can even spot the building used as Number 6’s house, which now houses a Prisoner-themed gift shop.
But there’s more than just the Village to explore.
There’s also a coastal walk, which takes you out along the River Dywyrd with its beautiful views over Snowdonia.
Or you could explore the forest, which has many impressive specimen trees. The peninsula on which Portmeiron sits enjoys a sheltered position and a mild climate. This means that several species live happily in the forest here, whereas elsewhere they’d need the protection of a conservatory.
I loved this Chinese Lake within the forest walk, with its pavilion and bridge. It’s a beautiful and peaceful place to rest away from the bustle of the Village.
There’s also an outdoor heated pool that you can use between May and September. And you can walk up to the 4 star hotel at Castle Deudraeth which has a brasserie-style restaurant. Or you could use the complimentary minibus if you don’t fancy the walk!
Coming Soon: My full review of Portmeirion Village
Things to do near Portmeirion
If you’re staying for more than a day or two at Hotel Portmeirion, there’s plenty to see and do in the local area.
Snowdonia National Park is packed full of mountains and beautiful scenery, making it perfect for a walking holiday. Or why not view it from the comfort of a steam train on the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Steam Railway?
The railway’s Portmadog station is just a 10 minute drive from the hotel. From there you can either travel across to Blaunau Ffestiniog in Snowdonia, or journey northwards towards Caernarvon. You can even book to enjoy afternoon tea on board!
And of course North Wales is famous for its fabulous castles. If you take the steam train to Caernarvon then you certainly won’t want to miss out on a visit to beautiful Caernarfon castle. Or you could visit Harlech castle which is about 20 minutes away from Hotel Portmeirion by car.
Hotel Portmeirion: My Review
After longing to visit Portmeirion for so many years, I was worried that my stay might be an anti-climax. But I needn’t have worried.
With its elegant surroundings and friendly service, the hotel was everything that I could have hoped for. And the delicious food served at breakfast and dinner just made my stay even better.
The abundance of quirky details and unusual architecture mean that Hotel Portmeirion is certainly unlike any other hotel that I’ve stayed in.
But don’t be fooled by appearances.
Hotel Portmeirion is much more than a quirky folly. It’s a luxurious hotel and the perfect location to get away from the outside world for a while. In this unique village, you can truly feel that you’ve been spirited away to some exotic location.
And I certainly hope that I’ll return there soon!
My stay at Hotel Portmeirion was complimentary. Prices start from £189 per night midweek for a double or twin room on a bed and breakfast basis.
Tel: 01766 772440