Portmeirion is a cliff-side village created by Clough Wiliams Ellis to demonstrate that good design can be both commercially and culturally beneficial. As an argument it’s an irrefutable triumph, though whether it has done this as Ellis wanted, by displaying architectural good manners, is debatable. Sensitive design is usually supposed to blend apologetically in to the landscape – Portmeirion takes a glorious bit of the Welsh coast and attempts to outdo nature’s splendour.
Famous as the setting for the cult series The Prisoner, it’s as though it was custom-made for television. It’s a Disney version of a Mediterranean town, with a set-designer’s talent for tricks of the eye. Nothing is as it seems: boats moored by the seafront are actually disguised jetties, buildings no bigger than townhouses are made to look like Palladian mansions, windows are painted on and staircases wrap around themselves on their way to nowhere in particular.
There are hundreds of amazing views, beautifully manicured gardens and miles of soft sand at low tide. The route from Welshpool to Portmeirion is the most immaculately-kept part of Britain we’ve ever driven through. Barely a slate or dry stone was out of place and the coast line and mountains are pristine.