Somewhere For The Weekend : ‘La Dolche Vita’ Welsh Style
Sensazionale: Portmeirion Village. Images by Steve Hare
The North Wales coastline is heartmeltingly beautiful - a perfect panacea to shake off the blues and soak up sea breezes and spectacular scenery.
For affionados of all things Italian diverse attractions include the Italian themed Portmeirion Village - location of the iconic 1960’s ‘The Prisoner’ TV series starring Patrick Mcgoohan.
Our Time for Life Correspondent Sharon Cain evokes the magic of the area’s captivating coastlines interspersed with continental chic.
Magnificent backdrop: the Dwyryd estuary
Glamorous and amorous aptly depict Portmeirion Village which is located on its own private peninsula on the coast of the majestic Snowdonia mountain range in Gwynedd.
Redolent of all things Italian, the complex was developed by visionary Welsh architect Clough Williams-Ellis in 1925.
His quest to demonstrate how a naturally beautiful location could thrive in natural surroundings sees over 200,000 visitors flocking to its seriously stylish ambiance for cappuccinos and Chianti - not to mention the paninis and gelato.
Many day trippers are fans of the cult TV series The Prisoner, whose 17 episodes were filmed in the village.
The theme is centred on an ex government agent - known only as Number Six. After resigning his job he is abducted and imprisoned in an enigmatic seaside village cut off from the mainland by mountains and the sea.
The cat and mouse chase sees him being relentlessly hunted and escaping the clutches of his captors. Pre-Covid, eager fans attend an annual convention here to celebrate the series.
As free agents curious to capture the village’s continental feel, we rocked up in our motorhome, donned sunglasses and hats to withstand the searing summer temperatures - and joined the throng of holiday makers and day trippers spilling out of coaches and cars.
Continental style fantasy
Although the grounds of Portmeirion Village extend to over 70 acres, you can walk round the vibrant neo-classical buildings, which include a pseudo Town Hall and central Piazza, in less than half an hour.
To escape the crowds, we explored the subtropical gardens which boast some of Britain’s largest trees.
Lush woodlands in the 70-acre grounds
Rhododendrons exude a blaze of colour and features include a Japanese Garden with a pagoda and lily-covered lake. The legacy of celebrated botanist Sir William Fothergill can be enjoyed in the monkey puzzle trees, pines, magnolias, camellias and giant redwoods. Due to Covid, a free train ride transporting visitors to the Oriental gardens is not currently in service.
Full Steam Ahead
Spectacular: Meirionnydd mountain range
The village provides easy access to the beautiful beach where we walked for a mile and swam in a wonderfully warm rock pool - our own private spa - with not a soul in sight.
We were also rewarded with the sight of a train roaring towards Criccieth railway station against the magnificent Meirionnydd mountain range. I tingled with excitement at this unexpected highlight.
Tres Chic: Portmeirion Hotel
Those seeking an extended stay can relax in the Village’s 4-Star luxury Hotel. Facilities include 14 bedrooms, terrace, lounges, fine dining and a bar - the latter two which were restyled by Sir Terrence Conran in 2005 to recreate the atmosphere of Clough's art deco walnut panelled rooms.
The sight of guests lounging in sunbeds by the open air swimming pool looking out onto the estuary made a future stay very tempting.
Additional accommodation in keeping with the ambiance comprises 13 self-catering apartments and cottages in the village and on the estate. Unfortunately the sight of towels draped over a balcony somewhat detracted from the theme.
knockout: North Beach from the Great Orme
A North Wales seaside trip is not complete without visiting Llandudno - affectionately referred to as ‘The Queen of North Wales resorts’.
One of my childhood holiday destinations, Llandudno is famous for its Great Orme - an impressive limestone headland rising almost 700 feet out of the sea. Its English name is taken from the old Norse word for sea serpent.
We splashed out on the £3.70 fare for the 5 mile toll road which affords breathtaking views to Anglesey and Snowdonia. Vehicles can pull over to capture the exquisite vista.
Also un-missable is a pit stop at the ‘Rest & Be Thankful Café‘ halfway round which serves up the best cheesecake and sea views we’d ever sampled.
If you have time (best to go out of peak season) I’d also recommend the historic Great Orme Tramway - one of the world’s three remaining cable operated street tramways. The other two are in San Francisco and Lisbon.
Seaside tradition: Llandudno pier
The Grade 1 listed Llandudno Pier - the longest in Wales at 2,295 feet (700 m) over the sea is also worth a stroll along with its candy stalls, Penny Arcade amusements and fun rides.
Recapturing Childhood Memories
Picture postcard: Trearddur Bay
Less than an hour’s drive from Llandudno is Angelsey - an area of outstanding natural beauty with endless stretches of golden sands and windswept bays. It is also known as Holy Island due to the volume of burial chambers, standing stones and other religious sites
We camped at Trearddur Bay, one of Angelsey’s best beaches where our photographer Steve was in his element retracing his steps of family holidays camping, boating and playing beach games on sunshine filled days which stretched endlessly ahead.
High on a rocky outcrop a goat surveys the backdrop
The area is also perfect for golfing, watersports and walking. During a fabulous ten mile coastal walk around Trearddur Bay to Rhoscolyn we came across a chilled out goal regally perched on a rocky outcrop.
Paradise on Shell Island
Dazzling panoramic views: Shell Island.
In the adage of saving the best until last, our final top was Shell Island - a jaw droppingly beautiful island with views which warrant a raft of superlatives.
There are three beautiful sandy beaches, more than 200 varieties of shells and a profusion of wildflowers including 13 species of orchid along with an abundance of wild birds.
With 300 acres for camping, Shell Island is the largest UK camp site and among the biggest in Europe with shops, showers and a bar.
Unexpected sights we came across included Dyffryn Beach - a nudist beach where many wearing sunglasses were positively overdressed!
Sensational: Sunset over the Lleyn Peninsular
We parked the motorhome in a prime spot overlooking the sea and the Snowdonia range. Absorbing a heart-achingly stunning sunset, we willed time to stand still while appreciating every second of the magic unfolding before us.
You can follow Sharon’s eclectic adventures on www.leaveworktotravel.com