And so Portmeirion has made it onto the new first class stamp. And very beautiful it looks, too.
Portmeirion Village is a magical little piece of Italy on the coastline of Snowdonia. Architect Clough Williams Ellis, who built the village, called Portmeirion ‘a home for fallen buildings’. And that’s exactly what it is.
In a wonderfully eccentric mix, recreations of white-washed English country cottages stand beneath a skyline of terracotta and blue Mediterranean villas and a bell tower, a Campanile, worthy of a town square in Tuscany. Scattered in between are the fallen buildings themselves: the arches and the colonnades, the statues large and small, all unwanted remains of grand houses rescued from certain oblivion.
Think Sorrento. Think Cornwall. Think the fading palaces of Venice. Think of the most romantic place you can ever imagine, and there you have Portmeirion.
If you ever get tired of exploring the building, there are the grounds. An entire wilderness of lakes and ponds, surrounded by ferns and woodlands.
Little bridges appear, along with Chinese pagodas and the kind of follies where regency ladies might make secret trysts with their Mr Darcy.
And if you ever tire of exploring the hidden corners beneath the camellias and Rhododendron,you can follow the path to the shore.
There, you can sit on a stone boat (the remains of a real boat, recreated after it was destroyed in a storm) and admire the whitewashed walls and terracotta tiles snaking down the cliffs, like some Mediterranean fort preparing itself against pirates. Or you can sit on the terrace of the hotel with your coffee, watching the tide come in beneath a backdrop of distant mountains.
Staying for a night in one of the cottages was one of my all-time treats. Once the visitors had gone and the spotlights began to glow, it felt a real privilege to be there. Everyone I met seemed to feel the same. Many were staying, like me, to celebrate special occasions, or to return to a place once visited never forgotten. In the warmth of the summer evening so many stories were shared between people from all over the world: some of weddings, some of memories of people lost, or of holidays long ago. One couple who had been married there were returning for their tenth wedding anniversary, still glowing with happiness.
I have been visiting Portmeirion since I was a child and I still go back to wander between its cottages and its gardens whenever I can. The buildings and the ‘Gwyllt’, the wilderness area with its exotic planting and serene lakes, still inspire me with their life-affirming love of beauty mixed with practicality – and little touches of the mischievous in between. I’ve set several stories within the grounds of Portmeirion, and I can feel another one brewing …..