If some of us are being honest, we'd admit that half the reason we travel is to post envy-inducing photos on Instagram. And while you may not think of Wales (it’s next to England and is part of Great Britain, FYI) as the type of destination that would blow up your social media feed, it totally can be. (The more you know!)
In addition to insanely picturesque landscapes, the country is also home to an enchanting village, located in Gwynedd, North Wales, called Portmeirion. Reportedly, the founder’s motto was “no ugly buildings,” so you know you’re going to cause some serious FOMO with folks back home. Plus, it boasts 70 acres of surrounding forest, a unique history, tons of nooks and crannies, a huge gold Buddha statue just cause, and a snapshot-ready seascape setting. Intrigued? Here’s more on why this place should be on your radar:
1. This dude had a dream.
The fantastical village was designed and built by visionary architect Clough Williams-Ellis, a Walt Disney-cum-Willy Wonka character who wanted to show off his work, while still respecting and adhering to the rugged seascape. Similar to artist Jose Fuster’s ever-evolving mosaic installation in Cuba or James Deering’s Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Miami, Portmeirion was a lifelong passion project for the architect, with construction spanning the years 1925 through 1973.
And much like his resort, Williams-Ellis’ daily uniform was also one of a kind too: a knickerbocker suit (he reportedly had nine versions of the same one) and bright yellow knee-high socks. In 1978, he died at the age of 94 and of course went out in style (or with a bang rather). During a New Year’s Eve celebration, his ashes were scattered across the property via a rocket.
2. It looks like Italy — through a filter.
Influenced by his travels along the Italian coast, as well as villages such as Portofino, Williams-Ellis recreated that dolce vita vibe at Portmeirion with lots of Mediterranean colors, a piazza, and cozy cottages. The buildings eventually evolved to include a mish-mash of styles, prompting him to call the village an “architectural mongrel.”
The site also earned the nickname “home for fallen buildings” since Williams-Ellis repurposed leftover materials from his paid architecture gigs, as well as bits and pieces (including an entire plaster ceiling) from estate auctions.
3. It has an as-seen-on-TV stamp of approval.
Oddly enough, the Wales coastal village might best be known as the ambiguous setting of a somewhat obscure 1960s British TV series called The Prisoner. The show follows a former secret agent who is abducted and held captive at a mysterious resort a.k.a. Portmeirion. Although it only ran for 17 episodes, the series has since gained a cult following and has spawned a yearly convention, which takes place in April at Portmeirion. There, fans reenact moments from the show including a human chess game scene. Missed an episode or, uh, 17? Don’t worry, the show is broadcast continuously in the resort’s hotel rooms.
4. It was a celeb haunt.
In addition to the hoards of Prisoner fans, many celebs have frequented the resort over the years, including the Beatles’ George Harrison. The guitarist celebrated his 50th birthday in the hotel’s Peacock Suite, although he would have preferred the cliffside Watch House instead, which boasts awesome views of the water and a slightly precarious position. But allegedly his handlers were afraid he might tumble into the sea, so they nixed his stay there. Plus, the band’s manager Brian Epstein was also a Portmeirion fan and regular guest as well. So much so, that he actually designed his own closet in the Gatehouse cottage to accommodate his abundance of duds.
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