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Northern Wales, Portmeirion

Home -> Europe -> United Kingdom -> Travelogue United Kingdom -> 02 September 2005

Friday 02 September, Northern Wales, Portmeirion

Great, the sun is shining when we go outside! The owners of the hotel wave us out when we leave, but we only drive a very short distance: on a narrow, 25% steep road through the village to the castle that we could see from our hotel room window last night. In a sharp curve we meet a large truck and after some turning and driving back we can pass each other.
Castle of HarlechAs many castles in Wales, this one is build by the English king Edward I who tried to control Wales in this way, by building castle son their own territory and putting English soldiers in them. The Welshmen consider these castles as a symbol for English oppression and not monuments they are proud of.
Steep hillside, HarlechTeije starts to glow when he sees this sign, we haven't seen a road so steep until now, but I forbid him to drive it with our car! It is my car as well, and I am sure this is bad for the engine. We had troubles getting up on 30% roads, so this is not for us, at least not with the nice car we have now. And, believe it or not, this time he listens to me...
Portmeirion PortmeirionVia Porthmadog we arrive at Portmeirion, a very special village, designed and build by the architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, who bought the whole area in 1925. He mixed all different building styles from several time periods and the result is a large estate with a somewhat kitschy center. Not the way we would build it (but we are not architects), but very nice to spend a day and walk through it.
PortmeirionWe walk over the beach and through the large gardens that have been constructed by the daugther of the architect. The village is situated next to a beautiful bay and we have a great view. Off course, the whole estate has been turned into a sort of amusement park and the entrance fee is £ 5,50. It is even possible to rent apartments in the village, but especially in the hight season that can be quite expensive.
PortmeirionThe purpose of the architect was to show that it is possible to build on a spot of natural beauty without disturbing it. That sounds a bit like the intentions Gaudi had with his Parc Güell in Barcelona. It is quite busy in the center of the estate where the village is, but very quiet in the vast woods and it is a pleasure to walk around.
Portmeirion PortmeirionThe houses in the village re also nice to see and it is great to just sit somewhere and look around or wander about a bit, especially now the sun is shining. In the 1960's a tv-series was recorded here, called The Prisoner, and we must say that the village offers a great setting for movies.
But we also find out here that there is a conspiracy against us, it must be! The moment we want to order something, like an icecream, it is sold out, or a shop closes just when we want to enter. It is a bit the same with the hotels that are full when we come along. Everybody is walking with large ice-cream cones and there are two places where they are sold, but both close exactly on the minute we walk towards them.
Castle in CaernarfonAfter this visit to Portmeirion, which took us a couple of hours, we drive via the peninsula Lleyn to the west coast and then to the north. On the way we come across a few castles like at Criccieth, but in the town Caernarfon we see a really large one! In this castle the Princes of Wales are being crowned by the king or queen of England, Charles being the latest Prince.
Queen Eleanor, the wife of Edward the First, gave birth to her 11th son here in 1284. The legend tells that Edward invited many prines and nobles of Wales to the castle to celebrate the birth of his son and asked them, when they were not quite sober anymore, if they didn't want to be subjects to a prince that speak English (since they despised the English rulers). They answered yes, being under the impression that they would get a Welsh prince. Then Edward send for his newborn son and had him crowned Prince of Wales.
In reality, the child was only appointed Prince of Wales when he became 16 years old, to strengthen the power Edward had over Wales. From thet moment on, the title was always given to the future (male) heir to the throne. But the title is not heriditary, so Charles became Prince of Wales not until being crowned by his mother.
Just outside the city center we discover a small campsite where there is some room left for our tent. The weather looks fine, so we are going to camp a few days. We are now quite central in northern Wales and near the mountains and the Snowdonia national park. There is enough to see and visit in this neighbourhood for us!


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