Portmeirion is an Italianate resort village on the coast of Snowdonia in Wales. It has served as a location for many films and television shows, notably The Prisoner. Despite repeated claims that it was based on the real town of Portofino, Italy, Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, Portmeirion's designer, denied this, stating only that he wanted to pay tribute to the atmosphere of the Mediterranean.
The village is located two miles east of Porthmadog at the entrance to the Lleyn Peninsula, and one mile from the Minffordd station serving both the Ffestiniog Railway (narrow gauge steam) and Arriva Trains Wales.
Williams-Ellis designed and constructed the village between 1925 and 1975. He incorporated fragments of demolished buildings, including works by a number of other distinguished architects. Portmeirion's architectural bricolage and deliberately fanciful nostalgia have been noted as an influence on the development of postmodernism in architecture in the late twentieth century.
The main building of the hotel, and the cottages called "White Horses", "Mermaid" and "The Salutation" had been a private estate called Aber Ia, developed in the 1850s, itself on the site of a foundry and boatyard which was active in the late 18th century. The site (and very minor remains) of a mediaeval castle (known variously as Castell Deudraeth, Castell Gwain Goch and Castell Aber Iau) are in the woods just outside the village proper, recorded by Giraldus Cambrensis (Gerald of Wales) in 1188.
The grounds contain an important collection of rhododendrons and other exotic plants in a wild-garden setting which was begun before Williams-Ellis' time by the previous owner George Henry Caton Haigh and has continued to be developed since his death.
Portmeirion is now owned by a charitable trust, and has always been run as a hotel, which uses the majority of the buildings as hotel rooms or self-catering cottages, together with various shops, a cafe, tea-room and restaurant. Portmeirion is today a top tourist attraction in North Wales and day visits can be made on payment of an admission charge.
The village of Portmeirion has long been a source of inspiration for writers and television producers. For example, Noel Coward wrote Blithe Spirit while staying in the Fountain 2 (Upper Fountain) suite at Portmeirion.
A number of television series and films have filmed exterior shots at Portmeirion, often depicting the village as an exotic European location. Examples of this include the 1960 Danger Man episode "View from the Villa" starring Patrick McGoohan and a mid-1970s episode of Doctor Who entitled "The Masque of Mandragora".
Without question the best-known use of the location occurred in 1966-67 when McGoohan returned to Portmeirion to film exteriors for The Prisoner, a surreal science fiction drama in which Portmeirion itself played a starring role as "The Village". (On request from Williams-Ellis, Portmeirion was not identified on screen as the filming location until the credits of the final episode of the series.) The show became a cult classic, and fans continue to visit Portmeirion, which hosts annual Prisoner fan conventions. The building that was used as the lead character's home in the series was, for many years, operated as a Prisoner-themed souvenir shop, with one of the Village vehicles used in the series parked outside the door. Many of the locations used in The Prisoner, such as the "Green Dome" and "The Stone Boat" are virtually unchanged from the series.
Due to its Prisoner connection, Portmeirion has been used as the filming location for a number of homages to the series, ranging from comedy skits to an episode of the BBC documentary series The Celts which recreated scenes from The Prisoner. In 2003 some scenes were filmed there for the final episode of the TV series Cold Feet
For more information see: http://www.portmeirion-village.com/