West Wales: Portmeirion, Harlech, Barmouth

Wales. You’re gorgeous. Your landscapes are so breathtaking and mesmerising, even in the winter and chilly temperatures (how is it that it feels colder here than any other part of the UK?). 

It’s crazy how most people (even people from the UK) don’t really travel around Wales, because it’s such a beautiful place. There’s so much to see – I wish there were more hours in a day. 

I’ve been spoiled with rooms that have incredible views – I scored a private room last night that overlooked the Llan Ffestiniog rolling green mountainsides and sea, and today, I’m in a B&B that overlooks the ocean. Too bad I’m only here to sleep for a few hours at night and completely missed the stunning views… 😭

The only downside to all this is either my horrible Googling skills, or the fact that Wales has really limited backpackers accommodation. They don’t really have “hostels” here – they’re called bunkhouses, more or less the same, but a max of 4-6 people per room (and in my case, usually just me, since it’s off season). The priciest accommodation out of everywhere I’ve been is in Wales, perhaps because everything is so remote and out in the countryside over here. It’s worth it, though. Although it killed me to have to book two hotels after not finding any decent bunkhouses in specific areas, because I’m certainly not a hotel type of traveller whatsoever. 

Barmouth, where I’m staying for the night, is a peaceful seaside village on the border of Harlech. It’s basically a quiet, minuscule version of Brighton- without the pier, electric vibe, and elaborate shopping lanes. 

I took a day trip to Harlech to visit the renowned Harlech Castle (at £4.20 for student admission, it was well worth it) and did a little bit more hiking on the nature trail before my Nikes were caked in mud. Like Barmouth, Harlech is a historical seaside town – but its castle that overlooks the beach and mountainscapes (you can see Mount Snowdon in the distance from the castle walls) really sets it apart from other places. Imagine battling forces with that jaw-droppingly beautiful landscape in the background?! The sea used to come up to the actual castle walls and they used to import supplies in from Ireland when the castle was being attacked. Over time, materials eroded and there’s now a railway track and a huge park that separates the castle from the beach – but still beautiful regardless. 

And oh, Portmeirion. Why didn’t I spend an entire day or two with you?! I only got two hours to explore this lovely village. It’s apparently extremely touristy and a summer destination, but it still made my heart flutter despite the rain and construction barriers around one of the ponds. 

Portmeirion is a private village resort on the coast of Snowdonia and well worth a visit for a few days. It’s probably one of the most lovely places I’ve ever seen throughout all my travels – mainly because it was built with a variety of architectural styles (heavily Greek and Italian influenced). Next to the village are 70 acres of sub-tropical woodland gardens, as well as the most amazing coastal walk to calm your soul. 

Since it’s a conservation area and all the colourful cottages and private residences are listed as Grade I or II historic buildings, you have to pay an entrance fee to enter – it was £8 for the winter, so I’m assuming the price goes up in the spring and summer. It was built by architect Clough Williams-Ellis (1883-1978) to show how a beautiful site could be developed without spoiling it. The income from admission goes toward preserving the buildings and grounds. 

It basically reminded me of the Storybook Land Canal Boats attraction at Disneyland – really cutesy and colourful with so much in a small little area. As you walk around the ponds and Greek-inspired sculptures and pillars, you feel like you’re in a real-life whimsical fairytale. It’s a simply magical place. 

I also loved the life-size chess board. If I wasn’t travelling alone, it would be crazy fun with a group of friends to run around pretending we were on a match of Wizard’s Chess. 

Like most of the other things I’ve seen, the railway was closed for the winter. I want to come back in a better season to experience the free Forest Train, which takes you through the stunning Gwyllt woods to see temples, lakes, castle ruins, and other unique monuments. 

The pastel-coloured buildings in almost every hue of the rainbow made me yearn to visit Italy. For being such a small private village, I was entranced. I loved how it was so quiet and peaceful, you could hear the train track clatter on the railway, across the sea that bordered the village. I could live here. Pure bliss. The ocean, woods, beautiful little buildings and a ton of Italian cafes and dessert shops dotted around- what a dream. 

Can I just stay here forever?! Sigh… 

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