I park my car in Criccieth and catch the train to Penrhyndeudraeth, a name I still can’t pronounce, despite my B&B hostess’ best efforts to teach me.
Sadly there isn’t a path running along the bank of the estuary and so I’m forced to follow the road – the A497 heading westwards – where I soon come across yet another little station at Minffordd.
The platform has a quaint, abandoned look and it takes me a little while to realise it’s not a network station, but part of the Ffestiniog Railway, which is apparently the world’s oldest narrow-gauge railway line.
Looking over the tracks, I can see the conventional station in the valley below.
The road between Penrhyndeudraeth and Minffordd is lined by an odd mix of residential houses, old chapels and business properties, all interlaced with fields full of tiny spring lambs. This couple stayed still long enough for a photograph.
I’m pleased to leave the main road and follow the Wales Coast Path, first down a side street, and then onto a footpath through fields. At least I now can enjoy a good view across the Afon Dwyryd estuary, and trace the route I walked yesterday.
The path seems to double back on itself and joins a track…
… that leads past residential homes, and then up along a bridleway with an ancient surface made of flagstones, before joining another track across farmland. I reach the top of a rise and begin to walk downhill, past ponds and underneath twisted trees…
… arriving at the top of a large field where the footpath appears to vanish. But down below, and ahead, I see a giant car park, and I know I must be on the outskirts of Portmeirion.
Through the car park and I see a sign. Yes. Portmeirion. I’ve been looking forward to this.
The adult entrance fee is £20, but if you are really old – like me – you can get in for a tenner.
I knew nothing much about Portmeirion, apart from the fact it was the location used for the TV series, The Prisoner, a surreal and mystifying programme from the 1960s which I never watched.
Mistakenly, I thought that Portmeirion was a model resort, possibly created by the Victorians. So I’m surprised to read the brochure and learn that it’s a comparatively new creation and was built by the architect Clough Williams-Ellis who started the project in 1925 and worked on it, off and on, for the next 50 years. The final buildings were added in the 1970s.
You can visit the resort as a day tripper like me, or stay in the hotel or one of the self-catering cottages. It’s a fantastic situation, overlooking the mouth of the estuary and the tidal island of Ynys Gifftan.
The buildings seem to be inspired by Italian architecture, with some classical facades thrown in. I expected to find it all rather twee, but actually I found it to be delightful: cheerful, colourful, attractive and ever-so-slightly bonkers.
I imagine the gardens are even lovelier in summer, when the trees and shrubs are in bloom. But I enjoy wandering around the extensive grounds, most of it left as natural woodland. There are giant ferns…
… and high on the hill above the village is a strange graveyard. Yes, that really is a giant wooden statue of a dog among the headstones.
A dogs’ graveyard? Again I expect to be repelled by its sentimentality. In fact, I find it peaceful and very moving.
Further along, I come across trees with massive twisted branches. Spooky.
And, high above the sea, I find a clearing with a bench, and great views to the west towards Porthmadog.
From here a path leads down to a beach below, but a couple coming up warn me that the path is steep and eroded, and there is no other route off the beach. So I decide not to climb down, but sit on the bench and have a snack – and take a self-portrait.
I could stay here for hours. But I haven’t come very far at all, and I must reach Criccieth before sunset.
[to be continued…]