No matter how many times you go to Portmeirion (this was my fourth) you never get used to it. The critic Kenneth Tynan once said of the film star Greta Garbo 'What, when drunk, one sees in other women, one sees in Garbo sober', and I feel this way about the unique Welsh wonderland when I compare it to every other lovely place I've stayed, from Marbella to the Maldives.
A bird's eye view. Photo: Portmeirion
This beautiful estate, set in 20 miles of forest on the west coast of Snowdonia - complete with Dancing Trees, Dogs Cemetery and Ghost Garden - features two hotels (one of them an actual castle), three restaurants, a beach, a swimming pool, and 17 alleged cottages, sleeping from 3 to 8 people. I say 'alleged' because the cottages are the true gems of Portmeirion; though quite normal inside, they are topped and tailed by the most astonishing collection of sugared-almond carapaces, domes and spires, neo-classical colonnades and Ionic columns, pantheons and gloriettes.
In short, bits and bobs of buildings from all around the world broken down, transported and re-built into the most wondrous place you are ever likely to envision without contravening this country's Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
Cottages in the village. Photo: Portmeirion
The village was seen to splendid and sinister advantage in the 60s TV show The Prisoner and now attracts a quarter of a million people a year, who bear witness to its creator Clough Williams-Ellis description of beauty as 'that strange necessity'.
Portmeirion is open to the public from 9.30 till 7.30 (though the swimming pool can only be accessed by residents) and then the residents have this magic kingdom as their own surreal playground. Walk down to the hotel and drink a couple of the cocktails named after some of the most famous guests - H.G Wells' Out Of this World Margarita or King Zog's Lemongrass and Basil Martini - before enjoying a dinner which combines the unusual delights of an AA rosette and no dress code. And marvel, as I have always done, at the basic preposterous premise of The Prisoner. Why would anyone, ever, want to escape Portmeirion?
The Hotel Portmeirion. Photo: Portmeirion