This time last year I was on a psychiatric unit, so I was pretty apprehensive about my 25th birthday. It couldn’t be any worse, right? My boyfriend was taking me somewhere for the weekend, but I didn’t know where.
We first met back in September at Festival Number 6. Based in Portmeirion on the North West Wales peninsula, the Italian style village was designed and built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1975.
Usually the phrase ‘tourist attraction’ would have me running for the hills, but Portmeirion is truly spectacular. I’d remarked on how amazing it would be to stay there all those months ago, and thought no more about it.
I was blown away by my surprise of a night’s stay in our special place.
Guests have a choice between the Castle, the Village, and the Hotel. We were in the Village, which I was delighted about. On arrival to our suite, we were greeted with a complimentary decanter of brandy.
After a tipple or five, we went for a wander. The only thing that reminds you you’re not on the Italian Riviera is the rain, but we were lucky. The daffodils were in full bloom.
Portmeirion is magical, with nooks and crannies galore to explore. Photos just don’t do it justice (especially mine).
At sunset we took a woodland walk, during which my gardener boyfriend would pause every few paces to admire a rare or unusual plant. From the viewpoint overlooking the beach and nearby town of Porthmadog, we drank cheap champagne (from the bottle, obv) in the spot we’d snogged all those months ago.
It was dark by the time we made our way back through the forest and stumbled upon the Dogs’ Cemetery. Let me tell you, a carving of a gigantic dog is not what you want to find in the dark. The Dogs’ Cemetery was established by one of Portmeirion’s eccentric tenants, because she preferred the company of dogs to human beings. Fair enough.
There are two places to eat at night in Portmeirion; the beachside Hotel, which is very bloody fancy, and the Castle Brasserie on top of the hill. Despite supposedly being more informal, we were intimidated by the Castle. We were starving, though, and none of the local takeaways delivered (I KNOW, RIGHT?!)
The Brasserie is deceptive. The food was great (‘these chips are the Angelina Jolie of chips’), and our meals cost less than £20 each. There was even a pianist! Very bloody fancy.
An overnight stay in Portmeirion doesn’t come cheap (I glimpsed the bill during checkout), but it’s an indulgence I think everybody deserves to experience once. Despite only driving an hour down the coast it genuinely felt like being on holiday.
The next day, we drove on to Criccieth to check out the new branch of Dylan’s. The original is based in my hometown of Menai Bridge, which with its Straitside location you’d be hard pressed to beat. Renowned for their fresh seafood, they have won many awards including the Michelin Guide 2016. Snazzy.
Dylan’n 2.0 didn’t disappoint. Situated overlooking the beach with views of Criccieth castle, according to my boyfriend ‘it looks like the building from Telletubbies, doesn’t it?’ He wasn’t altogether wrong.
On the recommendation of my friend and barman Dan, I ordered the herb & Parmesan crusted hake fillet, served with creamy mustard leeks and new potatoes. It’s been said that Dylan’s is too expensive, but at £14.95 I thought it was bloody lovely and good value.
Sean, meanwhile, opted for the Menai Strait Pizza (crabmeat, prawns, chilli, basil, tomato & chive oil). To quote, he hadn’t had pizza that good ‘in about two years, when I went out for my birthday’. Belter.