The Italianate haven in North Wales

Like a lot people, I’m quick to book cheap flights and get away on city breaks, but I’ve barely begun my discovery of the UK. This spring I decided to change that, and booked a few days near Portmeirion in North Wales to celebrate my boyfriend’s birthday.

A day trip to Portmeirion itself is a must. This tourist village was built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis over several decades, and is a hidden paradise. It’s designed in the Italian style, and on a sunny day you might really believe you’re in Italy. We were lucky with the weather and spent several happy hours wandering the woodland paths, mooching around the village itself, and eating Italian gelato. I love Italy, and visit as often as possible, so this quirky village in its gorgeous setting gave me my Italy fix! Portmeirion is famous for being the set for 70s TV show The Prisoner, and there is a ‘Prisoner’ shop and memorabilia for sale, along with the traditional Portmeirion ceramics. You pay for a ticket to the village – I recommend arriving early, especially if you want to take some photos before the crowds arrive – and once in you can spend as long as you like there. We loved the free walking tour, which pointed out some unique and very surprising architecture, and there is a small ‘train’ ride around the woodland which is worth a go too. There are plenty of cafes and restaurants, we ate lunch at the Italian ‘Caffe Glas’, which was a little chaotic as they were starting a new menu, but gave us extra time to sup prosecco and pretend we were in Tuscany.

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It’s worth a visit to North Wales to experience Bounce Below. An underground playground in an old slate cavern, this subterranean world is one of a kind! Multiple floors of bouncy trampoline nets, chutes, walkways, tunnels… all yours to explore for an hour. When we arrived, we were given helmets, brief instructions, then led into the cavern. There is a small bouncy ‘intro’ area where you can find your feet, then you are free to go wild! It’s completely surreal, and I spent more time on my bum than on my feet, but we both loved it and couldn’t stop laughing! You’ll find Bounce Below a few miles from Portmeirion, in Blaenau Ffestiniog – which incidentally has a fantastic vintage steam railway running through the mountainous landscape providing some stunning views of the Welsh highlands (and with a bar on board!).

I didn’t take any photos at Bounce Below – and not just because I was too busy bouncing – it’s not a place to take your valuables, so take as little as possible with you, lock your essentials in your car, and hand your keys to the team on the main desk. You’ll miss out on an underground selfie, but you can relax and enjoy yourself – which I’m pretty sure you will! But if you’re still feeling a little wary, check out the pics on the Bounce Below website for reassurance.

I can’t write a blog post without a quick recommendation for dinner – I’m a vegetarian, but also a real foodie, so if I know restaurants will be in short supply, I spend a lot of time researching menus and checking Trip Advisor reviews. I discovered Tir-A-Mor in Criccieth, and booked before visiting North Wales. It didn’t disappoint – The food was fresh and delicious, clever takes on traditional Welsh dishes, and we were both impressed. I opted for the Welsh rarebit tartlet with caramelised shallots, followed by the savoury baklava. My other half went for the Welsh rump of lamb with dauphinoise potato, and said it was delicious.

So, that’s my take on North Wales. For more info on the places I’ve mentioned, check out…

http://www.portmeirion-village.com/

http://www.bouncebelow.net/

http://www.festrail.co.uk/

http://www.tiramor-criccieth.co.uk/

 

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