Holiday accommodation, Portmeirion
Leading radiator manufacturer Stelrad Radiators has continued to provide its radiators to the quite wonderful village of Portmeirion – the fantasy Italianate hillside settlement on the North Wales coastline designed and built by architect Bertram Clough Williams-Ellis, known to all simply as ‘Clough’. Portmeirion is still perhaps best known as the setting for the 1960’s fantasy TV series The Prisoner starring Patrick McGoohan.
The village is now owned by a charitable trust, but day to day management is by Clough’s grandson, Robin Llywelyn-Jones in his role as managing director of Portmeirion Limited, a role he has held since 1983. He has overseen the gradual and continuing upgrade of every property in the village since the early 1990s, slowly but surely improving all the accommodation, cottage by cottage, working with his wife Sian who is responsible for the interior design. All the cottages in the grounds at Portmeirion are let as holiday accommodation and if you’re looking for somewhere to ‘chill out’, you’d struggle to find a better place in the UK.
Portmeirion covers 170 glorious acres of coastal hillside land, half of which is farmland and a further seventy acres is amenity woodland which visitors can explore. The site was bought for around £5,000 back in 1925 and Clough set about building fifty individual buildings, including a 55 room hotel, an eleven roomed castle and numerous cottages and other buildings to bring his dream to life. Now visited by more than 200,000 visitors a year, the site boasts a brasserie restaurant, a coffee shop, café and ice cream shop, but people visit it primarily to witness the vision that Clough had for the site. He was determined to inspire people to take an interest in their surroundings, and to recognise that buildings can live in harmony with the landscape. Portmeirion has had two visits from Prince Charles, one earlier this year, a man who has very specific views on architecture as we know – and apparently he is fascinated by and highly attracted to Portmeirion.
The position of Portmeirion just above the estuary of the Afon Crigyll and benefitting from the Gulf Stream, sees it benefitting from its own micro-climate, with frosts extremely rare and as a result the site plays host to some remarkable botany, trees – a Ginko tree and giant redwoods amongst them – and plants – some superb rhododendrons and azaleas as well as a myriad of tree ferns. Talking to Robin Llywelyn Jones, you can tell he has the same passion for Portmeirion that drove his grandfather on until he was 95: “Clough saw Portmeirion as a work of art, a painting on a huge canvas, not a piece of architecture. He didn’t want it to become a museum of architecture – he wanted it to be enjoyed for what it is – a living, breathing entity.”
Part of that desire, driven by a need for the village to generate an income to allow the on-going refurbishment to continue each year, requires that the cottages and buildings at Portmeirion are used by visitors as much as possible. And of course, to make that an attractive thing to do, requires a degree of comfort that the original buildings Clough built didn’t offer, to a level of quality required by visitors in the 21st century; “Clough was only investing what he could afford at the time and some of the buildings were not frankly built to the highest specification,” admits Robin. It’s for this reason that the on-going upgrade of all the buildings has been taking place for the past two decades or more, and a vital part of this upgrade was to install modern, effective and energy efficient heating systems that would make the accommodation attractive all year round.
“We have always used Stelrad radiators when we’ve been improving the properties,” says Robin Llywelyn Jones. “We enjoy working with the products – we like the range of shapes and sizes and colours we can utilise here and they easily fit into the designs we have and offer us excellent value for money. The vertical radiators in particular work well here and give us more options for where to place them in a room. Many of the bedrooms for example were built with large windows to maximise the benefits of the views out over the estuary here and being able to use two vertical radiators – one either side of the window – is a major blessing for the design we follow. We particularly like the Planar and the Concord designs which are contemporary without being ‘chintzy’ – we want the rooms to look stylish without looking too fancy and these radiators are perfect for our use.”
The radiators at Portmeirion have been supplied through the local Plumb Center branch just down the road in Porthmadog and the recent visit to Portmeirion to see the latest Stelrad radiators supplied, in-situ in the Bridge House and the Winch House, the latest properties on the site to benefit from refurbishment, was joined by the branch manager Patrick Watson and Stelrad’s local Business Development Manager for North Wales, Martin Youd.
“It’s a privilege to be involved with this place,” says Patrick, an Irishman who has become almost more Welsh than the locals! “We often have no idea where the products we supply to local heating and plumbing installers end up but having taken a close interest in Portmeirion since arriving in the area ten years ago, it’s always been a pleasure to be involved in helping them to upgrade the properties here. I’ve seen significant improvements over my time and Robin and his team have absolutely the right ideas for refurbishing the cottages and other buildings down here.”
Martin looks after North Wales for Stelrad bringing more than 30 years of experience with merchants and manufacturers in the heating sector and he’s equally delighted to see Stelrad products contributing to the burgeoning reputation that the holiday lets at Portmeirion have: “It’s good to hear the feedback that our radiators are contributing to making the cottages and apartments more cosy and a great place to stay all year round. The accommodation is available through all four seasons and apparently authors come and stay here to write books during the winter, so I like to think that maybe Stelrad radiators keeping authors warm has played a vital role in ensuring that these writers manage to finish their novels on time!”