If the castles of Wales attract tourists in search of history and old buildings, then Welsh lamb should appeal to gourmets looking for flavour and nature. With its 11 million sheep at the height of the season, Wales is the leading European producer. Even if they are not exclusively reared there, Welsh salt marsh lambs have one truly distinctive feature: they are now the rare ones that still respect seasonality and benefit from total freedom.
Whilst awaiting a PDO – Protected Designation of Origin* – Welsh salt marsh lamb is reared over 16 precisely delimited areas. They are defined as maritime pastureland benefiting from being submerged at least twice a year, offering an area of retreat in the event of high tides, and a particular flora. Glasswort, sea purslane, cord grass, fescue, etc. must be part of the lamb’s diet. It is on this condition alone that it can be called “salt marsh lamb”. Moreover, there are numerous checks by competent bodies to ensure that all the rules are respected. Quality and traceability are two keywords of Welsh rearing.
Born between March and April, the lambs live first of all on their mother’s milk. After four to six weeks, grass is added to their diet. Plants and minerals from the salt marshes give their meat its distinctive flavour.
Portmeirion, a little earthly paradise, was born of the imagination of an eccentric architect, Sir Clough William Ellis. This village, with its Italian influences, is an excellent base for your stay in Wales. Its geographical location offers all the conditions to fully appreciate the land where lamb is king. By the sea, clinging to the rock, it benefits from a unique view of Porthmadog Bay, its salt marshes and the neighbouring mountains.
Choose to sleep here, but dine here too. The rooms are spacious and comfortable and you can try the restaurant blindfold. The “1930s” style dining room is superb, the menu gives pride of place to local produce, cooked and presented with care. We should also highlight the quality of service.
Before setting off to explore Snowdonia National Park or Cowny, a town on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites located a little further north on the coast, linger a little in the village in order to appreciate the architectural diversity of the place, but also the trees and exotic plants of the surrounding forest. And above all, don’t miss sunrise: simply superb.
*PDO: European acronym created in 1992. It protects the designation of a product whose production, transformation and elaboration must take place in a defined geographical area using recognised and stated know-how.
Getting to Portmeirion
From Liverpool, follow the M57 and take the M56 then A55 to Cowny. Continue as far as Bangor and take the A487 as far as Caernarfon then Porthmadog. This is not the shortest way, but gives you the best glimpse of the Welsh coast. Once you reach Porthmadog, just follow the direction of Penrhyndeudraeth, i.e. the A496, to find the little village of Portmeirion.
Merfyn Evans, butcher in Porthmadog
An excellent shop, which supplies the meat served in the Portmeirion restaurant.