About the Area - History and Culture
Situated on the north-east shore of Bala Lake (Llyn Tegid) is the unique market town of Bala. Surrounded by the Aran, Arenig and Berwyn mountains this little town in the heart of the National Park is a stronghold of the Welsh language and Welsh culture.
An historical town
The extent of history connected with this town unfolds as you stroll through its high street. Here you will come across a wealth of historical features – from monuments, chapels and churches to an old workhouse, and the old Theological College sitting proudly on the hilltop. There are also some Norman remains – Tomen y Bala (a Norman motte) which provides excellent panoramic views of the town.
There are many famous individuals connected with the town. It was home to the Rev. Thomas Charles, an important leader in the Methodist revival. It was he who sold a copy of the Bible to Mari Jones in 1800 after her 25 mile long barefoot trek from Llanfihangel y Pennant to Bala, to puchase a Bible, this led to the formation of the Bible Society.
On the north eastern end of the high street stands a monument to commemorate Thomas Ellis, a Liberal Member of Parliament for Meirionnydd. It was here in Bala that he delivered his famous speech calling for a Welsh Parliament. These are only some of the famous characters – more information is provided on this website “History of Bala” and also the Snowdonia National Park Authority (SNPA) website for more details of Bala’s claim to fame.
Bala lake - a first class watersports venue
At 3½ miles long, ¾ mile wide and up to 140 feet deep, Bala Lake is the largest natural lake in Wales. Gusting south westerly winds through the valley makes it a perfect spot for all kinds of watersports, from sailing and windsurfing to fishing. It has 14 species of fish, including the Gwyniad (Coregonus lavaretus), a species of whitefish which is unique to Bala Lake (fishing for the Gwyniad is not permitted). Bala Lake is owned and managed by the Snowdonia National Park Authority as a recreational resource. The Authority also conserves the lake and its special biodiversity. For more detailed information about Bala Lake visit the SNPA website.
On foot or by train
Bala Lake is surrounded by a web of public footpaths which offer magnificent views of the lake and mountains. If walking doesn’t appeal to you – you can enjoy the spectacular views on a train journey along the southern shore of the lake from Bala to Llanuwchllyn.
Snowdonia has a wealth of legends, some of which are connected to the Bala area. One of the most prominent is the legend of Tegid Foel, which tells the story of how Bala Lake was formed.
A very long time ago, there was a beautiful valley in the spot where Bala Lake lies today, and on the bottom of that valley stood the old town of Bala. Tegid Foel, a mean prince who was very cruel to his tenants lived in a palace in the town. Despite numerous warnings that vengeance would come for his cruelty, he didn’t mend his ways.
On the arrival of Tegid Foel’s first grandson a grand feast was held at the palace to mark the occasion, and all of the princes’ acquaintances, equally as cruel as he was, were invited. Food and drink were in abundance and the best harpist in the country was employed to entertain them. During the feast, the harpist heard a voice saying “Vengeance will come!”. He looked over his shoulder and saw a little bird by his side. The little bird lured the harpist out of the palace and up to the hills where he fell asleep. The harpist awoke the next morning to find that the old town of Bala had been drowned, and as he approached the shore he saw his harp floating on the water. The lake was named Llyn Tegid after the cruel prince and it is said that sometimes, the remains of the old town of Bala can still be seen in the lake today…
Why is Bala Special?
Don’t take our word for it – official recognition by organisations or experts
The largest Welsh Cake in the World, made in Bala - certified by Guinness World Records
Things to do:
- Canoe on the largest natural lake in Wales or walk around the lake
- Walk on the well-marked networks of path of a "Walkers are Welcome" town - officially recognised
- Swim in the lake the venue for open water swimming championships and triathlons including national selection
- Rafting and canoeing at the National WhiteWater Centre - canoe world championships venue
- Take a scenic ride, along the lake on the Best Small Railway 2012
- Cycle or drive over Bwlch y Groes the highest road pass in Wales
- Take a scenic drive over the Berwyn mountains to Pistyll Rhaeadr - the highest waterfall in Wales
- Cycle over challenging routes at the home of the Wild Wales challenge
Wildlife in abundance:
- Bala Lake (Llyn Tegid) is a Ramsar wetlands site of international importance
- The home of the Gwyniad - a species of whitefish, which is unique to the area
- The lake shoreline is the only UK location where the glutinous snail is found
- The River Tryweryn is one of the few places in the UK where freshwater pearl mussels exist.
- The Lamprey, a rare eel-like fish is also found in the River Tryweryn
Shop without effort:
Don't just take our word for it - look at these independent recommendations
Bala is located in the Snowdonia National Park, North Wales and makes an excellent location to enjoy the Park.
Snowdonia National Park covers 823 square miles (2,140 km2) of the most beautiful and unspoilt countryside in North Wales. In Welsh, the area is named Eryri. It is the second largest National Park in England and Wales and the second oldest acquiring National Park status in 1951.
The Park contains not only some of the most beautiful scenery in Britain but also contains a variety of landscapes, and habitats for animals, birds and plants; from 23 miles (37km) of coastline with sand dunes, estuaries; to glacial valleys, the remnants of broad-leaved woodlands of oak, ash, rowan and hazel that once covered the mountain slopes, lakes, streams and rugged mountains. There are more National Nature reserves in Snowdonia than any other National Park in Britain and it is home to many nationally and internationally rare species such as the Peregrine Falcon, Merlin, and the Snowdon Lily an arctic/alpine plant only present in the park, and the beautiful rainbow coloured Snowdon Beetle found only around Snowdon.
The Park's entire coastline is a Special Area of Conservation, which runs from the Llŷn Peninsula down to the mid-Wales coast, the latter containing valuable sand dune systems. A large proportion of the Park is today under designation (or under consideration for designation) as Sites of Special Scientific Interest, National Nature Reserves, Special Areas of Conservation, Special Protection Areas, Biosphere and Ramsar sites, such as Bala Lake.
Snowdonia provides outstanding opportunities for outdoor activities including mountain walking, scrambling, rock climbing, water-sports and mountain biking, as well as leisure activities including fishing, bird-watching etc. The Park has a rich history with castles, churches, mines and quarries. There are several railways which were originally used to connect the mines and quarries with the ports.
More information: Snowdonia National Park Authority
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The Bala Fault
The Bala Fault is a south-west to north-east trending geological fault in Wales that extends offshore into Cardigan Bay. The resulting valley is occupied by the town of Bala, Bala Lake (Llyn Tegid) and further south and east by Tal-y-Llyn and the Mawddach Estuary.
The Bala Fault has an extremely long and complex history - it has been intermittently active between about 800 My (million years) and 10 My before the present!
It was probably initiated as a tensional fracture during the opening of the Iapetus Ocean in late Precambrian times. The fault is very deep, perhaps extending down to the mantle lithosphere, and could be better termed a 'geofracture'.
The Bala fault has had both vertical and sideways transverse motions at various times under different crustal stress patterns.
During the Cambrian, the fault probably formed a sea bed escarpment, separating shallower water to the south east from deeper water to the north-west. It was over this sea bed scarp that turbidites were discharged - evidence comes from the very coarse proximal turbidite grits, above Barmouth.
In Ordovician times, the Bala fracture zone was a major pathway for the rise of magma, producing a series of volcanic centres from the Arans, through Rhobell Fawr to Cader Idris. The fault then continued across the present Cardigan Bay to reappear on the tip of Pembrokeshire, where it was responsible for the Strumble Head basalt pillow lava eruptions. The diagram shows the positions of the Ordovician volcanic centres in relation to the Bala Fault.
West of Dolgellau, the main fault seems to spilt into a series of parallel fractures, along the Tal y Llyn valley, the valley of the Gwernan Lake, and the Mawddach estuary. This is typical of a major deep fault, which can split upwards into a 'flower structure' of parallel fractures at the surface.
In late Lower Palaeozoic times with closure of the Iapetus Ocean, metamorphism below Wales released hydrothermal fluids which rose along the major fracture zones. This can explain the location of gold deposits along the line of the Bala fault branch through the Mawddach estuary (e.g. Clogau mine), with further deposits following the north-south Rhobell fracture to form the gold deposits in Coed y Brenin (e.g. Gwynfynydd).
The final closure of Iapetus in the Silurian seems to have been oblique, which may have caused sideways motion on the Bala fault to allow sideways adjustment of crustal blocks.
The Bala fault may well have been active again at various times up to the Tertiary, as blocks of crust in the Wales area moved up and down in response to various plate movements. Evidence for these recent movements comes from the huge movement along the Mochras fault which runs north-south along the coast and has down-faulted and preserved Triassic, Jurassic and Tertiary sediments under Cardigan Bay.
Information provided by Dr Graham Hall with additional information by Ray Hind (Mountain Guide)
Geography and Geology of the Bala & Penllyn area, North Wales
An overview of the Geography and Geology of the Bala & Penllyn area, North Wales follows. References to further information are also provided.
The Bala & Penllyn area comprises fast-flowing rivers, lakes in deep valleys and mountains almost touching 3,000 feet. The area lies between several mountain ranges. To the east and north is the Berwyn mountain range and its sub-classification Hirnant mountain range, to the south is the Aran mountain range, while to the west and south-west is the Arenig mountain range. A major valley, running north-east to south-west, is occupied by Bala Lake and the River Dee, which flows both in and out of the lake. A further valley - which initially runs north-west from Bala is occupied by the River Tryweryn and further upstream Llyn Celyn - a reservoir, which was created in the 60s. The main communication routes follow these valleys.
The Bala area is rich in geological features and interest, including a major fault line, a major syncline flanked by domes and all the classical rock types, i.e.: sedimentary, metamorphic and igneous formations, as well as significant glaciation. The area has given names to geological features or time-scales including Arenig time scale, the Bala Series, and Hirnant time scale. The principal geology dates back to the Silurian period (410-430 million years ago) and Ordovician period (430-500 million years ago).
Close by, are other areas rich in geological interest, e.g. the Harlech Dome with turbidite sequences and Cader Idris with widely studied examples of volcanic action, including pillow lava, and glaciation.
The Bala Lake/River Dee valley which runs north-east to south-west was originally caused by a fault line (The Bala Fault) which extends south-west to Tal-y-Llyn with a westerly separate fork forming what in now the Mawddach estuary, extending to Cardigan Bay. The Llandderfel syncline is to the east with the Berwyn dome further east. The area is flanked by the Harlech dome, much further to the west.
The predominant lowland rock type is sedimentary principally mudstone, siltstone and grit with some tuff (a rock formed from volcanic ash) and some limestone bands. Many of the upland areas are the result of volcanic action of the Aran Volcanic Group and the Rhobell Volcanic Complex. The Berwyn mountains were also influenced by volcanic action - Pistyll Rhaeadr the highest waterfall in Wales is the result of a the river flowing over a band of harder volcanic rock.
The Aran Volcanic Group comprises several mountains which are the highest, most rugged and impressive of the area, these include the Aran ridge, Arenig Fawr (see picture), and nearby Cader Idris. The Rhobell Volcanic Complex resulted in volcanic action centred on Rhobell Fawr, the first volcanic centre in Snowdonia, where there are outstanding examples of explosion breccia at Rhobell y Big (see picture above and lower-right).
It is though that Bala Lake previously flowed west into Cardigan Bay, whereas, now the River Dee flows north-east eventually into the Irish Sea. The lake was much larger than it is now and was previously probably constrained by glacial moraine until erosion allowed the lake to reduce in water level and size. The northern end of the lake extended significantly further than now - including the area now occupied by Bala town and to Bodweni (north-east of Bala). The south end of the lake also extended much further, probably to Llanuwchllyn.
The ice-age period lasted from around 1.5 million years ago to 12,000 years ago - during this period there were extensive glaciation of Snowdonia. During the last ice age a major ice cap formed over Snowdonia. The centre was located at the Migneint area near the Arenig Mountains, where the depth of ice was 1,400m. Glaciers radiated from this ice cap, deepening valleys forming mountain passes. All the classical glacial erosion features are present in the area, including: cirques, hanging valleys, truncated spurs, U-shaped valleys and melt-water channels. There are excellent examples of glacial cirques on Arenig Fawr (see picture), Arenig Fach, the Aran ridge and Cader Idris. The Bala Lake/River Dee valley and Tryweryn valley show signs of glaciation. It is thought that the Gwyniad, a unique species of fish, was trapped in Bala Lake after the last ice age.
Mines, Quarries and Mineralisation
There were many mines and quarries in the area, including:
Building Stone: Craig-y-Fron, just outside Bala to the north-west, provided stone for many buildings in Bala, including Coleg-y-Bala and Bodiwan. The excavations have left a cavern with the roof supported by regular pillars of rock, known locally as “the caves” (see picture on right). The rock type is tuff (a rock formed from volcanic ash), sandwiched between mudstone (above) and siltstone (below). The internal roof (mudstone) has ripples - indicating sedimentary rock.
Gold at Castell Carn Dochan Mine, near Llanuwchllyn. There are also several gold mines in the Dolgellau area.
Manganese from several mines, including: Fron Feuno, Llanycil, south of Bala, Moel Llyfnant (Arenig mountain range) and Mynydd Nodol overlooking Llyn Celyn.
Stone (Quartz-Latite) for various uses associated with roads at Arenig Quarry: Quartz-Latite is a very hard igneous intrusive rock.
Limestone is found near Llandderfel at the appropriately named “Moel y Calc”.
On the east side of Bala Lake, the area was known as Bryniau Golau (The Lit-up Hills) derived from the fires of lime-kilns lighting up the area at night. The remains of several lime-kilns and a small limestone quarry are still visible over the ridge to the East.
Information compiled by Ray Hind (Mountain Guide)
Welsh Place Names around Bala, Wales
Places names around Bala:
- Bala: the outflow from the lake or an isthmus between two lakes (the lake was larger in the past and therefore could have been seperated into two lakes)
- Cwm Hirnant: valley of the long stream (Cwm is also used for a corrie)
- Frongoch: red (russet) hillside – coloured by withered bracken in winter
- Llyn Tegid: Lake Bala – Tegid derives from the prince featured in the “Legend of Bala Lake.” Another possible derivation from “Tacitus,” a Roman general.
- Llanuwchllyn: Church above the lake
- Llangower or Llangywair: The church of Saint Cywair
- Llanycil: The church in a sheltered enclave or retreat
- Llandderfel: The church of Saint Derfel
- Llandrillo: The church of Saint Trillo
- Llanfor: (Llan + mawr) The principal church of Penllyn at one time
- Llangwm: The church in the valley
- Cefnddwysarn: The hillside of the two roads. “Sarn” from Latin “strata” (road)
- Sarnau: plural form of “sarn” – the Roman roads
- Penllyn: The upper (Dee) valley area around the lake
- Rhosygwaliau: Rhos (heath) + gwaliau (walls or enclosures)
What exactly is a Llan?
Over 430 places in Wales start with 'Llan'. A 'Llan' was a piece of land, usually circular, enclosed by a wooden fence within which would be a church and, occasionally a Christian community. Each 'Llan' was established around the 6th century by various Celtic saints after whom many (but not all) of the sites were named.
- Aran Benllyn: The Aran nearest to Penllyn
- Aran Fawddwy: The Aran nearest to Mawddwy
- Arenig: Diminutive form of Aran
- Arenig Fawr: greater (Arenig)
- Arenig Fach: lesser (Arenig)
- Berwyn: The white hills
- Moel Emoel: The bare rounded hill of Emoel (could be a personal name)
The following vocabulary gives the English equivalent
Water related features:
- aber: confluence or river mouth
- afon: river
- cymer: confluence or meeting of rivers
- ffos: ditch
- glan y mor: seaside
- glan: river bank or lakeside
- llyn: lake
- merddwr: still or “dead water” in bogland
- mor: sea
- morfa: coastal marsh
- nant: stream
- pont/bont: bridge
- porth: port
- pwll: pool
- rhaeadr: waterfall
- rhyd: ford
- traeth: beach
- ynys: island
- caer/gaer: camp or fortified settlement
- capel: chapel
- castell: castle
- dinas: hill-fort, city
- eglwys: church usually Anglican
- fford: road
- hafod: summer-pasture dwelling
- hendre: winter dwelling, the permanent homebase
- llan: church village or parish
- llys: hall or court
- melin: mill
- pandy: a fulling mill
- pentre: village, hamlet
- plas: mansion
- stryd: street (from Roman “strata”)
- tre, tref: town: also found in cartref (family home)
- tŷ: house
- ysgol: school
- bedw/fedw: birch
- blaen: head, source
- clawdd: earth-wall or dyke (often topped by hedge or fence)
- coed: wood
- derw: oak
- garth: enclosure
- ffin: boundary
- ffridd: hillside rough pasture
- gwaun/waen: heath, moor
- heol: road
- llwyn grove: bush
- masarn: sycamore
- onnen/ynn: ash
- pant: hollow
- rhos: moor/ heath
- sarn: causeway, old Roman road
- wal: stone- wall
- allt: steep hillside (usually wooded)
- ban/fan: summit, peak, crest
- blaen: head, source
- bryn (bryniau pl.): hill(s)
- bwlch: pass
- carn/garn: cairn
- carreg: stone, rock
- cefn: ridge
- craig/graig: rock or cliff
- crib: crest, summit, ridge
- cwm: upland valley or cirque (an example of a Welsh word being adopted internationally after 1953 Everest Expedition)
- dyffryn: valley – usually broad and fertile
- glyn: steep-sided deep valley (glen)
- maen: stone
- moel/foel: bare hill
- mynydd, fynydd: mountain
- pant: hollow, depression
- twyn: hill
- ystrad: from Latin “strata” - road
Position/size related (often used in building/place names):
- bach/fach: small
- canol/ganol: middle
- isa/isaf: lower/est
- mawr/fawr great, big
- pen: head/top or end
- ucha/uchaf: higher/highest
- coch/goch: red
- du/ddu: black
- glas: blue (can also mean “green” in older Welsh)
- gwyn/wyn: white
- gwyrdd: green
- melyn: yellow
Try some Welsh when visiting Bala, Wales
An introduction to the Welsh Language, some Welsh to try for fun and some examples
An introduction to the Welsh Language
Welsh is one of the oldest European languages, certainly the oldest actively surviving.
Welsh is a Celtic language and has close links with Breton and Cornish. Scottish and Irish Gaelic belong to a separate branch of Celtic languages.
In the Bala area around 80% are Welsh speakers. All the primary schools and the local secondary school teach in both Welsh and English.
The following “letters” (digraphs) appear in the Welsh, but not in the English, alphabet: ch, dd, ff, ll, ng, ph, rh, th.
People often say, "That's a funny word ... it's got no vowels in it!" when they see Welsh words. This is because the Welsh language uses some additional vowels (w and y) to those used in the English language. (Welsh vowels = a, e, i, o, u, w, y).
Some examples of different pronunciation:- dd as a softer form of th; f as v; but ff as f; ll is an uniquely Welsh sound (eg. as in place names starting “llan”).
Try some Welsh
How to make friends in Bala (for fun!):
- Hi!, How are you? - "Sut ma'i"! (Pronounced: Sit My)
- Would you like a drink? - “Gymerwch chi lymed?” (Pronounced: Gum-er-wck-ee l-uhm-ed)
- Do you come here often? - “Dod yma’n aml?"- (Pronounced: D-oh-d umm enamel)
- Fancy a kiss? - “Tisio sws?” (Pronounced: Tee shaw soos)
- Cheers! -Iechyd da (Pronounced: yeah-ck-id dah)
Survivors guide to Welsh (Cymraeg) (Useful Welsh words and phrases):
- paint oh goo-roo - a pint of beer please
- ie (ee-ay) - yes
- na (nah) - no
- diolch (dee-olck) - thanks
- os gwelwch yn dda (os goo-ell-oock uh-n tha) - (if you) please
- da (dah) - good
- da iawn (dah ee-awn) - very good
- iechyd da! - good health!
- lechyd da! (yeah-ck-id dah) - cheers!
- croeso (Cro-ee-sso) - Welcome
- croeso i Gymru (Cro-ee-sso ee Gomeree) - Welcome to Wales
- helo (heh-lo) - hello
- sut ydech chi? - (sit udah ki) How are you?
- bore da (b-oh ray dah) – Good morning
- p’nawn da (P-knaw-n dah) – Good afternoon
- noswaith dda (nose-wah-eeth tha) - good evening
- nos da (Nose dah) – Good night
- hwyl (hoo-eel) - cheers as in cheerio
- hwyl fawr (hoo-eel vawrr) - bye for now
- hwyl (“hooeel”) - goodbye
- tata or hwyl (tata“hooeel”) - bye
- paned o de (pan-ed oh day) – cup of tea
- te (tay) - tea
- bara(bah-rah) - bread
- cwrw (coo-roo) - beer
- paned o goffi (pan-ed oh go-fee) – cup of coffee
- bara brith (bah-rah breeth) – fruit loaf
- llaeth/llefrith (clah-eeth/clay-vrith) – milk
- cawl (cah-ool) – soup
- gwin (goo-een) – wine
- siwgr (shoo-goor) – sugar
- bwydlen (boo-eed-len) - menu
- Plîs – Please.
- Da iawn (Pronounced: Dah ee-ah-oon) – Very good.
- Gaf i ..............? - May I have ...........................?
- ga i baned o de?(gah ee bah-ned oh day?) - may I have a cup of tea?
- ga i coffi? (gah ee go-fee?) - may I have a coffee?
- ga i weld y fwydlen? (gah ee weld uh voo-eed-len?) - may I see the menu?
- ga i dalu, os gwelwch yn dda? (gah ee dah-li oss goo-ell-oock uh-n tha - may I pay, please?
- Os gwelwch yn dda - Please
- Faint ydi o? - How much is it?
- Diolch - Thank you
- Diolch yn fawr (Pronounced: Dee-olck uh-n vah-oor) – Thank you very much.
Counting in Welsh:
Counting up to a hundred:
a) The simplified / straightforward method:
11 is Un-deg-un, 12 is Un-deg-dau, etc... up to 20 which is Dau-ddeg.
21 is Dau-ddeg-un, 22 is Dau-ddeg-dau, etc up to 30 which is Tri-deg, etc, etc
A hundred is Cant.
b) The traditional method is quite complicated and based on counting in fives, tens and twenties!
18. Deunaw (An exception! This means two-nines!)
Careful!! Dau Ddeg is the way to say "Twenty" in the simplified numbering system, and Deuddeg is the way to say "Twelve" in the traditional system. They sound similar.
It gets more complicated above 20! With 40 called Deugain (Two twenties); Tri-ugain (Three twenties); Pedwar-ugain (Four twenties)
50 Pum Deg in the easy form is “Hanner Cant” in traditional form (half of a hundred!) Stick to the easy method!!
Listen to a Welsh Choir
The Bala area has a strong tradition of choirs including traditional Welsh male voice choirs. To listen to the singing of a Welsh choir is a unique and moving experience.
There are several choirs in the Bala and Penllyn area, North Wales. Most choirs welcome visitors to listen to their rehearsals.
Choirs in the Bala and Penllyn area, include:
- Côr Godre'r Aran (Llanuwchllyn)
- Meibion Llywarch (Parc)
- Côr Meibion Llangwm (Llangwm Male Choir)
- Côr Merched Edeyrnion (Edeyrnion Ladies Choir)
- Côr Meibion Bro Glyndŵr (Glyndŵr Male Choir)
- Côr Meibion Llangollen (Llangollen Male Choir)
Côr Godre'r Aran (Llanuwchllyn)
Côr Godre'r Aran is based in the village of Llanuwchllyn at the south-western end of Llyn Tegid (Lake Bala). The choir membership represents a spectrum of rural occupations and is unique in that all members are natural Welsh speakers.
Since its inception the Choir has regularly entertained audiences all over Wales and at many principal venues in England including The Royal Albert Hall, The Globe Theatre, The Sage and Birmingham Symphony Hall. Concert tours have taken them to Scotland, Ireland and Portugal and extended international tours include three visits to Canada / U.S.A., and eight tours of Australia with visits to New Zealand, Tasmania, Hong Kong and Singapore. After 30 years a return visit was made in November 2007 to Patagonia, Argentina, where a strong community of Welsh descent still thrives.
Over the years Côr Godre’r Aran has successfully competed at National and International levels and won principal awards at the National Eisteddfod of Wales and four male voice championships at the International Eisteddfod at Llangollen. In 2005 the Choir won the BBC Radio Cymru competition for Male Voice Choirs.
Côr Godre’r Aran usually rehearse weekly on Thursday evenings between 8.00 and 10.00pm at The Llanuwchllyn Village Hall. Individual visitors are welcome but seating may be limited. Visitors are advised to confirm there is a rehearsal by contacting the Secretary or any Choir member in advance. You can find details of music for sale and events from the Côr Godre'r Aran Website.
Meibion Llywarch - Parc
Meibion Llywarch, a choir of young men – only one was over 30 when formed in 1987. By now some have left and others taken their place. The majority of the members come from an agricultural background but only half are full-time farmers. The accent is on folk singing, often unaccompanied, and "Cerdd Dant", the singing of poetry to harp accompaniment. Their hallmark is the close harmony typical of the “plygain” carol-singing style prevalent in central areas of the Welsh heartland. Since the beginning the choir have taken part in competitions both locally and nationally and have regularly been successful. Each year the choir have at least a dozen invitations to hold concerts all over Wales and some of the members add to the programme by giving solo performances. The choir have travelled overseas to Ireland in 1998, Canada in 2002, Spain in 2008, Anglesey, Oswestry and Chester!
The choir practice in the School Hall in Parc at 8.30pm every Wednesday evening, apart from the months of April (lambing) and August (holidays). There is a warm welcome to all to go along and see the choir rehearse but it would be advisable to phone 01678-540525 to be sure there is a practice.
Conductor – Dan Puw
Accompaniment – Gwen Edwards and Eirian M. Jones
Côr Meibion Llangwm
Côr Meibion Llangwm, the Llangwm male voice choir is based in Llangwm, near Corwen, North Wales (LL21 0RA). Rehearsals take place on Monday evenings between 8pm and 10pm in Llangwm Village Hall.
It has around 40 members who come mainly from an agricultural background and who speak Welsh as their first language.
The choir hold concerts all over North Wales and further afield according to demand, and also regularly competes at the National Eisteddfod where it has gained first prize on many occasions. It also competes at local eisteddfodau and supports charity concerts regularly.
The choir travels a great deal to concerts both at home and abroad. The choir have visited Bavaria and Austria twice and have formed a lasting friendship with the Bavarian male voice choir ‘Sangerrunde Mittich’. They have also travelled to Spain, Jersey and this year Canada.
The choir have entertained audiences in Scotland many times, including the ‘Celtic Connections’ festival in Glasgow. In 1995 they sang at the Arran Celtic Music Festival where they shared the stage with the famous Gaelic singer Mairi MacInnes. They were so enchanted with her distinctive voice that they invited her to sing with them on both their CD’s. The song they sang together, ‘Ysbryd y Gael’ (The Gaelic Spirit) was an immediate huge success and has proved to be one of the most popular songs ever recorded by a Welsh male voice choir. According to Dafydd Iwan, the owner of Sain recordings, it has been one of the most popular and best-selling CDs. The title song ‘Ysbryd y Gael’ is sung in Welsh and Gaelic, and can be heard every week on Welsh radio programmes.
Côr Merched Edeyrnion
Côr Merched Edeyrnion (Edeyrnion Ladies Choir) is based in Corwen ansd draws it’s membership from the area of Edeyrnion formerly in Merionethshire now in Denbighshire and referred to as “Dee Valley West”.
Formed in 1979 the choir has entertained audiences throughout North Wales and further afield. Successful international tours have also been undertaken in Germany, Catalonia, Ireland, Southern Bohemia and Barbados.
Competitively the choir has won the Ladies Choirs competition at the Royal Welsh National Eisteddfod on no fewer than eleven occasions and has won the Silver Cup at the Verona Music Festival.
Côr Merched Edeyrnion usually rehearses at Neuadd Edeyrnion in Corwen from 7.30pm to 9.30pm on Monday evenings, visitors are welcome.
Côr Meibion Bro Glyndŵr
Côr Meibion Bro Glyndŵr (Glyndŵr Male Choir) is based in Corwen is named after Owain Glyndŵr (1359-c1416) the last native Welshman to be Prince of Wales whose estates included the area where the choir is drawn from.
The choir was formed in 1973 and since its inception has taken part in concerts, competitions and community events in North Wales. Concerts have also been held further afield in Colchester, St Helens, Chester and Llantrisant. The choir was the first Welsh choir to compete at the Celtic Mod in Oban. In 2006 the choir took part for the second time in the Liberation Celebration at s-Hertogenbosh in the Netherlands, the town that was liberated from German occupation by the 53rd Welsh Division in 1944.
Côr Meibion Bro Glyndŵr usually rehearses from 8.00pm to 10.00pm on Wednesday evenings in Neuadd Edeyrnion in Corwen, visitors are welcome.
Côr Meibion Llangollen
This male voice choir is based in Llangollen the home of the Llangollen International Music Eisteddfod. The choir rehearses on a Friday (not in January), 7.30 - 9.00 pm at the Hand Hotel, Church Street, Llangollen, LL20 8PL.
Local Information and Cultural Aspects
Bala Lake, or Llyn Tegid, is over four miles long and a mile wide at it’s widest point, making it the largest natural lake in Wales. It is an important home for the rare ‘gwyniad’ fish – a species that became trapped in the lake at the end of the last Ice Age some 10,000 years ago. It is a member of the whitefish family, and is only found in Llyn Tegid. The lake takes its name from Tegid Foel, a character in the Mabinogi, the collection of early native Welsh tales, in which he is the husband of Ceridwenthe enchantress. Afon Tryweryn which is fed by Llyn Celyn that runs through Bala is world renowned as a white water rafting and kayaking river. Leading canoe organisations hold national and international events there every year and the National Whitewater Centre has its home at ‘Canolfan Tryweryn’ in Bala. In addition to this Bala is equally well equiped for guided walks, cycle rides and motorsports.
The area remains a stronghold for the Welsh language with 80.1% of Bala's population able to speak Welsh fluently, with the highest percentage in the 5-9 age group, 95.7%. There is a population of 1,980 (2001 census).
Bala is home to one of Urdd Gobaith Cymru (the Welsh Youth Movement’s) main residential camps. Situated on the edge of Llyn Tegid, it welcomes thousands of Welsh children and young people each year for courses where they can enjoy a host of water and outdoor activities while practicing and developing their use of the Welsh language. The town hosted the National Eisteddfod in 1967 and 1997, and it is hosting it again in August of 2009.
Bala is where the women's movement 'Merched y Wawr' began and where the very first sheepdog trials were held. Bala is great for Christmas late night shopping with traditional live music, brass band, choirs and crafts - usually held on the first Thursday of December. (Have a look at the Calendar.) The local shops open their doors to welcome their customers with a glass of good cheer and some great shopping. The local culture is also reflected in the many agricultural, horticultural, concerts, shows and eisteddfodau and folk festivals that are held throughout the year.
Books related to Bala & Penllyn
'The Scrum that Changed my Life', the autobiography of the popular Bala, North Wales rugby player Brian 'Yogi' Davies. The emotional story of paralysed rugby player published after he finally loses the battle for life. On the 21st of April 2007, Bryan 'Yogi' Davies was playing in the front row for Bala against Nant Conwy. He was 49 years old and made captain for the day, as it was his last game for the town. Five minutes into the game the first scrum collapsed, leaving him with life-changing injuries: a broken neck and damaged lungs. Published in Welsh and English by Y Lofa.
Not Quite White a novel by Simon Thirsk, of Bala, tells the story of a young Westminster man who's sent to a distant valley in Wales which has become the last stronghold of the Welsh language. A satirical view of how Welsh language and identity is threatened by the English incomers Wales needs in order to survive economically. Published by Gomer in 2010.
"On Tempestuous Seas...........Rowing two Oceans" by Elin Haf Davies of Parc. Welsh farm girl Elin Haf Davies likes challenges in every aspect of her professional and personal life. For someone who had never rowed before, the race to row across the Atlantic Ocean was certainly a challenge! This seventy-seven day experience left nurse Elin inexplicably attached to the ocean - so much so that she later decided to cross the Indian Ocean with three other women. Available from Gwasg Careg Gwalch.
Hwyliau Llawen by Dilwyn Morgan. Bachgen o Ben Llŷn ydi Dilwyn Morgan, er ei fod bellach wedi ymgartrefu ym Mhenllyn. Mae’n wyneb cyfarwydd fel arweinydd nosweithiau llawen, fel diddanwr ac fel hwyliwr − ac er ei fod yn dal yn ifanc iawn, iawn, bu ei fywyd hyd yn hyn yn un lliwgar. Yn yr hunangofiant hwyliog yma cawn rannu rhai o’i brofiadau; o borthladdoedd egsotig y dwyrain pell i lannau Llyn Tegid. Available in Welsh from Gwasg Careg Gwalch.
The Reporter's Tale, by Tom Davies, a trade paperback of 450 pages, is published and distributed by Berwyn Mountain Press which is based at Tan Yr Hall, 58 High Street, Bala. The Reporter's Tale is a global adventure story about the life of Tom Davies which begins when he is a young teacher with Voluntary Service Overseas in North Malaya and a book he is writing, full of perverted sex and violence, blows up on him and he sees visions of a world under attack by artists such as himself.
Fron-Goch and the Birth of the IRA by Lyn Ebenezer. An account of the Fron-goch internment camp which was used to house almost 2,000 Irish republicans from 1916 onwards, told from both a Welsh and Irish perspective. Contains 32 pages of black-and-white photographs, some of which are published for the first time. Available from Gwasg Careg Gwalch.
Hard Road to London by Idris Evans. A graphical account of the lives of the Welsh Drovers and the link with Bala. Published by Steptoes Publishers, Ruthin.
Bala Churches and Chapels
Bala is blessed with several Church and Chapel buildings catering for different denominations of the Christian Faith. All are well-attended. In Llanycil, Mary Jones World is a visitor centre telling the story of Mary Jones, Thomas Charles and the bible.
Religious Services occur at the following times on Sunday, as well as some midweek and evening meetings too. No contact details are listed as the easiest and best thing to do is to go along and find out, if you are in the area, where your support would be most welcome!
Weekly details are published bi-lingually in Y Cyfnod local Welsh Newspaper, available in Bala town supermarkets from Wednesday 4pm until sold out, usually by Friday morning! Some buildings have notice boards. The list is not exhaustive as there may be more groups of different minority faiths in the area.
|Evangelical Bro Tegid
||10.30 & 18.30
0930 & 1100 alternatively
Religion in Wales
Religious freedom for dissent was accompanied by a steady rise in literacy, which prepared the way for massive changes.
The Toleration Act of 1689 finally allowed religious freedom to the hard core of Dissenters who had come into existence during the time of Oliver Cromwell. They defiantly adhered to their beliefs during the years of persecution following the restoration.
The first chapels in Wales were built during this period
Much of the development of Dissent was possible because of the steady rise in literacy. This was given a boost by the 1650 Act for the Better Propagation and Preaching of the Gospel. Before the Toleration Act there were increasing numbers of religious books available. In Welsh, notable books published during the 1680s were Canwyll y Cymry ('The Welshman's Candle') by the Vicar Prichard, and the first Welsh translation of 'The Pilgrim's Progress' by John Bunyan. The last work in particular was to be very influential on prominent figures in the Methodist revival later in the 18th century.
This increase in literacy undoubtedly helped pave the way for the momentous events of the latter part of the 18th century, when Wales experienced the Methodist Revival and the first wave of great Welsh preachers and hymnwriters.
There were three great figures associated with what has become known as the Methodist Revival in Wales: Howel Harris (1714-73), Daniel Rowland (1713-90), and William Williams Pantycelyn (1717-1791).
Harris and Rowland both experienced, separately, a religious conversion in 1735, but they weren't to actually meet until 1737, when they decided to coordinate their evangelising activities - that date marks the effective beginning of the Methodist Revival in Wales.
All three were greatly influenced by the work and preaching of Griffith Jones of Llanddowror, and undoubtedly his Sunday Schools and the increase in literacy greatly contributed to the development of Methodism.
Methodism started off as a movement within the Church of England, with revival as its intention. Much influenced by what was happening in England, it went on to develop along different lines in Wales.
Howel Harris experienced his conversion during a sermon at the church in Talgarth in Breconshire and immediately began holding religious meetings at home. Soon he was preaching the gospel in the surrounding areas and before long all over Wales. A man of prodigious energy as well as passion, he often preached five sermons a day, sometimes encountering a hostile and violent response; however, his perseverance led to thousands being converted
Howel Harris was never ordained in the Church of England, unlike his colleague Daniel Rowland. Rowland was made a minister of the Anglican Church in 1734 at Llangeitho, in Ceredigion. Yet he did not commit himself fully to Christ until he saw Griffith Jones preaching the following year.
The effect was dramatic, and the previously worldly Rowland became a committed Christian, developing connections with Nonconformists to more effectively spread the word. His preaching skills became legendary, and thousands came from all over Wales to his sermons at Llangeitho Church.
As a consequence the Anglican authorities became alarmed and expelled him from his position as curate. His followers responded by building him a chapel a short distance from the church and Rowland carried on as before, becoming one of the most influential preachers Wales ever produced.
Following the Methodist Revival, a second wave of preachers emerged as Wales underwent the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.
As the original prominent figures of the Methodist Revival died off towards the end of the eighteenth century, leadership of the movement was taken up by Thomas Charles (1755-1814).
Originally from Carmarthen, Charles settled in Bala, north Wales, and with his energy and organising genius set about making the town the centre for Methodism in north Wales.
He also set about reviving the circulating reading schools of Griffith Jones, which for many Welsh people had made possible their active involvement with religion.
Sixteen-year-old Mari Jones walked from Llanfihangel y Pennant to Bala and back - a journey of 40 miles - to obtain a copy of the Bible, and this inspired Thomas Charles to help found the British and Foreign Bible society at the beginning of the nineteenth century. And it was to be Charles who finally took the Welsh Methodists out of the Church of England in 1811, a move which finally aligned them with the rest of Nonconformity in Wales. Mary Jones World is a visitor and education centre telling the story of Mary Jones, Thomas Charles and the bible.
The Methodist Revival inspired renewed activity both within the established Church and amongst the various Nonconformist denominations such as the Baptists and the Congregationalists.
A second wave of great preachers emerged during this period, with one of the most famous and charismatic being Christmas Evans (1766-1838).
Originally from Llandysul in west Wales, Evans came from a background of poverty and hardship. He lost an eye in a fight, which gave him his distinctive appearance. After conversion he became a minister with the Baptists, and following the example of another west Walian, Thomas Charles, Evans went to perform missionary work in north Wales. He remained there for a number of years before finally settling back down in the south. He has been called the 'Bunyan of Wales'.
This religious activity saw a huge increase in membership amongst the Nonconformist denominations, which in turn led to a great wave of chapel building across the country. This was to last throughout the nineteenth century.
During this period it has been estimated that on average a chapel was being built every eight days. Such was the zeal of the builders it is thought that the combined seating capacities of all these chapels may have exceeded the number of people actually living in Wales!
Whether that is true or not is up for debate, but what can not be denied is that these endeavours resulted in one of the most obvious architectural icons of the country, the Welsh Chapel. Every village had at least one, and the new communities that came out of the Industrial Revolution provided even more opportunities for new buildings. Unfortunately the present day collapse in chapel attendance has resulted in many chapels being left empty and dilapidated, a legacy of past fervour.
The Industrial Revolution was proceeding apace. The first wave of industrialism was built upon metal, such as iron and copper works. But by the middle of the nineteenth century coal mining was beginning to take off as the fuel demand for furnaces, railways and steamships began to rise.
It is no coincidence that all this activity was taking place at the same time as the British Empire was expanding and acquiring new territories and resources. These factors led to Wales becoming one of the first countries to have a majority of its people working in industry, a development of crucial importance to Welsh politics right down to the present day.
People flooded into the valleys of south Wales to find work, creating new communities in the process. As new pits were sunk, new chapels were rising in the industrial areas at a quicker rate than Anglican churches. As a consequence Nonconformity was to leave a particular stamp on the culture of Wales, particularly in these valley towns.
Chapels became the centres of cultural activity in these new towns, and much of the tradition of Welsh choral singing dates from this period. This was helped by the introduction of the Sol-fa musical system which enabled large numbers of people to take an active part in choir singing. A major motive in encouraging music making was to keep people out of the pubs.
From the middle of the 18th century to the middle of the 19th, Wales experienced some 15 major revivals, resulting in its reputation as 'the land of revivals'. The last great revival of this period had been in 1859, and although there was much local religious activity during the remainder of the 19th century, many people were wondering when, and if, the next great national one would happen.
When the revival did finally occur, it proved to be the biggest that the country had ever experienced. It seems to have its roots in southern Cardiganshire, where there were a number of meetings of religious leaders actively working on a revival. But when it did finally erupt, it became identified with one man in particular, an ex-collier from Loughor in western Glamorgan named Evan Roberts.
Roberts had begun to study for the ministry, and following a number of religious experiences during 1904, he had a revelation during a prayer meeting. This took place in Newcastle Emlyn, in the area of Cardiganshire where there had been a lot of work to prepare the way for a revival. He said, "I felt ablaze with a desire to go through the length and breadth of Wales to tell of the Saviour."
Shortly afterwards in the autumn of 1904 he first took the message with him back to his home chapel, Moriah, in Loughor, and following the ecstatic response he took it to other parts of Wales. The last great revival had begun.
Thousands of meetings occurred during the revival, from the southern valleys to Anglesey and north east Wales. Although Roberts garnered the headlines, preaching at around 200 meetings, there were also thousands of meetings led by other preachers held right across the country.
During those tumultuous months scarcely any aspect of Welsh life remained untouched. Work in various coalmines and metal works started with a prayer, and leisure activities like eisteddfodau, amateur dramatics and sport suffered a drop in support. A number of rugby clubs were disbanded by their members, who on receiving the message now felt rugby was an activity not compatible with being a true Christian. And it goes without saying that pubs and taverns saw a fall in consumption of the demon drink.
The up and coming politician, David Lloyd George, was caught up in the fervour. He said the movement was "rocking Welsh life like a Great Earthquake."
Even children began organising their own religious meetings, and communal hymn singing ('Cymanfa Ganu'), Bible reading and Temperance were now the favoured activities of many people across the country.
As a result, chapel building received a boost. Singing in particular had a prominent place, echoing the prophetic words of the famous musician Joseph Parry (composer of the love song 'Myfanwy') who said that "the next revival will be a singing revival."
- Telephone number for Fire/Police/Ambulance: 999 (or 112); Textphone: 18000
- Telephone number for Mountain Rescue or Coastguard: 999 (ask for Police)
North Wales Police Non-Emergency: 0845 6071002 or 101 when its less urgent than 999
NHS Direct Wales: 0845 46 47 or 0845 606 4647 (Textphone) NHS Direct Search for an A & E department
Out of Hours urgent Medical Service: 0845 8501 362 (Gwynedd & Anglesey Local Health Boards) available: weekdays 6.30pm - 8.00 am; Saturday, Sunday & Public Holidays: all day
Dental helpline: 0845 60 10 128 (Registered patients should contact their own dentist - answerphone will give out of hours arrangements)
Dental Patients not on a General Practioner Dental list should contact NHS Direct Wales on 0845 60 10 128
Nearest Doctor: Health Centre, Bala (01678-520 308), behind the Old School Restaurant on the B4391 (to lake & railway) before the Industrial estate - see below for more information
Nearest Hospital with 24-hour Accident & Emergency (A&E) service: Wrexham Maelor Hospital North Wales NHS Trust East - see below for more information
There is also hospital at Dolgellau with a Minor Injury Unit - see below for more information
Nearest Chemist: Rowlands & Co (42 High St., Bala): 01678-520 250 - see below for more information
Emergency prescriptions via Bala Police (01678-520 424)
North Wales Police HQ: 0845 607 1002 or 0845 607 1001 (Cymraeg)
North Wales Police (Gwynedd South): 01341-422 222
Wrexham Maelor Hospital (North Wales NHS Trust East )
Croesnewydd Road, Wrexham, LL13 7TD
Telephone: 01978 291100
Hospital Office: 01978 725205
Dolgellau Hospital (North West Wales NHS Trust)
Dolgellau, Gwynedd, LL40 1NT
Telephone: 01341 422479
Bala Health Centre Details
Bala Health Centre - Canolfan Iechyd
Telephone: 01678 520308
Fax: 01678 520883
Head of Practice: Davies RM (Male) (Languages: Welsh)
- Dafydd RE (Female) (Languages: Welsh)
- Griffith GI (Female)
- Lazarus DH (Male) (Languages: Welsh)
Practice Manager: Ms. C. Williams
Normal Opening Hours:
- Monday 08:00-18:30
- Tuesday 08:00-18:30
- Wednesday 08:00-13:30
- Thursday 08:00-18:30
- Friday 08:00-18:30
Please note that alternative opening hours may be in operation during holiday periods.
Chemist: Rowlands Pharmacy; 01678-520 250
42 High St.Bala, LL23 7AB
- Mon: 9.00 - 18.00
- Tues: 9.00 - 18.00
- Wed: 9.00 - 13.00
- Thur: 9.00 - 18.00
- Fri: 9.00 - 18.00
- Sat: 9.00 - 17.30
- Sun: Closed
The pharmacist is not available: 13.00-13.20 Branch will remain open
Emergency prescriptions via Bala Police (01678-520 424)
Maps of Bala Town, Penllyn, North-Wales and Mid-Wales
Map of Bala & Penllyn - showing the Penllyn villages
Useful Information for the Bala & Penllyn area
Useful Information and contact details for the Bala & Penllyn area
Bala Town Council and Parish Councils
Dog Warden (Gwynedd Council): 01766 771000
Medical Information (NHS direct, Health Centre, Pharmacy, Hospitals)
Recycling Centre (Gwynedd Council), Y Bala Industrial Estate, Y Bala LL23 7NT (map)
Friday 10:00 - 16:00
Saturday 10:00 - 15:00
Sunday 10:00 - 15:00
Monday 10:00 - 16:00
Services for the community: Canolfan Henblas, High St., Bala, Tel: 07834 845 512
Traveling to Bala & Public Transport Information
Gwynedd Council: 01766 771000
North Wales Police Non-Emergency: 0845 6071002 or 101 when its less urgent than 999
- Biscuit Travel, Tel: 079 693 349 23 (8-seater available)
- Global Taxis (Bala), Tel: 078 503 702 32 (8/15-seater available)
Lake Warden Office, Lake Foreshore, Bala; Tel: 01678 520 626
Library and Internet access: Bala Library, Llyfrgell Bro Tegid, Ysgol y Berwyn School, Y Bala, LL23 7RU Tel: 01678 520 014
- Free broadband access to the internet with 4 public computers, Wi-Fi Access Point, free of charge.
- Computer training sessions for beginners. Contact the library for more information.
- Magazines and Newspapers
- Monday 14:00 - 18:00
- Tuesday 11:00 - 13:00; 14:00 - 17:00
- Wednesday CLOSED
- Thursday 11:00 - 13:00; 14:00 - 17:00
- Friday 14:00 - 18:00
- Saturday 10:00 - 12:00
Local Newspaper: Y Cyfnod, Canolfan Henblas, High St., Bala, Tel: 01678 520 749, available on Thursday from local shops
Rotary Club of Bala & Penllyn Sponsors of the VisitBala Events Calendar Club Website
Bala Catamaran Club
Bala & District Motor Club
Bala Rugby Club
Bala Sailing Club
Bala Town Football Club
Fishing around Bala, Snowdonia, Wales
Anglers will be surprised and delighted by the variety and quality of fishing in the Bala and Penllyn area of North Wales. Most types of fishing are available - with fly fishing on fast flowing mountain streams, rivers and mountain lakes, coarse or trout fishing in lakes, stocked lakes with facilities and even the possibility to go sea fishing on the coast. Because of the variety of fishing available there is something to fish for, during every season of the year. Guiding and tuition in fly-fishing is also available through the Bala and District Angling Association (BDAA). For fishing operators in the Bala area go to Visit Bala fishing operators.
Bala Lake (Llyn Tegid), the largest natural lake in Wales, is set in stunning mountain scenery. The lake is over 3½ miles long, ¾ mile wide and over 140 feet deep in places. It has 14 species of fish, including a unique fish the Gwyniad (Coregonus lavaretus), a species of whitefish (fishing for the Gwyniad is not permitted). Bala Lake holds perch, roach, pike, trout, grayling, eels, along with salmon in the season and the legendary Gwyniad, this is a plankton feeder and seldom caught on rod and line, also present are minnows, loaches and bullheads.
Bala Lake is managed by the Snowdonia National Park Authority (SNPA) as a recreational resource. Fishing, boating and car parking tickets are available at the SNPA car-park ticket machine (blue) in the lake foreshore car park, Bala. There is a SNPA warden’s office at the car park (upper floor) or see Useful Information for contact details. For more detailed information about Bala Lake visit the SNPA Website.
Fly-fishing for salmon and trout is available on the river Dee and also some of the fast-flowing mountain streams and excellent grayling fishing is available on the River Dee. Day tickets are available from Bala & District Angling Association. Trout fishing is available on the river Tryweryn.
Salmon,Trout and Grayling fishing on the River Dee is available from Dolgadfa. The Dolgadfa beat, privately owned, is exclusive to guests and is part of Crogen Estate.
The River Dee flows both in and out of Bala Lake. The River Tryweryn flows in and out of Llyn Celyn, a reservoir, before joining the Dee just after the outflow from Bala Lake. Water releases from Llyn Celyn are managed by the Environment Agency for water usage and recreational purposes with the river also used for Whitewater rafting and canoeing.
The Dee outflow: from the Dee bridge downstream to a point 60 yds above the confluence of the Tryweryn and Dee on both banks. This stretch holds mainly coarse fish, perch and roach in abundance and also pike. Grayling are also present and during the colder months offer very good fishing with float, ledger or fly.
The Dee at Bala: this stretch can be fished fly only for trout and grayling during the salmon season, mid-March to mid-October. Between mid-October and mid-March worm fishing is allowed. During the summer the grayling offer superb sport on dry fly and during certain hatches the river seems to be boiling with fish. A wonderful sight for any angler. Brown trout are also present in lesser numbers. For more details go to BDAA.
The Tryweryn is a brown trout river. Most are natural wild fish supplemented by fingerling stocking by BDAA.
There is fishing in the many smaller lakes in the area, including:
Llyn Cwmprysor (Llyn Tryweryn) the source of the river Tryweryn - there is fishing for brown trout.
Llyn y Gro, just north of Bala, has two lakes available for coarse fishing also available are: toilets, refreshments and disabled facilities.
- Guided Fishing: Local guided fishing can be organised through Barry Evans, Y Gwyniad, 33 High Street, Bala, LL23 7AF - 01678 521654
- Y Gwyniad, 33 High Street, Bala, for fishing tackle & local flies, live bait and dead bait also Bala & District Angling Association permits.
- Gro Lake Coarse Fishery Bala - 01678 530415
- Bala & District Angling Association: 07779 343824 - www.balaangling.co.uk
- SNPA Warden Centre, Llyn Tegid Foreshore, Pensarn Rd, Y Bala, Gwynedd, LL23 7SR, Tel/Fax: 01678 520626, E-mail: email@example.com
Travelling a little further, from Bala, provides more lakes stocked for fishing, including:
- Alwen reservoir: forestry surrounds most of the 368 acres of Alwen Reservoir, creating an attractive, sheltered fishery, with hidden bays that ensure peaceful fishing. The reservoir is regularly stocked with Rainbow Trout – but even if they decide not to bite, there are plenty of perch to ensure a good day’s fishing.
- Cregennen Lakes: Small lake, 13 acres, regularly stocked with blue & rainbow trout, plus a good head of wild brownies. Suitable for families to serious anglers.
- Dragonfly Fisheries: This private trout fishery – fed by underground lakes - is set in 2.5 acres of landscaped grounds. The water is well stocked with Rainbow Trout, Blue Trout, Brown Trout and Tiger Trout – up to 20lbs
- Llyn Brenig: the heather and spruce lined shores of Llyn Brenig (920 acre) have regularly staged the Home Fly-fishing Internationals and even the World Fly Fishing Championships. Preserved for fly-fishing, it has a well-established reputation and is extremely well stocked with 36,000 Rainbow Trout.
- Llyn Aled: The peaty moorland water contains perch, roach and pike have been caught up to 22lbs.
- Llandegla Trout Fishery consists of four pools, three fly only, for Brown and Rainbow Trout and one for coarse fish: Carp, Rudd, Roach. A café and fishing tackle sales are available on site.
- Eisteddfa Fishery: has separate lakes for: Fly fishing, Carp, Trout, Family fishing for families, beginners and children (coarse fish), Pleasure Lake (coarse fish). Also available on site are: car park, disabled access, toilets and tackle hire.
For those looking for a day’s sea fishing, the harbours and shores of Barmouth or Fairbourne are around 40 minutes away and other places are within an hour of Bala. Cardigan Bay with its shelter and shallow water with reefs (sarn) is a good sea fishing area. Shore-fishing or boat charter for deep-water sea fishing are available. There is a huge choice of Charter boats available from the Welsh ports. You can launch your own boat with little or no charge at many beaches.
Beach casting: expect dabs, whiting, dogfish, wrass, school bass, codling, rockling, coalfish and flounders from the beach.
Black lug is great bait for codling, whiting, dabs and smaller bass. Bigger bass can be caught with peeler crab or lug tipped with squid or razorfish. Coalies take frozen crab or mussel. Dabs and whiting also take small fish strips. Frozen sand-eel can be bought at many shops by the beach and are ideal for the turbot, and mackerel.
Some sea fishing venues are:
- Noted species: bass, flounder, dab, mackerel, whiting, gurnard, mullet
- Tide tips: low to high
- Bait: crab, ragworm, mackerel, sandeel
- Tips: Popular holiday camp thus access fee payable. Spinners and plugs are also worth a try.
SOUTH BEACH TYWYN
- Noted species: flounder, turbot, plaice, whiting, dab, codling and bass
- Tide tips: high
- Bait: crab, lugworm, mackerel, squid
- Tips: distance can be important, thus 5oz beach caster should be adequate.
- Flounder can be caught close to the shore.
BLACK ROCK SANDS - MORFA BYCHAN
- Noted species: bass, flounder, mackerel
- Tide tips: high and low
- Bait: ragworm, crab
- Tips: standard 5-6oz beach caster.
- Try a one hook rig with size 3/0.
This information was compiled by Mick at Cysgod y Coed Self Catering
Cycle Routes around Bala & Penllyn, Snowdonia
There are extensive and varied opportunities for cycling either in the Bala and Penllyn area or nearby. These opportunities include quiet local roads for cycling, car-free routes and challenging hill-climbs with passes over 1,000 feet high. Bala is centrally located for several Mountain Biking centres, and there are also many excellent locations close to Bala in the Penllyn Forest and the Berwyn Mountains.
You can hire bikes in Bala and nearby - for more information please go to Cycle Hire
GoBala for bike Trails - on road, mountain single tracks, downhill and through forests
Cycling routes (on roads or car-free trails)
There are many quiet roads locally, e.g. Bala to Llanuwchllyn along the east side of the lake or Bala to Llandderfel and Cynwyd along the Dee Valley. There is a cycle-way along the A494 from Bala to Glanllyn with the option of return by quiet roads through the village of Parc. Bala is the home of the Wild Wales Challenge a demanding tour, of around 80 miles, over mountainous roads held on the August Bank Holiday Sunday, of each year.
Marked “Bike Routes around Bala” on roads (see leaflet from TIC or download):
- 11: Bala - Llanuwchllyn (16 km, 10 miles)
- 12: Bala - Llanuwchllyn - Lake Vyrnwy - Bala (37 km, 23 miles)
- 13: Llanuwchllyn - Trawsfynydd (22 km, 14 miles)
- 14: Llanuwchllyn - Dolhendre - Llanuwchllyn (6 km, 4 miles)
- 15: Bala - Rhyduchaf - Parc - Bala (13 km, 8 miles)
- 16: Bala - Llandderfel - Cynwyd (18 km, 11 miles)
Mawddach Trail: The trail is car free and runs from Dolgellau to Barmouth (18 km, 11 miles one-way). The Mawddach estuary is considered to be one of the most beautiful in the country and is also a bird sanctuary. The trail (tarmac/gravel) was previously a railway line and is therefore flat! Start at Dolgellau and have lunch in Barmouth (cross the estuary via the wooden railway bridge) and then return to Dolgellau. Call at the George III (17th) Hotel Penmaenpool, for lunch or refreshments. Mawddach Trail Guide. Bike hire available in Dolgellau.
CTC Mawddach Trail circuit: this circuit follows quiet roads and the Mawddach Trail to provide a circular ride of 22 miles (36 km). It includes Cregennen Lakes and is described as one of the best short rides in Wales.
Cadair Idris circuit route: Dolgellau - Cregennen Lakes - Dysynni Valley - Abergynolwyn - Tal-y-llyn Lake - Dolgellau. This circuit takes in some splendid scenery including Tal-y-Llyn. Its a challenging ride of 51 km (32 miles) with 1,200m (4,000 ft) ascent on roads and tracks with plenty of climbing- see CTC info.
Lake Vyrnwy: the 12 mile (19 km) shoreline provides one of those rarities in mid-Wales - a long flat, circular road. The journey around the lake is becoming even more enjoyable by the creation of a sculpture trail (Cycling in Rural Wales). There is also a bird sanctuary, bike hire and refreshments available or try the Tower Tavern at the Lake Vyrnwy Hotel. Bike hire available in Llanwddyn (near the dam).
Llyn Brenig: a 11 mile (18 km) route around the lake mainly on tracks with a short distance on a road. The CTC route starts at Llyn Brenig and is a 30 mile circuit on quiet roads.
Alwen Trail: a 7 mile (11.5 km), easy, off-road trail round the Alwen reservoir in the lonely Hiraethog moors. Can be extended to Llyn Brenig (see above) making a 14 mile (22 km) "Two Lakes" route.
Various routes suitable for family cycling in the Hiraethog area.
The extensive forest tracks (250 km) and Yr Afon route at Coed-y-Brenin are suitable for hybrid bikes.
The following are more strenuous hill climbing routes, using quiet roads over mountain passes with excellent views:
- Bala to Lake Vyrnwy via Cwm Hirnant (460m).
- Llanuwchllyn to Trawsfynydd via Lliw valley (531m).
- Llanuwchllyn to Llanymawddwy via Bwlch Groes (545m) the highest road pass in Wales
- Lake Vyrnwy via Eunant valley to Bwlch Groes (545m)
- CTC route: Bala to Lake Vyrnwy (34.5 miles, 600m+ ascent) via Bwlch Groes (545m) with return via Cwm Hirnant (460m).
There is excellent mountain biking locally in the Berwyns and Penllyn Forest. Bala is centrally located for many dedicated mountain biking centres and trails, which are easily reachable by car (around 30 minutes from Bala).
Bala is centrally located for several specialised mountain bike centres, including:
- Coed-y-Brenin: internationally known mountain bike centre, with bike hire facilities and cafe, (north of Dolgellau on the A470) where the 250 km of tracks include:
- MBR (18 km)
- Yr Afon (11 km) suitable for families
- Beast of Brenin (38 km)
- Tarw (20 km) formerly the Red Bull
- Dragons Back (30 km) Formerly the Karrimor route
- Temtiwr (9 km)
- Gwydyr Forest Centre: Gwydyr Marin trail (28 km) or extensive forest tracks
- Penmachno (5 km south of Betws-y-Coed) 19km trail
- Llandegla Forest: with bike hire facilities and cafe, (on the A525, 7 miles west of Wrexham) (MBWales link)
- Family Route (blue): 4 km/2.5 miles
- Beginner Route (green): 12 Km/7.5 miles
- Intermediate Route (red): 18 km/11 miles
- Black run: 1 km/just over half a mile, with steep downhills and a wild series of jumps.
Lake Vyrnwy (intermediate, 21 km) start at the visitor centre Llanwddyn (near the dam).
Several routes in the Hiraethog area around Lake Alwen and Brenig area, see also MBWales
The Wayfarer a classic cross-country 48 km ride through the Berwyn mountains.
Walks around Bala in the Welsh Lake District, Snowdonia, Wales
Bala & Penllyn is located in the Welsh Lake District, Snowdonia, Wales - an area ideally situated for walking. There are a wide variety of walks, ranging from short scenic walks to strenuous ones - climbing mountains almost 3,000 feet high. A feature of the area is that walkers can enjoy the mountain experience without the crowds - that are sometimes found in the busier parts of Snowdonia or The Lakes. Bala has achieved "Walkers are Welcome" status and many accommodation provides provide walker friendly accommodation under the VisitWales criteria.
GoBala for Trails around Bala and Penllyn, including:
- All-ability Trails
- Trails for families
- Heritage Trails
- Scenic Trails
- Walks for everyone in the Bala area
- Mountain Walks
The leaflets and brochures can be downloaded from GoBala or collected from the Tourist Information Point at the Leisure Centre in Bala.
One of the highlights of the area is to walk around Bala Lake (14 miles) using footpaths on the surrounding hills with excellent views - this can be split into two more leisurely walks (8 or 6 miles) using the Bala Lake Railway or local bus service for return transport. The walk covers a variety of land including farmland, moorland, forestry and provides an overview of Penllyn and the adjacent mountain ranges (Aran, Arenig and Berwyn).
If you require a walking guide for the Bala area or in Snowdonia go to Guided Walking.
Mountain ranges around Bala:
- To the south of Bala is the Aran mountain range with 14 summits above 2000 ft (610 m). The Aran ridge covers the principal summits including Aran Fawddwy (2969 ft/905 m) and Aran Benllyn (2904 ft/885 m). The ridge makes an excellent linear walk including both major summits, utilising the local bus service for return transport.
- To the west and south-west of Bala is the Arenig mountain range with 13 summits above 2000 ft (610 m). The Arenig mountain range encompasses several separate mountain areas; the principal mountains groups are:
- Arenig Fawr (854 m) with Moel Llyfnant (751m);
- Arenig Fach (689m) flanked by the Migneint a large moorland area which is a Designated Special Area of Conservation (SAC) ;
- Rhobell Fawr (734m) with Dduallt (662m): two contrasting hills that can be combined into one walk.
- The Arenig area is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Both Arenig Fawr and Arenig Fach have tarns situated in glaciated corries with steep crags; the south ridge of Arenig Fawr is a pleasant rocky ridge.
- To the east and north-east of Bala is the Berwyn mountain range with 24 summits above 2000 ft (610 m). The western side of the Berwyn mountain range is easily reached from Bala, e.g. starting from Llandrillo or Cynwyd and also from the Bala to Llanygynog road; whereas the eastern side is further away but can be combined with a visit to Wales’s tallest waterfall “Pistyll Rhaeadr” at Tan-y-pistyll The three principle summits can be climbed in one circular walk, including:Cadair Berwyn (2723 m/ft 830 m), Moel Sych (827 m/2710 ft) and Cadair Bronwen (827 m/2710 ft).
In addition to the three local mountain ranges (Arenig, Aran, Berwyn) Cadair Idris and the Rhinog mountains, are a short drive away. Other parts of Snowdonia are also easily accessible including Snowdon, the Glyders, Tryfan, Carneddau, Cnicht and the Nantlle ridge.
Trail magazine features:
- Three Peaks circuit in Snowdonia (April 2010): which comprises Arenig Fawr, Moel Llyfnant and Arenig Fach. Bala makes an ideal base close to these three peaks and there is many other mountains to climb, including the twin peaks of the Arans.
- Secret Snowdonia (April 2012) an article on the Bala area which features Arenig Fawr and includes Aran Fawddwy. The article states that: the Arenigs get better weather in the east than the main Snowdon ranges in the west.
- Ultimate Weekend - Bala (May 2012): "A lovely lakeside town that's a great place to base yourself for a weekend of Welsh hillwalking" with routes for Aran Fawddwy, Moel y Garnedd and Arenig Fawr.
Nearby the are many opportunities for walking - a few highlights follow:
- Mary Jones Walk – The 28-mile walk by a 15-year-old girl, from Llanfihangel-y-Pennant Llanycil (Bala), helped inspire the founding of Bible Society. You don't have to do it barefoot! Download the route description from GoBala.
- Coed y Brenin although better know for mountain biking has many excellent walks.
- Precipice Walk is considered to be one of the classic short walks of Snowdonia and is included in the six "Great British Views", by the Rambler's Association (see Walk, winter 2008). Its described as a family-friendly ramble over mostly level ground and provides unrivaled views of the Mawddach estuary and Cader Idris.
- The Mawddach Trail, which runs from Dolgellau to Barmouth, was featured on BBC2 "Railway Walks" with Julia Bradbury. Snowdonia National Park Authority (SNPA) information for the Mawddach Trail.
- A walk to the top of Pistyll Rhaeadr, the tallest waterfall in Wales, near Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant, is one of The Times 50 Best Walks.
- Safety statement from the British Mountaineering Council (BMC): The BMC recognises that climbing, hill walking and mountaineering are activities with a danger of personal injury or death. Participants in these activities should be aware of and accept these risks and be responsible for their own actions. Also see safety information using links on the right.
Information compiled by Ray Hind Mountan Guide
Nature Reserves and Woodlands in North and Mid Wales
Due to the varied geology and climate there is a wide diversity and abundance of wildlife and nature in the Bala area. There are many nature reserves and woodlands that can be visited from the Bala area. These include several visitor centres, woodland walks, wetlands, RSPB reserves and nature reserves.
The Bala area is rich in nature and supports a wide biodiversity - because of their importance many areas are protected with international or national conservation designations. Close to Bala are:
- Bala Lake (Llyn Tegid) is a Ramsar wetlands site of international importance.
- The Penllyn Woods around Bala comprise woodland and moorland with wildlife in abundance. The Forestry Commission woods comprising: the Wenallt, Celyn, Aberhirnant, and Penaran woods.
- The Migneint–Arenig–Dduallt SAC (Special Area of Conservation) is an area of mountains and moorland, including blanket bog, heathland and grassland,located to the west and north-west of Bala
- The Berwyn mountains, to the east and north-east of Bala, include a National Nature Reserve (NNR) and a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest)
- Cors y Sarnau Nature Reserve, situated to the north-east of Bala. This kind of habitat is a valuable wetland which is rare in the UK.
There are many nature reserves and woodlands that can be readily visited from the Bala area - a selection is given below:
Lake Vyrnwy and Visitor Centre (Tel: 01691 870278)
Around Lake Vyrnwy are woodland nature trails, and there are bird-watching hides by the lakeside. Surrounding the lake is a large RSPB nature reserve with most of the birds of the Welsh borders. Highlights include redstart, siskin, crossbill, raven, hen harrier, ring ouzel, and red squirrel. There is a visitor centre. In addition to the walking trails it is possible to hire bikes, canoes or sailing dinghies. It is possible to walk around the Lake on footpaths (12-miles).
Llyn Brenig Reservoir and Visitor Centre (01490-420 463)
The reservoir is set in 920 acres of moorland and forest in the Denbigh moors. Activities: walking (10 miles around the lake), themed trails (archaeological trail, nature trail), sailing, canoeing, children’s adventure playground, bird hide, fishing (fly fishing for trout). Facilities: Visitor Centre, Lakeside café, picnic areas, gift shop and Exhibition: Audio visual programme tells the story of Lynn Brenig. The Visitor Centre is open: 10-4.30pm every day March-October. Directions Take the B4501 (Cerrigydrudion to Denbigh) from the A5.
Coed Garth Gell Reserve (Mawddach Valley)
The RSPB Coed Garth Gell reserve is a woodland and heathland nature reserve - which lies in the hills immediately north of the Penmaenpool bridge on the spectacular Mawddach estuary. In the spring and summer, pied flycatchers, redstarts and wood warblers are prominent, with bluebells in flower and gorgeous fritillary butterflies on the wing.Come for a walk in winter and you could see siskins, lesser redpolls and, occasionally, hawfinches and lesser spotted woodpeckers. There is an attractive 3½ mile circular walk through oak wood and scrubland, making use of some of the tramways left over from long gone mine workings.
Arthog Bog (Mawddach Valley)
The wetlands is situated between Arthog and Fairbourne and has wheelchair access from the car park at Morfa Mawddach train station. Arthog Bog is a wonderful place to see weird and wonderful plants, flowers, butterflies and birds.It's one of the remaining fragments of raised bog which once would have covered much of the adjacent Mawddach Estuary. With more than 130 species of plants recorded, there are colourful displays through the year such as marsh marigold and yellow flag in the spring and hemp agrimony, meadowsweet and ragged robin through the summer. There are also many specialised ditch plants such as bog bean and greater spearwort.
Mawddach and Wnion Wetlands
On the south side of the Mawddach Estuary, and west of the confluence with the River Wnion, is an area of wetlands supporting a wide biodiversity including oak woods, grasslands and species-rich areas. The wetlands is adjacent to the Mawddach Trail between Pont y Wernddu and Penmaenpool, there are car parks at both of these locations and paths access the wetlands from the Mawddach Trail.
Coed-y-Brenin Forest Park and Visitor Centre
The Forest Park is best known for Mountain Biking, but also provides a number of waymarked all-ability and family walking trails, two running trails, a magnificent tiered children's play area, bike hire and a stunning cafe with excellent views. For more information including download walking trails go the Forestry Commission Website. The Visitor Centre with cafe and car park is located off the A470 (Dolgellau to Trawsfyndd road).
Dyfi Forest Walks
The Dyfi (Dovey) forest lies to the east and south east of Cader Idris and is surrounded by the communities of Machynlleth, Corris, Ceinws, Dinas Mawddwy, Pennal and Aberangell. The forest has a mixture of habitats and species. Many of the old structures, levels and adits are important for many rare plant species as well as bat roosts and hibernation areas. Dyfi Forest is host to common and rare species and habitats. It is this diversity that makes the forest a really interesting place to visit. There are several signed walks starting at:
- Nant Gwernol near Abergynolwyn
- Tan y Coed near Corris
- Foel Friog near Corris
Dyfi (Dovey) National Nature Reserve, Dyfed
Dyfi (Dovey) National Nature Reserve has an information centre, and detailed leaflets introduce this large nature reserve by the Dyfi (Dovey) Estuary. Visitors can explore the wildlife-rich sand dunes, estuary and peatbogs on a range of footpaths and board-walk
Beaches and Estuaries
The closest beaches to Bala are at Barmouth or Fairbourne, accessed by a drive along the magnificent Mawddach Estuary. All of the coastline to the west of Bala is along Cardigan Bay with the mountains of Snowdonia as the back-drop. The sheltered Bay provides a superb location for boating where you may be lucky and spot dolphins and seals. The three major estuaries of Snowdonia are all within easy access from Bala. Travelling further away is the Llŷn Peninsula - another area of outstanding natural beauty - and the North Wales Coastal resorts - all accessible for a day out.
Beaches (with approx. travelling time by car from Bala:
- Barmouth & Mawddach Estuary (45 minutes)
- Fairborne & Mawddach Estuary (45 minutes)
- Shell Island (1 hour)
- Llŷn Peninsula (1-1¼ hours)
- Llandudno & Great Orme's Head (1 hour 5 minutes)
- North Wales Coastal Resorts (around 1 hour)
- Isle of Anglesey (1-1½ hours)
The following beaches have received Blue Flag Awards (2009):
- Pwllheli (Llŷn Peninsula)
- Abersoch (Llŷn Peninsula)
- Dinas Dinlle (Caernarvon)
- Llanfairfechan (Conwy)
- North Shore (Conwy)
The following beaches have received Green Coast awards (2009):
- Bennar (Llanenddwyn)
- Abererch (Llŷn Peninsula)
- Machroes (Llŷn Peninsula)
- Hell's Mouth, Porth Neigwl, (Llŷn Peninsula)
- Sandy Cove, Kinmel Bay (Conwy)
- Pensarn, Abergele (Conwy)
Many beaches have received the Seaside Award including Barmouth.
The three major estuaries of Snowdonia are all within easy access from Bala. The nearest is the Mawddach estuary, while to the north-west is the Dwyryd estuary and to the south-west is the Dovey (Dyfi) estuary. All of these estuaries are fed by rivers from the mountains of Snowdonia flowing into Cardigan Bay. The Bay provides a superb location for boating as it is sheltered by the Llyn peninsula to the north, Snowdonia to the east and much further south by Pembrokeshire. As well as shelter, the mountains and coast make a wonderful backdrop.
Because of its beauty, the Mawddach estuary was a favourite of writers and poets - including William Wordsworth, John Ruskin and Gerald Manly Hopkins. It is flanked by the Cader Idris massif to the south and the Rhinog Mountains to the north, providing a stunning setting. The estuary itself has expenses of sandbanks and is a bird watcher’s paradise - particularly wading birds and gulls. The Mawddach Trail runs from Dolgellau to Barmouth following the south bank of the estuary. It was a former railway line and is now a walking/cycling route (18 km, 11 miles one-way). The Trail was featured on BBC2 "Railway Walks" with Julia Bradbury. At the mouth of the estuary are the seaside resorts of Fairbourne and Barmouth. The history of the estuary includes gold mining and ship building from the timber grown there. The area includes two Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Many estuary birds can be spotted and enthusiasts can take advantage of viewpoint at the RSPB Observatory in the converted signal box at Penmaenpool.
The Dwyryd estuary is the setting chosen by the visionary architect Clough Williams-Ellis for the Italianate village Portmeirion, one of the most popular tourist venues in Wales. Borth y Gest has a small picturesque harbour on the Dwyryd. In the estuary is a small island 'Ynys Giftan' which means “the gift of this island to Queen Ann”.
The Dovey (Dyfi) source is at Creiglyn Dyfi on the east side of Aran ridge, not far south from Bala Lake. The Dyfi Valley Way is a walk from sea to source and back, that follows the river and estuary on both sides. Aberdovey (Aberdyfi) is a picturesque harbour-resort located at the mouth of the Dovey estuary with sea-food restaurants. The Dyfi Estuary has been registered as an international Biosphere Reserve and is a vital feeding ground for large numbers of wildfowl and shorebirds.
Castles in North and Mid Wales
Castles around Bala
Bala has a rich history going back to pre-Roman times. In and around Bala, there are the remains of a Roman fort, several 11th C Norman earthworks and a 13th C castle on an impressive crag. While further away are many examples of Welsh classic castles, many were built by the English but now serve as important Welsh monuments. The “Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd” is a UNESCO World Heritage Site - this includes Caernarfon, Conwy, Beaumaris and Harlech Castles, and are outstanding examples of medieval military architecture and planning.
The trunk road (A494) linking Bala with Dolgellau follows the route of a Roman road at Caer Gai, near Llanuwchllyn, and Llanfor, near Bala, are the remains of a Roman forts.
In Bala there is the 11th C Norman earthworks mound or "motte" known as "Tomen y Bala", which is 40m diameter and 9m high. At Pen-y-bont, where the River Dee flows out of Bala Lake, is a similar mound which is the remnant of a 13th century motte and bailey castle – probably constructed to guard the river crossing. It is known locally as Tomen Ronw (Gronw’s Mound). At Llanfor, to the north of the church, is a "ringwork".
Castell Carndochan is a ruined 13th C Welsh castle near Dolhendre (Llanuwchllyn). It was built on an on its impressive igneous crag forming a natural defence. Note that the ruins can only be visited by a strenous walk, without paths in places. It is related the castles at Castell-y-Bere in the Dysynni valley and Dolwyddelan, both of which are open to the public. It is thought that all three castles were built by Llywelyn ap Iorwerth.
Castles in North and Mid Wales
All of the classic castles and walled towns of North and Mid Wales can be visited from Bala and include:
Beaumaris Castle (Anglesey)
Regarded as the finest of the great Edwardian castles in Wales
Bodelwyddan Castle (Denbighshire)
A magnificent, restored Victorian mansion, is also the home of the National Portrait Gallery
One of the most famous of Wales's many castles
Castell Dinas Bran (near Llangollen)
Tthe 13th-centuary ruins can be viewed after a steep clinb on foot, giving wide views of Llangollen and the Dee valley.
Castell-y-Bere (near Abergynolwyn)
The ruins of a 13th-centuary native Welsh castle
(link to CADW information)
considered to be one of the great fortresses of medieval Europe
Chirk Castle (near Wrexham)
A magnificent 14th-century fortress of the Welsh Marches (National Trust)
is a landmark historic site, overlooking Cardigan Bay
Is a 13th C mountain stronghold (on the A470, between Blaenau Ffestiniog and Betws-y-Coed)
One of the great castles built by Edward I, overlooking Cardigan Bay
Penrhyn Castle (Bangor)
A 19th-century fantasy castle with spectacular contents and grounds (National Trust)
Powis Castle & Garden (near Welshpool, Mid Wales)
A medieval castle rising dramatically above the celebrated garden (National Trust)
Railways in North and Mid Wales
North and Mid Wales is a veritable paradise for railway enthusiasts - with a wide range of different railway types. Bala makes an ideal base, with the Bala Lake Railway on the doorstep, and within easy travelling distance of many other railways. These railways types include:
- Steam-powered and narrow-gauge lines.
- Railways that will also be of interest to children, as well as other members of the families.
- Lines that were built to connect quarries or mines to ports.
- Mountain railways with fantastic views.
- Lines that Dr Beeching decided were surplus to requirements in the 60s, but are now operated by Railway Preservation Societies.
The area has a rich industrial history, where the railways were used to provide transport from quarries and mines to the coast. For example, the Ffestiniog railway was originally gravity operated - the trucks loaded with slate rolled downhill to the coast. A horse that was carried in a special carriage then hauled the empty trucks back uphill.
In order to re-open the Ffestiniog line in 1954, volunteer enthusiasts built a new tunnel and an alpine-style spiral to gain height thus avoiding a reservoir that had been enlarged sine the line was originally built. Just another engineering achievement associated with the railways of North Wales and the enthusiasts that have re-opened them.
By combining the Ffestiniog and West Highland Railways, you can now travel 33 miles from Blaenau Ffestiniog via Porthmadog to Caernarfon by rail while enjoying the outstanding scenery of Snowdonia and rising to 700 ft. The route goes through Aberglaslyn Pass (voted the ‘most scenic view in the UK’ by members of the National Trust) and passes to the west of Snowdon, giving splendid views.
Rather than walking, you can enjoy the ride to the summit of Snowdon be mountain railway built in 1896. Then you can enjoy the wonderful views from the summit and see the visitor centre, Hafod Eryri, which cost around £9M!, and was opened in 2009.
Many lines offer special events, such as jazz, barbeques, Murder and Mystery, and most offer Santa trains in December. You can even take charge of a steam train.
The railways accessible from the Bala area include the following:
- Bala Lake Railway (Rheilffordd Llyn Tegid) offers a delightful 9-mile return journey alongside Bala Lake (Llyn Tegid), through the beautiful and natural Snowdonia National Park.
- Corris Railway and Museum (Corris, near Machynlleth) a narrow gauge (2' 3") railway whose origins date back to the 1850's. The line was initially built as a horse-and-gravity-worked tramroad to carry slate from the quarries of Corris Uchaf and Aberllefenni to the nearest navigable point on the River Dovey.
- Welsh Highland Railway (Caernarfon to Porthmadog) Journey behind the most powerful 2' gauge steam locomotives in the world on a 19½ mile journey through the fabulous scenery of the Snowdonia National Park.
- Talyllyn Railway is a historic narrow-gauge steam railway, set in the beautiful Mid-Wales countryside. Running from Tywyn to Abergynolwyn and Nant Gwernol, the line passes the delightful Dolgoch Falls and there are excellent forest walks at Nant Gwernol. Driver experience available.
- Ffestiniog Railway (Rheilffordd Ffestiniog) which takes you on a 13½-mile journey from the harbour in Porthmadog to the slate-quarrying town of Blaenau Ffestiniog. The historic trains climb over 700 feet from sea level into the mountains through tranquil pastures and magnificent forests, past lakes and waterfalls, round horseshoe bends (even a complete spiral) clinging to the side of the mountain or even tunnelling through it.
- Llanberis Lake Railway (Rheilffordd Llyn Padarn) (Llanberis), Starting at Gilfach Ddu, the journey takes you past the 13th century Dolbadarn Castle, crossing possibly Britain's shortest river and passing Llanberis' twin lakes as the train negotiates the extension (opened in 2003) to Llanberis village.
- Llangollen Railway which runs trains for 7 ½ miles along the banks of the River Dee from Llangollen to Carrog through some of the most beautiful scenery in the UK.
- Fairbourne Steam Railway The Railway runs from Fairbourne village along Fairbourne spit to Penrhyn Point, where there is a passenger ferry to Barmouth. Driver Experience Courses available.
- The Cambrian Steam Train Travel aboard 'The Cambrian' from Machynlleth to Porthmadog or Pwllheli and revel in the romance of the steam train. Sit back and view beautiful Cardigan Bay on one side and the mountains of Snowdonia on the other. A day for all the family to relax and discover the magnificent Cambrian Coast.
- Vale of Rheidol Railway (Aberystwyth) One of the Great Little Trains of Wales and was the last steam railway owned by British Rail until it was privatised in 1989.
- Snowdon Mountain Railway (Llanberis) Let Snowdon Mountain Railway take you on a journey of a lifetime to the rooftop of Wales. Mount Snowdon, at 3,560 ft dominates the landscape of Snowdonia National Park in North Wales.
- Conwy Valley Railway (Betws-y-Coed) The Conwy Valley line, part of the National Rail Network, runs alongside one of the great rivers of Wales, the Conwy and continues along the banks of the turbulent river Lledr after it's confluence with the Conwy at Betws-y-Coed.
Note that some railways do not operate on every day. The Snowdon Mountain Railway does not operate in the winter (November to early March) or if weather is unsuitable. It is recommended that you check directly with railway for the latest timetable information and book in advance for the Snowdon Mountain Railway, buring busy periods.
It is possible to travel to the area by rail to Barmouth, Wrexham/Ruabon or Chester and then by bus to Bala (more information).
Overview of walking in the Bala & Penllyn area
Walking for everyone in the Bala area, Snowdonia, North Wales
Bala & Penllyn, situated in southern Snowdonia, Wales, is a veritable Mecca for walkers - who can enjoy the mountain experience without the crowds. The area has several lakes, deep valleys with fast flowing rivers and streams with waterfalls and spectacular rugged mountains shaped by volcanoes and glaciers – ideal terrain for mountain walking. There are a wide variety of walks, ranging from short scenic walks to strenuous ones - climbing mountains almost 3,000 feet high.
Just some of the reasons to “Visit Bala” for walking are:
- Walkers are Welcome – officially recognised!
- Walks for everyone, including “all ability” and families
- Wonderful scenery of Snowdonia, with rugged mountains almost 3,000 ft high
- Welsh Lake District with the largest natural lake in Wales
- Network of way-marked paths with good signage and Open Access
- Rich local history and heritage – follow a Trail
- Walk without the crowds
- Wildlife is abundant, many protected areas and nature reserves
Bala lies within three mountain ranges:
- To the south of Bala is the Aran mountain range with 14 summits above 2,000 ft (610 m). The Aran ridge is an excellent ridge walk with far-reaching views.
- To the west and south-west of Bala is the Arenig mountain range with 13 summits above 2000 ft. The Arenig area is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), the Migneint is a large moorland area which is a Designated Special Area of Conservation (SAC).
- To the east and north-east of Bala is the Berwyn mountain range, including the Hirnant mountains, with 24 summits above 2,000 ft and Wales’s tallest waterfall “Pistyll Rhaeadr”. The Berwyn is a vast nature reserve and the home of many species of moorland birds.
There is easy access to other parts of Snowdonia including Cader Idris, Rhinog, the Glyderau and of course Snowdon.
Visit Bala Members
Useful information, member documents (download), such as meeting minutes and the constitution
|Member benefits of Bala & Penllyn Tourism Association
- Membership only £60.00 to include Website entry, additional entries £10, per annum
- Support & promote Bala & Penllyn as a tourism destination
- Community partnership working together
- Keep up to date with opportunities in Gwynedd for marketing and customer care
- Increased revenue for your business
- Training opportunities
- Visiting speakers
- Raise funds for local projects
- Free entry into Caerau Uchaf Gardens, Sarnau
- Discounts at Bala Adventure & Watersports Centre
- Use and benefits at Serenity Spa, also use by guests
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Maps of Bala Town, Penllyn, North-Wales and Mid-Wales
St Davids Day
World Record for Bala - the largest Welsh Cake in the world
For more information see links below images.
St. David’s Day (2014), or Dydd Gŵyl Dewi in Welsh, was a day of celebration in the town of Bala, North Wales, organised by Bala and Penllyn Tourism Association. The highlight of the day was the World Record attempt of making the largest Welsh Cake in the World! The consistency of the mix, the rolling to size and then the cooking all came together on the day to meet the criteria of the Guinness Book of Records of a 20kg cake. The cooked weight was 21.7kg and the diameter was 1.5 metres! Guinness World Records have confirmed that its a World Record - the largest Welsh Cake in the World was made in Bala.
The town began celebrating on Friday as local businesses competed by decorating the 25 trees lining the High Street in the colours of the Welsh flag. Shop windows were dressed and flags were hung, it was a glorious spectacle. There was a buzz of expectation for the following day, March 1st, to celebrate Dydd Gŵyl Dewi. The children loved the Circus Workshop, the Magician and the storytelling. There were smiling faces from adults and children alike as families rushed around the town to see; the world famous Choir ‘Cor Godre’r Aran’, to follow the Tegi Bach Treasure Hunt (the friendly Lake Monster), buy produce from Snowdonia Market and local artisan craft stalls, whilst enjoying an historic Town Trail and having their faces painted en route. Everyone wearing their daffodils, some wearing Welsh costume, and smiling broadly.
The cooking of the Welsh Cake drew a huge crowd and there was a rush to buy a piece of the Biggest Welsh Cake in the World. There were a few tense moments as the team of cooks rolled the cake to the correct depth and then cooked the cake over very hot coals. The temperature was monitored and the cake was twisted and turned to cook evenly. Then came the flip and in came the team to lift the metal plates with the 3 stone Welsh Cake in the middle! There was a roar from the crowd as the flip was successful and a cheer of joy when the top came off and the cake was perfectly browned! The whole cake, over 200 pieces, sold like hotcakes, including off-cuts and crumbs, within 15 minutes! Comments included “this is the best welsh cake I’ve ever eaten”.
The day ended with prize giving and the local school children leading the crowd with several well-known Welsh songs.
Mel Williams, the Chair of Bala & Penllyn Tourism Association said “The day exceeded all our expectations. We launched GoBala.org our new web portal for trails in Bala; we enticed hundreds of people into the town to shop, we created a feel-good factor with fun for all and managed to bake the biggest Welsh cake in the World! Money was raised for; Macmillan, Ty Gobaith, Gobowen, Rotary, and The Urdd. The whole town came together on the day with willing hands to put Bala on the map of the World - you can’t get better than that!”
Bala & Penllyn Tourism Association/Cymdeithas Twristiaeth y Bala a Phenllyn wish to thank sponsors, supporters and partners, including:
• Cyngor Gwynedd Council,
• Cyngor Tref y Bala,
• Grwp Busnes y Bala,
• Bala & Penllyn Rotary Club,
• Ysgol y Berwyn,
• Uned y Gymraeg yn y Gymuned,
• Barclays Bank,
• Plas yn Dre Restaurant
• Côr Godre'r Aran
• Royal White Lion Hotel
• Activity North Wales/Get Wet
• Cake Crew
• Members of Bala & Penllyn Tourism Association
Welsh Cake sponsors:
• Ysgol y Berwyn: fabrication
• Plas yn Dre Restaurant: venue and refreshments
• J Lloyd and Son: metal work
• Big K Products Ltd: charcoal
• Spel-Gate Industrial: Teflon sheets
• D. H. Jones: mixing bowl and mixer
• Wern Tegid Veterinary Surgery: weighing equipment
• Gwynedd Council Trading Standards: for provision of the calibration weights
• Williams Homes: building materials
• Travis Perkins: building materials
• Benrhos Ltd: temperature measurement equipment
• Minavon Garage: supports for rotation of gridle
• Co op: ingredients for welsh cake
Raffle prizes providers:
• Royal White Lion Hotel
• Landcraft 4x4 Ltd
• John Lewis Partnership – Bala Lake Hotel
• Tyddyn Llan Restaurant with Rooms
• T. J. Roberts and Son, Butchers Bala
• Otter Woodcraft
• Bryn Tegid Country House
• North Wales Country Fair
• Caerau Uchaf Gardens
• Mel Williams, Encaustician/Artist
• Ray Hind, Canoe Coach
Tourism Association Committee:
- Chair & Press Spokesperson: Mel Williams (Melikens Video)
- Secretary & think-tank: Katrina Le Saux,
- Treasurer, Webmaster, Dogsbody: Ray Hind.
Welsh Cake Team:
- Peter Cottee: Project Manager
- Andrew Roberts & Mick Williams: Production Team
- Lindsay Hind: cooking coordinator
- Assistants: Tyly Roberts, Mari Davies
- Video: Dai Lazarus
- Photogrepher: Hazel Price (Smilebox producer)
Independent Witnesses: Huw Price, Gwyn Evans, Rhys Llwyd Davies
About this website
Bala & Penllyn Tourism Association thank Partners and Sponsors for their assistance and support to develop this website.
Credits - The Association also thank and acknowledge the use of images and content from:
Thanks to the following for assistance with this website:
- Bala Back Packers
- Elfvyn Pritchard (translation)
- Gareth Griffiths (translation)
- Penri Jones (translation, local information and Welsh language content)
- Peris Jones-Evans (Historical Timeline)
- Andrew Roberts (translation)
- Alun Price (translation and content)
It is intended to develop this website further with more Welsh content. If you would like to assist please contact the Association. Your assistance may be provided by translating or by providing information and images of interest to our Welsh language users. You could also help financially as a Sponsor (£200 for 3 years minimum).
Mae'n fwriad gennym ddatblygu'r wefan hon ymhellach drwy ei chyfieithu i'r Gymraeg. Pe baech yn dymuno ein cynorthwyo cysylltwch â'r Gymdeithas os gwelwch yn dda. Gallech ein cynorthwyo drwy gyfieithu neu drwy gynnig gwybodaeth a lluniau fyddai o ddiddordeb i'n defnyddwyr Cymraeg eu hiaith. Fe allech hefyd ein cynorthwyo yn ariannol drwy fod yn Bartner (£1,000 neu fwy) neu Hyrwyddwr (£200/tudalen).
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