•   Aberdovey on the Dovey Estuary
  •   Mawddach Estuary and Cader Idris
  •   Cardigan Bay

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):

  • Fairbourne
  • Tywyn
  • Borth
  • 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)
  • Harlech
  • 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.

For more information on the Coastal Awards: