A Little About Bala
I’m always struck by the number of people I meet who know Bala, even though it’s a tiny place. What it lacks in size it more than makes up for in character. Many pass through on their way to Abersoch or to other parts of Snowdonia, and others remember holidays sailing and kayaking on the lake, or walking and climbing in the surrounding countryside. Visitor numbers grow year on year and the Lonely Planet guide named Snowdonia the fourth best place in the whole world to visit.
They cite Surf Snowdonia, in the Conwy Valley, which is an inland surfing lake described as “the most headline-stealing example of the region’s reinvention”.
Things to See & Do Around Bala
Other attractions they claim make the area one of the best places to visit are Zip World which is in three locations in north Wales, including the world’s fastest and Europe’s longest zip line and the first four-person zip line; and Bounce Below, a network of giant trampolines rigged together in the caverns beneath Blaenau Ffestiniog.
The Afon Tryweryn, runs through Bala, and is world-famous for its white water kayaking and the town lies in the shadow of three major mountain ranges, The Berwyns, the Arenig and the Aran, with peaks up to almost 3000ft. There are also numerous local walks with various degrees of difficulty in the hills around Bala.
The lake, Llyn Tegid, is the largest natural lake in Wales and is stunningly beautiful, sometimes calm as a millpond and at others resembling the North Sea when a fierce wind blows across the surface. The sailing club is a short walk from Bala town centre.
Mount Snowdon (1080-metres high) is just over an hour away by car – 38 miles.
Bala Lake Railway
If all the talk of activity and adventure is tiring you out, you can always take the narrow gauge Bala Lake Railway to Llanuwchllyn and enjoy a leisurely train ride down the length of the lake. That said, and if you are feeling fit, from there is a walk to the summit of Aran Benllyn – a 10-mile scramble rated moderate to hard – and visible from the front bedroom of the workhouse.
Bala town is small – less than 3000 full-time resident – but in the summer is buzzing with tourists, and even in winter is never short of visitors. Many small artisan businesses such as the Stori craft beer, wine shop and gin distillery; Gallery Tan Yr Hall showcasing local artists, and other small enterprises have sprung up to serve both visitors and local residents, as well as a range of other shops and two excellent butchers. It has hosted the National Eisteddfod three times and in 2014 welcomed the National Eisteddfod for the Welsh League of Youth.
There are pubs, restaurants and traditional cafes a short stroll from the Old Workhouse B&B. We also have a cinema based at the local school, which features the latest feature films and also live screenings from the National Theatre. At the other end of Bala is the Castle Mound, thought to be an early 14th century Norman fort built to quell a hostile population. Little remains of the original motte and bailey construction, though from the top it is still possible to see the original gridplan design of the streets, which remain to the present day. Things don’t happen quickly in Bala!
Cosmopolitan Dolgellau is 17-miles down the road, and 10 miles on is the coast and the seaside resort of Barmouth. Touristy Llangollen and the charming little town of Ruthin are both just over 20-miles away. Also a short drive away is the historic town of Harlech, with it’s medieval castle, built by Edward 1 of England between 1282 and 1289 to keep the unruly Welsh at bay, and Portmeirion – a fantasy Italianate village started in 1925 by architect Sir Clough William-Ellis. It was famously used as the setting for the 1960’s Danger Man series starring Patrick McGoohan, and is now a much-visited tourist attraction.
This is by no means a definitive list, and there are literally hundreds – if not thousands – of other outdoor activities, historic sites, castles, gardens and places of interest to visit in North Wales. We will try and advise, or point visitors in the right direction, to make your stay as fulfilling as possible.