Welcome to Bala
Come and be inspired by this beautiful area in Snowdonia with Llyn Tegid, the largest natural lake in Wales, at its heart. The high peaks of Aran Benllyn, Arenig Fawr and the Berwyn Mountains surround the region, known locally as Penllyn, which is noted not only for its natural beauty but also for its culture.
The Welsh language, one of the oldest in Europe, still thrives here – the language of family, friends and business as a walk along the streets of Bala will prove. The heritage of the town is a long and rich one, stretching back to Roman times. The Town Trail leaflet, available from the Tourist Information Centre, explains the historical, religious and political significance of the statues and old buildings.
Bala - Sense of Place
The historic market town of Bala sits at the head of Llyn Tegid, in southern Snowdonia. The Welsh word "bala" means the outflow of a lake, and Bala, Ontario, Canada was named after it in 1868. They have since become twin towns.
It was founded by Royal Charter around 1310 by Roger de Mortimer of Chirk Caslte. He was keen to establish the town as a means to taming the rebellious ‘Quakers’ of the Penllyn district (Penllyn being an area near to Bala, rather than Penllŷn on the Llŷn Peninsula). These Quakers had gathered in Penllyn around a Puritan priest from Wrexham named Morgan Llwyd. He lived in Cynfal Fawr near Ffestiniog, and during his journeys between his home and Wrexham, would pass through Penllyn, and there began preaching at a house known as Bodwenni between Bala and Llandderfel. His sermons stressed the importance of listening to the ‘light within’ that we might today more commonly call our conscience. Morgan Llwyd died in 1659 and his followers at Bodwenni discovered a natural empathy with the teaching of the Quakers.
To read more about Bala, download: Sense of Place - Bala
Bala Lake Railway
Bala’s setting couldn’t be better – on the shores of the four-mile-long Llyn Tegid, the largest natural lake in Wales, and in the folds of the Aran and Arenig mountains. Soak up the scenery on a trip on the Bala Lake Railway, a narrow-gauge line that runs from Llanuwchllyn.
Watersports and Fishing
Watersports and fishing are all high on the agenda. The lake is home of a unique type of fish called the ‘Gwyniad’, which may be some kind of land-locked herring. Watersports enthusiasts in particular are spoilt for choice: in addition to the lake itself, at nearby Treweryn there’s thrilling white-water rafting and canoeing.
CultureThe town is steeped in Welsh culture and history. A plaque tells the famous story of 16-year-old Mary Jones who walked to Bala across the mountains to collect a Welsh Bible in 1800. Such links continue: the activity centre for the Urdd Welsh Language of Youth is located here, and in 2009 the town hosted the National Eisteddfod of Wales. There’s also Bala’s new Canolfan Cywain Centre, an exciting venture that combines rural heritage with contemporary artworks.
Sense of Place - Bala People
Founder of the Welsh Circulating Schools and the British and Foreign Bible Society, Thomas Charles was born in Carmarthenshire, of humble parentage, and was educated for the Anglican ministry at Llanddowror and Carmarthen, and at Jesus College, Oxford. After studying theology under the evangelical John Newton at Olney, he was ordained deacon in 1778 and took priests orders a few years later in 1780.
Having resigned all his curacies in England, in June 1783 he returned to Wales to marry Sarah Jones of Bala, the orphan of a flourishing shopkeeper. He was clearly influenced by the great revival movement in Wales, having been converted at the age of seventeen by a sermon of Daniel Rowland. This was enough to make him unpopular with many of the Welsh clergy and he was on numerous occasions denied the privilege of preaching at churches in the area.
For more information on the people of Bala, download: People - Bala
Mary Jones Walk
By following this linear route, you will walk 28 miles through the spectacular countryside of the old county of Meirionnydd, from an enchanting valley at the foot of Cadair Idris to the shores of Llyn Tegid. You will cross public paths and paths used with the permission of the landowner, over mountain pastures and through woodlands, along old romantic lanes, country roads and short unavoidable sections on the main road. The splendid views of lakes and mountains will astound you.
Water SportsThe area has won world-wide acclaim as a centre for watersports – it has been the venue on a number of occasions for canoe World Championships. Canolfan Tryweryn at Frongoch provides facilities for white water rafting and canoeing. Llyn Tegid is very popular with sailors, windsurfers and canoeists and craft can be hired from Bala Watersports situated on the lake foreshore near the Leisure Centre.
Facilities in Bala include a Leisure Centre (with swimming pool, sports hall, fitness suite and sauna), a Golf Club and a Cinema. There is a Ten Pin Bowling Centre at Glanllyn.
Bala Lake Railway, one of the ‘Great Little Trains of Wales’ runs along the southern shore of Llyn Tegid from Llanuwchllyn to Bala. Information on bicycle hire and other local attractions is available from the Tourist Information Centre.
WildlifeCormorants and divers are a frequent sight on Llyn Tegid and the rivers are home to dippers and wagtails. Woodland birds such as woodpeckers are common while the upland areas support populations of curlew, lark and red and black grouse. Birds of prey are numerous – the buzzard being the most frequently seen. Rarer sights include merlin, hen harrier and red kite. Otters have been successfully reintroduced to the rivers. There are two SSSIs in the area, an RSPB reserve at Llyn Efyrnwy and a National Nature Reserve on the Berwyn Mountains.
For walkers there are routes to suit all abilities, including flat leisure paths of the town and lakeside, a network of public footpaths criss crossing the countryside and strenuous walks up Aran Benllyn, Arenig Fawr and the Berwyn Mountains. There is excellent coarse and game fishing in Llyn Tegid and in the local rivers.
Trails in the Bala Area
Bala is located in the stunning mountain and lake scenery of the Welsh Lake District in southern Snowdonia. As well as the largest lake in Wales (Llyn Tegid or Bala Lake) there are three mountain ranges (Aran, Arenig and Berwyn) which almost touch 3,000 ft. Bala is a “Walkers are Welcome” town but its not just walks that are available.
In order to explore the area there are many Trails in the area, including:
• For children: a treasure hunt, a paper trail and short walks
• All Ability Trails, e.g. Tegid Trail and around Bala
• Scenic Walks, e.g. around Bala Lake or part way and return by steam railway
• Heritage Trails, e.g. Town Trail, Betsi Cadwaladr Trail and the Mary Jones Trail
• Bike Trails along valleys or over mountain passes
• Canoe Trails on Bala Lake
• Car Trails to explore the history of the area
Each Trail has a route description, map and local information. Mountain walkers can enjoy the mountain experience without the crowds. The one-stop information for Trails in the Bala area and more is: www.GoBala.org and for accommodation and more go to www.VisitBala.org