Climbing above Bala to get the best view of Wales' largest natural lake.
Distance 5 miles (8km)
Minimum time 3hrs
Ascent/gradient 656ft (200m)
Level of difficulty Medium
Paths Woodland and field paths, 8 stiles
Landscape Woods and upland pasture
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer OL23 Cadair Idris & Llyn Tegid
Start/finish SH 929361
Dog friendliness Dogs should be on leads at all times
Parking Car park at entrance to Bala town from east
Public toilets At car park
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1 Go to the north east side of the car park in Bala to gain access to the riverside path, where you turn right to follow a raised embankment along the west bank of the Tryweryn. After a dog-leg to the right, which passes through two kissing gates, the footpath continues, first by the banks of the Tryweryn, then by the north banks of the Dee.
2 On reaching the road by Bala's lake, Llyn Tegid, turn left then right along the Llangower road. Go through a kissing gate to cross a small field to Bala Station on Bala Lake Railway. A footbridge allows you to cross the track before traversing two small fields.
3 Turn right along a cart track, and pass behind the Bala Lake Hotel. A waymarker points the direction up a grassy bank on the left, and the path continues south west, accompanied by a fence on the right.
4 After crossing a stream, next to a little cottage on the right-hand side, the route comes upon an area of rough pastureland interspersed with outcrops of rock, rushes and bracken. Here the footpath on the ground all but disappears. Ascend half left (roughly southwards) to reach the fenceline at the top, then aim for a ladder stile in the middle distance.
5 Turn left along the tarred lane just before that ladder stile. Where the road ends take the right fork track that ploughs through a recently felled conifer plantation.
6 On reaching the whitewashed house of Encil y Coed, turn left off the track to climb the left-hand one of two ladder stiles, then follow a grooved grass track heading north across high pastures. Where the track bends to the right leave it to descend steeply to another ladder stile. The well-waymarked path continues north, with Bala town directly ahead.
7 Go over a partially hidden step stile into the commercial forestry plantations of Coed Pen-y-Bont. A narrow footpath descends to the bottom edge of the woods (ignore the forestry track you meet on the way down).
8 At the bottom of the woods turn right along a track that reaches the road by the Pen-y-Bont Campsite. Turn left along the road, walking back towards the town, then turn left again to follow the lakeside footpath past the information centre. When you reach the main road, turn right to explore the fascinating town centre.
'It was a beautiful evening? the wind was blowing from the south, and tiny waves were beating against the shore, which consisted of small brown pebbles. The lake has certainly not its name, which signifies Lake of Beauty, for nothing'
Borrow had been staying at the White Lion in Bala and had been impressed with the place and its people. Bala is an austere town, close to the banks of two great rivers, the Tryweryn and the Dee, and the shore of Wales' largest natural lake, Llyn Tegid.
The town's many chapels give a hint to its religious roots. You'll see the statue of Dr Lewis Edwards, founder of the Methodist College, and, opposite the White Lion, one of the Revd Thomas Charles, a founder of the British and Foreign Bible Society. Bala's employment was based around the woollen industry, and the town was noted for its stockings. Thomas Pennant came here in 1786 and painted a fascinating picture of life in the town: 'Round the place, women and children are in full employ, knitting along the roads; and mixed with them Herculean figures appear, assisting their omphales in this effeminate employ.'
Llyn Tegid is every bit as beautiful as Borrow suggests and it's popular for watersports. When the south westerlies blow, Bala has waves like an angry ocean. It's favoured by anglers too. Pike, perch, trout, salmon and roach are plentiful, but the fish Llyn Tegid is famous for is the Gwyniad, which is not unlike a freshwater herring. It is said these fish were trapped here after the last ice age. You come to the old Norman motte and bailey castle of Tomen y Mur soon after turning your back the lake. Some say that the mound goes back to Roman times, but it is known that the castle was captured from the Normans by Llewelyn ap Iowerth in 1202. One of those Welsh steam railways has its terminus right next to the old castle site and it's fascinating to see the old steam engines puffing along the lakeside. However, we are in search of higher things, so climb through woods and upland fields until you get your view. From up high you can see Tegid's blue waters, seemingly perfect and still from this distance, and stretching 4½ miles (7.2km) along its rift valley towards Dolgellau. White farmhouses are dotted on pleasant pastured hills. The Dee, so wide down river from Bala, has anonymous beginnings in the peat bogs beneath Dduallt, whose dark crags rise high on the north west horizon.
It's time to descend, through more oak woods, and further, beneath western hemlock and larch, finally to reach the shores of the lake and the comforts of the town.
In the woodlands of Ffridd Fach-Ddeiliog there are many broadleaved trees and conifers. The soil is quite rich here and unlike the upper slopes, where the Sitka spruce dominates, species like Japanese larch and Western hemlock thrive. The larch will be easily recognised in winter as it isn't evergreen and will have dropped its needles on the forest floor. The hemlock, a narrow conical tree with small pendulous cones, grows to about 164ft (50m) in the British Isles.
For great views of the lake and surrounding mountains why not take a trip on the excellent Bala Lake Railway? The narrow-gauge steam train uses the former trackbed of the old Great Western Railway which was built to link Ruabon and Barmouth. Trains depart from Llanuwychllyn and run the full length of the lake back to Bala Station. The service is usually operational between April and the end of September.
Plas Yn Dre Restaurant in Bala's High Street specialises in local dishes, which you can eat in the restaurant or, if it's nice, on the patio outside. We had a really tasty Welsh lamb, complete with roast potatoes.