Things to do in BalaPublished on 29 Jun 2022 by Gwion Llwyd
Surrounded by mountains, rich in culture, and within easy reach of many of the region’s most popular attractions, beautiful Bala is famously home to Llyn Tegid (Bala Lake), the largest natural lake in Wales. Sandwiched between Snowdonia and the Berwyn mountains, the town is watched over by its own mini-massif: the Arenig mountains. There is a wonderful steam train which huffs and puffs passengers up and down the spectacular lakeside, and you can take part in a whole host of water sports in the town including kayaking, white water rafting, wild swimming, and stand up paddle boarding. Bala is a thriving little town which is home to some great independent shops, restaurants and cafés, so there’s plenty of choice for high street shopping and foodie treats. If you like to sample local brews on your holidays, head to Stori Beers & Wines on the High Street for an impressive selection of Welsh ales and gins.
Here’s a selection of our favourite things to do in Bala.
Keen to make a splash as soon as you arrive? Bala Watersports, based on the shores of Llyn Tegid, offers adventure and excitement suitable for all the family. Highly skilled instructors will ensure you have a fantastic time, whether you’re a complete beginner, have some limited experience, or are on a more advanced course. Activities include canoeing, kayaking, climbing, abseiling, windsurfing, sailing, archery, camp craft, raft building, mountain biking, power boating, hill walking, gorge walking, and white water rafting. Bala Watersports offers equipment hire for all its activities.
The National Whitewater Centre
Located just a couple of miles outside the town centre, the National White Water Centre couldn’t be any better placed. Water is regularly released from a dam into the River Tryweryn, to create a steep, rocky and fast-flowing mountain waterway. This means that there are predictable rapids all year round, perfect for exhilarating adventures in the water. Prepare to get drenched as you head down the river in your raft under instruction by one of their expert guides. You’ll be buzzing for the rest of the day! You can grab a well earned hot drink and a piece of cake at the café afterwards. The National White Water Centre runs family rafting sessions for anyone aged 10 and over, as well as other kayaking and canyoning activities.
Adventure Parc Snowdonia
Adventure Parc Snowdonia is home to Surf Snowdonia – a world-first surf lagoon, and a game-changing engineering marvel which has cultivated a legion of fans since it launched in 2015. You’ll find it in the village of Dolgarrog, on the edge of the Snowdonia National Park. Rolling waves power across a huge inland lagoon, just a few metres from the village post office. Adventure Parc Snowdonia’s technology delivers a variety of wave profiles in different zones, so absolute beginners can surf or bodyboard alongside experienced surfers. This is great family fun: you can surf with or without instruction, slots are bookable by 60 or 90 minutes. 30 miles from Bala.
Coed y Brenin
Coed y Brenin near Dolgellau is the UK’s first and largest dedicated mountain bike trail centre. Hire bikes from the visitor centre (or bring your own) to explore miles of world-class mountain bike trails, with waymarked routes to suit all abilities. There is also a café, plenty of family walking trails, a nice play area and some gorgeous spots for a riverside picnic. 20 miles from Bala.
The Penmachno Trails near Betws y Coed are a hidden gem of North Wales mountain biking, with 30km of super-sweet single-track and scenic forest trails riding high through Snowdonia National Park. Choose from 3 main trails each with their own challenges and character. The mountain views are stupendously good. 23 miles from Bala.
Set in the stunning slate mountains of Blaenau Ffestiniog, and with far-reaching views towards the Irish Sea, Antur Stiniog offers 14 fantastic gravity fed trails for all shades of rider from novice to world cup racer. The downhill trails are graded from green to black. Antur Stiniog includes a mountain uplift service, and bikes are available to hire from the site. 22 miles from Bala.
The Mawddach Trail
The Mawddach Trail footpath and cycle route runs just shy of 10 miles along a disused railway track on the southern side of the Mawddach estuary. The trail can be joined at several points, but it runs between the picturesque market town of Dolgellau and the iconic railway bridge over the mouth of the Mawddach estuary into Barmouth. Expect stunning views across to Diffwys and the Rhinog mountains, and up the estuary to Y Garn and the Arans beyond Dolgellau. 18 miles from Bala.
Not bringing your own wheels? No problem! Head to R. H. Roberts Cycles on Bala High Street to hire bikes near Bala.
Take a ride on Bala Lake Railway
Rheilffordd Llyn Tegid (Bala Lake Railway) offers a delightful 9 mile return journey alongside Bala Lake, through the beautiful Snowdonia National Park. Its narrow gauge steam trains give excellent views of the lake amid its surrounding scenery, including the nearby mountains of Arenig Fawr, Aran Benllyn and Aran Fawddwy. Trains are seasonal so check the website to plan your visit.
Discover Welsh history in Corwen
Corwen is the ancestral home of Owain Glyndwr, the last native born prince of Wales. Check into the Amgueddfa Corwen Museum to find out more about Wales’s national hero. 11 miles from Bala.
Explore the coastal fortress at Criccieth
Built around 1230 by Llywelyn ap Iowerth (Llywelyn the Great), Criccieth Castle sits on a high rocky peninsula with enormous views over Cardigan Bay to the Irish Sea beyond. It is a quite astonishingly beautiful setting, and you can easily see why Llywelyn was drawn to it. The amazing views alone make this place very much worth a visit. The castle’s romantic ruins have attracted dozens of artists over the centuries, and it was famously painted by J. M. W. Turner in 1835 as part of his series depicting shipwrecked mariners. Read more about why the Dioni team loves Criccieth Castle, here. 34 miles from Bala.
Discover the ‘secret’ ruins of Castell y Bere
The magnificent Castell y Bere was built by Prince Llywelyn at the start of the 13th century. Eight hundred years on, its ruins sit strong and proud under the gaze of Cadair Idris. Today Castell y Bere is almost as wild, remote and beautiful as it was when Llywelyn first arrived to make his mark. The panoramic views across these staggeringly beautiful landscapes are really quite something. Castell y Bere is one of our must-do ‘secret’ castles of Wales. 28 miles from Bala.
Adventure Attractions on the doorstep
Other stand out local attractions include Zip World Fforest, Zip World Velocity, Adventure Parc Snowdonia, Greenwood Forest Park, Rib Ride, The Slate Caverns at Llechwedd, Zip Caverns,Go Below, and Bounce Below.
Take a walk around Llyn Tegid – Bala Lake
A walk around Llyn Tegid / Bala Lake is a must-do if you like stepping out into the landscape when you’re on your hols. Opt for a circular walk around the lake, or a shorter linear walk using the Bala Lake Railway (seasonal) or local bus service (Llanuwcllyn-Bala) for return transport. The footpaths around the lake skirt low-lying hills, with a few stiles to climb or cross. There are excellent views of the lake, the surrounding Arenig mountains, and beyond. This walk takes in steep and wet moorland, so waterproof walking boots are recommended.
Try some local mountains
Bala sits between three mountain ranges – the Arans, Arenigs and Berwyns, and there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the mountain experience without the crowds. It is little wonder that Bala is recognised as a “Walkers are Welcome” town. The local landscape is home to 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 plenty of waymarked paths to follow – highlights include Aran Fawddwy, Arenig Fawr, Cadair Bronwen, and Moel Sych. Bala Tourism (Go Bala) has an excellent guide to some of the highlights, here.
Climb up Rhobell Fawr
Step away from the crowds. This rarely visited summit between Bala and Dolgellau will reward you with peace, solitude and some of the finest views in Wales. Rhobell Fawr is not the biggest, boldest, nor is it the most beautiful peak in North Wales. But it is one of the best placed. If you climb to the top on a clear day, you will get the most magnificent 360-panoramic views of what feels like the whole of Snowdonia. 15 miles from Bala.
Conquer Yr Wyddfa – Snowdon
It’s a bucket list favourite for anyone visiting North Wales – do you fancy climbing Wales’s highest summit on your next trip here? It can get very busy in the summer months, so the best time of year to walk is late spring or early autumn. Plan ahead by downloading the Snowdon Walks app, which covers the six main routes up, with detailed maps and a live progress tracker. 33 miles from Snowdon.
Explore the ‘secret’ mountains of North Wales
If you’d prefer to avoid the crowds of Snowdon, you’ll be pleased to know that Snowdonia is home to plenty of peaks to explore outside away from the crowds. Check out the Dioni guide to the lesser-known mountains of North Wales, here.
Other local walking ideas
For some more walking inspiration, you might be interested in these websites: Mud and Routes is a great information resource for walking in the area. Simply enter where you would like to walk and it will give you some tried and tested routes. Geocaching is popular in this neck of the woods and if you love a treasure hunt, then this is a great way to while away an afternoon, especially if you’re trying to keep the kids amused too.
The shores of Llyn Tegid / Bala Lake
As well as the activity centres on the lake, there are a number of sandy areas where you can sit and enjoy the waterside, swimming, enjoying a picnic, and taking in the views. If you’re up for something a bit more adventurous, join in one of the many activities available on the lake.
Head to Barmouth Beach
Barmouth is the closest beach to Bala itself. Its sandy Blue Flag beach stretches for two miles and is perfect for picnics, swimming, paddling and surfing. There is traditional seaside fun along the promenade, and plenty of shops, cafes, restaurants, pubs and ice cream parlours.
The Bryntirion Inn (The Bryn to the locals) is in the centre of town and offers fine ales and good food. The Eagles Inn again is in Bala itself and offers a good pub menu, fine ales and a pub garden. The Plas Coch offers a wide variety of food throughout the day including breakfast. The White Lion on the high street also has a good pub menu.
Palé Hall is where to head if you have a special occasion to celebrate. A privately owned Victorian manor house which in the past has hosted visits from Queen Victoria. A British / French modern and classic cuisine and be sure to adhere to the dress code to avoid disappointment. Elsewhere, meadows, mountains and Michelin-starred meals attract visitors to Susan and Bryan Webb’s ‘lovely’, rural restaurant, the Tyddyn Llan Restaurant.
Manon’s Riverside Café is situated at the National White Water Centre and has the best view of one of the River Tryweryn’s most popular white water rapids. The Ty Coffi Plas-yn-Dre Coffee House on the High Street has more of a focus on drinks and cakes, and Caerau Uchaf Cafe at Caerau Gardens always comes highly recommended.
The New China covers the Chinese option.
The Bala Spice is the local Indian.
The Star Kebab is the place to head for a great doner.
Fish and Chips
Y Badell Aur (The Golden Frying Pan) is where the locals go. Always a good sign!
Aran Hufen Ia Ice Cream High Street
Other delicious local gems
The Rhug Estate
Just outside Corwen (11 miles from Bala), you’ll find the Rhug Estate Organic Farm Shop and bistro – well worth a visit if you want to stock up with some of the region’s best local produce, for your cottage stay or to take home with you when you have to leave. All of the Rhug Estate’s food is sustainably produced.
THE PRACTICAL STUFF
For medical help
Dial 999 to call for an ambulance if you require urgent medical attention.
You can find your nearest urgent care health services provider by searching the NHS online directory at https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/other-services/
For non-urgent medical advice dial ‘111’ to speak to an operator at the NHS telephone advice service, or visit www.111.nhs.uk
The welsh alphabet is phonetic so once you know how to say the letters, the theory is that reading the words is straightforward; you say what you see. A little time spent familiarising yourself with the alphabet will help no end when you’re trying to navigate your way around the area…
a short, as in ‘hat’, never as in ‘ball’
b as in ‘bag’. Although is there really any other way?
c always hard as in ‘cat’, never an s as in ‘precise’
ch like the ch in the Scottish word ‘loch’, but with more phlegm
d as in ‘dog’, never as in ‘djinn’
dd a buzzy ‘th’ sound, as in ‘this’. Think angry bees with a lisp
e short, as in pen
f v. This is very, very simple, and when you get really used to it, f will play hafock with your spelling
ff f. Equally, you can ffind yourselff getting too used to ff as well
g always hard as in ‘get’, never a ‘j’ sound as in the last g in garage
ng as in ‘song’, where the g isn’t hard, like in ‘gig’, but a soft glottal stop made in your throat
h as in hat, always sounded and never silent
i as in ‘pin’
j accepted now because of the loan words from English that use it, like ‘garej’
l a ‘luh’ as in ‘lava’, but never an ‘ul’ sound as in ‘milk’
ll not as hard a sound to make as some would have you think. Raise your tongue to the top of your mouth as if you were going to say ‘el’, then make the ‘ell’ sound by blowing air round the sides of your raised tongue, instead of by using your voice. You should sound like an annoyed cat
m as in ‘mithridatize’. Or as in ‘mum’, if you want to be boring
n as in ‘nanobot’
o short as in ‘hot’, not round as in ‘hotel’
p can I have a p please Bob?
ph an English f, or Welsh ff sound, as in ‘phase’
r rolled. Some people just can’t get a rolled ‘r’ – their tongues are unable to vibrate in the right way. It’s a genetic thing, apparently,
similar to being able to roll your tongue into a tube, or turn the end upside down. Honestly, some people can, but my tongue’s not that prehensile. Roll if you can, don’t if you can’t
rh hr. Make a huffy, breathy sound before your rolled ‘r’
s always soft as in ‘sit’, never a ‘z’ sound as in ‘juxtapose’
t as in ‘top’. Can it get any simpler?
th as in ‘think’, softer and less buzzy than dd
u If you had stepped in something disgusting and made a kind of ‘eugh’ noise, the vowel ‘eu’ sound would about approximate
y ok, y breaks the rule that Welsh is phonetic. As a single syllable word, y is like ‘uh’, on the last syllable of a multisyllabic word it’ an‘u’ or ‘ee’, and anywhere else it’s like the unstressed, indeterminate noise of the final e in ‘garden’ or ‘letter’. Ysbyty (hospital) is the perfect example.
How are you? Sut mae / Ti’n iawn
Good morning: Bore da
Good Afternoon: P.nawn da, prynhawn da
Good evening: Noswaith dda
Good night: Nos da
Cheers / Good Health! Iechyd da!
Do you speak welsh? Ydych chi’n siarad Cymraeg?
How do you say…. in welsh? Beth ydy….yn Cymraeg?
Thank you: Diolch
I love you: Dw i’n dy garu di
Happy Birthday: Penblwdd Hapus
and a couple of funny ones….
Microwave: popty ping
‘Might as well’: Man a man a mwnci