BALA LAKE WALK

 

Echoing tremors along a steel trackway and gentle billows of smoke floating hurriedly into the air can only signal one thing: the 3.42 to Bala is on time.

 

Puffing at a brisk pace, this steam-driven engine and its traditional-style carriages shuttle back and forth, several times a day, between Bala and the pretty village of Llanuwchllyn.

 

 

Once part of the Cambrian Railway for nearly 100 years, this trackway has, since Dr Beeching laid waste to much of Britain’s provincial networks, been revitalised and reborn.

 

In the 70s local train enthusiasts decided that a railway alongside Bala lake, would make for a more than ideal tourist attraction and a superb family day out.

 

The move was precipitated by the declining slate mining industry in the area, which had given rise to a massive glut of steam rolling stock that was no longer in use.

 

Local engineer George Barnes felt that a narrow gauge railway could easily be set up and make use of this vast array of redundant machinery.

 

 

At Pentrepiod station, where this walk begins, two volunteer drivers take the helm of a locomotive pulling carriages fabricated in traditional style in the late 1970s.

 

Only a handful of people can be seen occupying a few of the seats in the fully enclosed cream and red carriages on a hazy Autumn, weekday afternoon.

 

In the blink of an eye, the train trundles past on a scenic and picturesque route past Bala’s gently rippling, crystal clear waters.

 

Cars can be left in a lay-by, where would-be passengers can also flag down a train to take a tour of the lakeside or perhaps stop off further en route for a picnic.

 

However, this walk for the most part is confined to the long and winding country road that lies directly next to the railway.

 

Bordered by sections of neatly trimmed hedges, wildflowers or trees, the road is relatively flat for most of the journey.

 

Along the way, there are plenty of interesting shingle strewn coves and inlets to be found along the lake shore.

 

Perhaps the largely uninterrupted views of Bala Lake make this walk all the more pleasing and rewarding. 

 

Its vast expanse is home to an enthusiastic sailing club which meets once a month throughout the peak holiday season.

 

Fishermen are also known to make a beeline for these waters, which reputedly contain a relic from the last Ice Age - the gwyniad.

 

Others believe this time also bequeathed the area another mysterious creature that is more monstrous than the previously mentioned whitefish.

 

 

‘Teggie’ as he or she is affectionately known is said to lurk beneath the deep down at the bottom of the lake.

 

Perhaps in the half moonlight, after a few drinks, a wooden log could quite look like the supposedly, dreaded ‘Teggie’, but he was on his best behaviour  this particular sunny afternoon.

 

Llyn Tegid, as Bala Lake (and from which Teggie derives his name) is known in Welsh, is the principality’s largest naturally occurring lake, and has since the 50s been a reservoir supplying Merseyside.

 

The waters of the River Dee, are said to flow in to the lake, but to never actually mingle with them, in a bid to retain their purity.

 

But whatever the truth of these myths, one thing is absolutely clear, the area has an undeniable magical quality that is only heightened by the backdrop of Snowdonia’s many impressive mountains.

 

As you amble along the lane, lush green meadows can often be seen either side of the road.  Some contain sheep, others sulking bulls or perhaps a herd of pre-occupied cows as they thoughtfully mind their young.

 

Wild flowers add a dash of glorious colour to the natural canvas and periodically a country cottage or two also line the roadside.

 

It’s not long however, before you reach one of the several designated stations for the lakeside railway.

 

 

Llangower is the next port of call after Pentrepiod.  And a more pleasant and secluded location, you’d be hard-pressed to find.

 

A picnic area, parking area and WCs are positioned in front of the station.

 

Walk through a wooden small gate and down some steps to see the trackway.

 

Miniature signals are positioned either side of the 2ft wide track, and a sturdy platform has been built with the station’s name emblazoned across it.

 

But the interesting sites do not stop there.  If you walk on further past the narrow gauge track, a charming and scenic small cove can be found which affords magnificent views of this part of the lake.

 

The shingle strewn shore is ideal for sunbathing, pick-nicking or just generally taking some time out.

 

 

Untidy rows of branches and twigs, that have been tossed and turned by the tide, carelessly line the water’s edge.

 

And an abundance of smoothly polished pebbles fill the waterbed and immediate foreshore.

 

Sunlight dances on the gently shimmering waters as a cool breeze blows.  Heaven must be something like this.  But now, back to reality ....

 

This secluded idyll is perhaps a far cry from the bustling, small town of Bala itself.  Renowned in its 18th century heydey for its flannel, hosiery and gloves, it has since become a thriving centre for tourism.

 

The wide main street Stryd Fawr, has a charming range of tea rooms, pubs and small shops.

 

But perhaps Bala is best known today for its lake and associated sporting events.

 

Boating regattas are a regular staple of the yearly calendar of activities.  However, major cycling challenges are also staged here such the Gran Fondo Cymru.

 

White water rafting on the River Tryweryn is also a very popular local sport.

 

The Tryweryn has been dammed to form Llyn Celyn, which is one of main local reservoirs that supply boroughs in Merseyside.  Because the Tryweryn flows in to the River Dee at Bala, suitable conditions have been created for canoeing and rafting.

 

Back on the walking trail, there’s nothing more spiritually uplifting than absorbing the sun’s rays from bright blue skies on an almost deserted by-way, save for one or two cars.

 

It’s also an interesting distraction to imagine yourself as a country cottage entrepreneur as you spy the varying homes either side of the road.  Some offer great renovation potential, and others have already been developed perfectly and need nothing more.

 

 

Next, a small hamlet is to be passed replete with renovated, small chapel.  A small stone bridge completes the pretty picture. There are also several waymarked trails in to the hills for those wanting more in the way of adventure.

 

After passing a magnificent archway of aromatic trees, it’s time to take in the next shallow bay.

 

Not as glamorous as Llangower, the next stopping point would again be ideal for fishing or a quiet rest.

 

The railway track then heads out in to the distance, onward towards Bala.

 

Walkers can keep going to the end of the line, which would total about five miles.  However from this point of the walk if footsteps are retraced, the total duration should come to one and half hours. (Or the train could be caught back to the starting point).

 

Afterwards Llanuwchllyn station could be sought out which has refreshments and gifts on sale.  Or indeed a local tea room or inn could be chosen in Bala itself, or perhaps one nearer Glyn-yr-Aur.

 

See the slideshow of the Bala Lake Walk

 

Activities:

 

Bala Lake Railway

The Station, Llanuwchllyn, Bala  Tel: 01678 540666   Website: http://www.bala-lake-railway.co.uk/contact.html

 

 

Bala Leisure Centre

Pensarn Road, Bala Ll23 7SR.  Tel: 01678 521222   E-mail: CanolfanHamddenPenllyn@gwynedd.gov.uk   Website: http://www.gwynedd.gov.uk/gwy_doc.asp?doc=2658&cat=2539&Language=1

 

Location: On the A494 between Corwen & Dolgellau, next to Llyn Tegid (Bala Lake)

Facilities include: swimming pool, sports hall (4 badminton courts), sauna, fitness room, conference room, café.

 

 

White Water Rafting

Canolfan Tryweryn, National Whitewater Centre, Frongoch, Bala LL23 7NU  Tel: 01678 521083   Website:  http://www.ukrafting.co.uk/

 

 

Bala Sailing Club

Near Llanycil, railway side of Bala Lake, Bala.   Website: http://www.balasc.org.uk/contacts.htm