Visit and the surrounding villages and stay in bed & breakfast accommodation:
Bala and Bala Lake, Merioneth. This little town of Bala at the eastern end of the lake of the same name is the centre of an intensely Welsh countryside. The town itself has charm. The one main street is wide and tree-lined, with the Town Hall in the centre. The White Lion Royal Hotel is built on the rambling scale that Victorian tourism demanded. Just off the main street, behind the grammar school, is the grassy mound known as Tomen y Bala. the site of a Norman motte-and-bailey castle, probably the one captured by Llywelyn the Great in 1202. The Tomen used to be a favourite resort of the knitters of Bala on summer days.At the end of the 18th century, Bala and the whole surrounding district was famous for its knitted stockings. Everyone knitted them and George III, when he suffered from rheumatism, insisted on wearing Bala stockings. The trade has long since disappeared.
Bala retains a more enduring fame in Welsh life as one of the great generative centres of the Methodist Revival in North Wales, although Howell Harris, when he first came here in 1741, had a rough reception and was badly beaten by the irate inhabitants. The key figure in the North Wales movement, Thomas Charles, Jived in Bala. and his statue now stands before Capel Tegid, on the road to the lake. His sympathies with the Methodists lost him his curacy. His organizing ability created a system of Sunday schools and circulating schools for the education of the peasantry. In 1800 Mary Jones, a girl of sixteen from Llanfihangel-y-Pennant, under Cader Idris, walked barefoot across the mountains to obtain a Bible from Charles. Charles had to give her his own Bible. The incident made him realize that a vast unsatisfied hunger for the Scriptures existed not only in Wales but throughout the world. This led ultimately to the formation of the British and Foreign Bible Society. Charles's work continued after his death. His grandson, David Charles, joined with Lewis Edwards to found the Bala Calvinistic Methodist College in 1837. The buildings are just outside Bala, above the Tryweryn river. The memorial to Dr Edwards stands in front of the College. The parish church of Bala lies 1 mile outside the town on the North side of the lake at Llanycil. The little church is set among fine yew trees. Here are the graves of Thomas Charles and Lewis Edwards.
Bala has also a tradition of sturdy independence in politics. It was a Congregational minister of Bala, Michael D. Jones, born at Dolhendre at the other end of the lake, who was the inspiration behind the extraordinary settlement of the Welsh in Patagonia. He dreamt of a colony where the emigrating Welsh could maintain their national identity, and fixed on the wilds of the Chabut river in South America, now part of Argentina, as the ideal place to plan a new Wales. The colony had a stormy history of hardship, and difficulties with Indians and the Argentinian authorities, but it exists today; the inhabitants speak Welsh and Spanish, but not English.
In the main street, the statue of T. I. Ellis (1859—99), who was born on the small farm of Cynlas, about 3 miles outside Bala, and played a prominent part in the development of the Radical wing in the Liberal Party in the last decades of the 19th century. He won the spectacular election of 1886 to become M.P. for Merioneth, and was appointed Chief Liberal Whip in 1894. The Welsh inscription on the statue's base, taken from the works of Morgan Llwyd of Gwynedd, can be translated: “A man's time is his inheritance, and woe to him who wastes it”. The poor boy who made such a mark in Welsh life in so short a time certainly lived up to his favourite quotation.
Bala has another side to its history, typified by the career of Squire Price of the Rhiwlas estate, whose entrance gate stands beyond the bridge over the Tryweryn past the site of the railway station. Prices had held Rhiwlas for over 200 years, but it is safe to say that no Price was more of an original than R. J. Lloyd Price. He was sportsman, author, enthusiast for cottage industries, and above all the determined promoter of Welsh whiskey. In 1889 he founded a company to make the whiskey, and built a massive distillery at Frongoch on the banks of the Tryweryn. The promotional material was splendidly florid: “Welsh whiskey is the most wonderful whiskey that ever drove the skeleton from the feast or painted landscapes on the brain of man. It is the mingled souls of peat and barley washed white within the waters of the Treweryn.” Unfortunately, the enterprise did not survive the First World War. The Frongoch distillery was used for a short time as a camp for the prisoners of the Sinn Fein Rising, among them Michael Collins. It was finally pulled down after the War. Lloyd Price lies buried in the family vault in Llanfor churchyard 1 mile to the East of Bala. Eccentric to the end, he caused an inscription to be cut over the vault commemorating the horse Bendigo, which got him out of financial difficulties by romping home in the Cambridgeshire.
As to my latter end I go
To meet my Jubilee,
I bless the good horse Bendigo
Who built this tomb for me.
The lake remains Bala's greatest attraction for visitors. It is the largest natural sheet of water in Wales. The view from the tiny promenade at the Bala end is impressive. Aran Benilyn rises on the left and Cader Idris closes the far distance. The lake varies in depth, being shallow in some parts though over 150 ft at its deepest point. Its Welsh name is Llyn Tegid, but it also features as Pimbermere in the older travel books. The usual legends of drowned palaces are attached to Bala as to many Welsh lakes. A wicked prince was celebrating the birth of his son when his harpist heard a voice pro-flouncing: “Vengeance will come”. He turned and saw a little bird beckoning him. He followed the bird; then, thinking he had been foolish, tried to return. Next morning he reached the spot where the palace had lain. All he saw was the placid lake and his harp floating on it. The Dee was also supposed to flow through the lake without their waters mingling. The lake does, however, contain one mysterious fish, the gwyniad, a species of salmonid (genus Coregonus) that is found only in Bala Lake. It is rarely taken on the line, but is sometimes cast up on the shore after storms. Bala has become an important sailing centre, and the British Long Distance Swimming Association has held its Welsh championships here. Extensive works were completed at the point where the Dee leaves the lake, designed to control the flow of the river water to the valley lower down and prevent flooding.
Nearby towns: Blaenau Ffestiniog, Corwen, Dolgellau, Llanfyllin, Llanrheadr ym Mochnant
Nearby villages: Bettws Gwerfil Goch, Cerrigydrudion, Cynwyd, Derwen, Frongoch, Gwyddelwern, Hirnant, Llandderfel, Llandrillo, Llanfihangel Glyn Myfyr, Llanfor, Llangower, Llangwm, Llangynog, Llanuwchllyn, Llanycil, Llanynog, Pale, Penmachno, Pennant-Melangell, Pentrefoelas, Rug
Have you decided to visit or the surrounding villages? Please look above for somewhere to stay in:
- a bed and breakfast (a B&B or b and b)
- a guesthouse
- a hotel (or motel)
- a self-catering establishment, or
- other accommodation