I’m always struck by the number of people I meet who know Bala, even though it’s a tiny place. But what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in character. Many have passed through on their way to Abersoch or to other parts of Snowdonia, and others remember holidays sailing and kayaking on the lake, or walking and climbing in the surrounding countryside. Visitor numbers grow year on year and the Lonely Planet guide have named Snowdonia the fourth best place in the whole world to visit.
They cite Surf Snowdonia, in the Conwy Valley, which is an inland surfing lake described as “the most headline-stealing example of the region’s reinvention”.
Other attractions they claim make the area one of the best places to visit are Zip World which is in three locations in north Wales, including the world’s fastest and Europe’s longest zip line and the first four-person zip line; and Bounce Below, a network of giant trampolines rigged together in the caverns beneath Blaenau Ffestiniog.
The Afon Tryweryn, runs through Bala, and is world-famous for its white water kayaking and the town lies in the shadow of three major mountain ranges, The Berwyns, the Arenig and the Aran, with peaks up to almost 3000ft.
The lake, Llyn Tegid, is the largest natural lake in Wales and is stunningly beautiful, sometimes calm as a millpond and at others resembling the North Sea when a fierce wind blows across the surface. The sailing club is a short walk from Bala town centre, and its Jetty café has a growing reputation for good food and a friendly welcome.
If all the talk of activity and adventure is tiring you out, you can always take the narrow gauge Bala Lake Railway to Llanuwchllyn and enjoy a leisurely train ride down the length of the lake. That said, and if you are feeling fit, there is a walk to the summit of Aran Benllyn – a 10-mile scramble rated moderate to hard.
Bala town is small – less than 3000 full-time resident – but in the summer is buzzing with tourists, and even in winter it is never short of visitors. Many small artisan businesses such as the Stori craft beer and wine shop, Gallery Tan Yr Hall showcasing local artists, and artistic woodturner Pren have sprung up to serve both them and the local residents. It has hosted the National Eisteddfod three times and in 2014 welcomed the National Eisteddfod for the Welsh League of Youth.
Cosmopolitan Dolgellau is 17-miles away and 10 miles on is the coast and the seaside resort of Barmouth.