Your Journey on the Bala Lake Railway
Rheilffordd Llyn Tegid (Bala Lake Railway) offers a delightful 9-mile (1 hour approx.) return journey alongside Llyn Tegid (Bala Lake), through the beautiful and natural Snowdonia National Park. The journey offers extensive views of Llyn Tegid, its surrounding countryside as well as the Arenig Fawr, Aran Benllyn and Aran Fawddwy mountains. Keep a look out for the herons & buzzards that nest near the line - a perfect example of nature and machines living side by side.
The railway's HQ is located in the pretty Welsh village of Llanuwchllyn, where ample free car-parking, refreshments, small gift shop, toilets, picnic tables plus all the railway's storage and repair facilities can be found.
All trains start and finish their journey at Llanuwchllyn and early visitors may be able to view the day's engine being prepared prior to the departure of the first train of the day. After each trip to Bala and back (except the last journey), the locomotive is serviced at the water tower at the western edge of the Llanuwchllyn station site, where this fascinating process can be viewed.
Llanuwchllyn Station features an original Great Western Signal Box that is often open to visitors and provides an unique perspective on the station.
Sited at the head of the lake, the village has a long history. In the church there is an interesting old communion plate showing the story of the Temptation in relief and there is also a recumbent effigy of a mail-clad knight of the 14th Century in the church.
Sir O.M. Edwards and his son Sir Ifan ap Owen Edwards were born in Llanuwchllyn. The latter founded Urdd Gobaith Cymru, the Welsh Youth Movement in 1922.
The village is home to a famous mixed choir called Côr Godre’r Aran, a keen amateur football team and one of the Members of the UK Parliament.
Arthurian Legends & more
A mile or so down the main road to Bala, unmarked, is Caer Gai, once the site of a Roman Fort. The Fort was garrisoned from AD 75-130 and contained a civil settlement and a cemetery. The Fort was positioned on an important strategic route near sources of gold, lead and manganese. Tradition has it that it was the home of Sir Hector from the King Arthur legends and the name commemorates his son Cai Hir (Long Kay) – that’s the Sir Kay of the legends.
In latter times, during the English Civil War, one Rowland Vaughan, an ardent royalist, lived at the farm built within Caer Gai. After the battle of Naseby (1645), Oliver Cromwell instigated a hunt for Royalists and his army tracked Rowland Vaughan to his farm. Although Vaughan escaped, the property was destroyed by Cromwell's men.
After leaving Llanuwchllyn, the line heads straight out for a mile, on the way descending the 1 in 70 Ddolfawr Bank toward the lakeside offering expansive views of the lake, water meadows and surrounding hillsides.
Passing through the request only stop of Pentrepiod Halt the train rolls through a short cutting to Glanllyn Flag Halt and onto the first of a number of embankments beside the lake before gently gliding to a stop at the railway's passing loop station, Llangower.
Llangower provides access to the lakeside for walks, picnics and bird watching. The stop also offers access to the car park and adjacent toilet facilities provided by the Snowdonia National Park.
Llangower, or Llangywair, (Llan-Gower) Village
Llan in the Welsh language means enclosure, yard or church or parish. Llangower is a small hamlet, with a beautiful old church, 3 miles from Bala beautifully situated on the south-eastern side of Bala lake. The village is on the (original) turnpike-road leading from Dinas-Mawddwy to Bala and Corwen.
Llangower church is dedicated to St. Gwyr, or Cywair. It is described as being an ancient structure, in the early style of English architecture. In the churchyard is an old yew-tree of remarkable growth. The church can clearly be seen from the train.
The line leaves Llangower on an upgrade, passing under a road bridge before dropping down through a wooded cutting to join the lakeside again. The line climbs an embankment beside the lake and then enters a rock cutting at Bryntirion before continuing its climb into a wooded area. Dropping down from the woods, the railway again travels along a lakeside embankment, offering views of Bala town, before crossing a steel girder bridge and entering the grassy cutting and long curve leading to Bala (Penybont) Station.
Apart from a simple waiting shelter, there are no passenger facilities at Bala station. Parking is restricted to on-road parking. Trains normally wait here for 10 minutes while the engine is run round, passenger loads changed and tickets issued by the guard, before the train departs on the return journey.
Although the sign says Bala station, this was neither Bala nor Bala Junction but Bala Lake Halt on the Ruabon - Barmouth Junction/Morfa Mawddach line.
Bala town is about half a mile (10 minute stroll) away offering a range of interesting shops, inns, restaurants.
Norman Castle Motte
The street layout, set up by Roger de Mortimer from Chirk Castle in the 14th Century is marked out in square courts. Stryt Fawr, the main street, is wide and has shops along its length - it is where the original markets were held.
Two side lanes, Arenig Street and Plase Street were attached to the old Tomen. ‘Tomen y Bala’ is a typical large Norman castle mound or "motte", located at one end of the town and now accessible as a public garden. It is well worth a visit, as from the summit there are wonderful views of Llyn Tegid (Lake Bala) and the mountains beyond.
Llyn Tegid / Bala Lake
This is the largest natural body of water in Wales at 1,084 acres, much used by water sports enthusiasts who benefit from the winds sweeping through the mountain valley in which it is set. It is 4 miles (6.4 km) long by a mile (1.6 km) wide and is subject to sudden and dangerous floods. It is of glacial origin and used to extend to some 8 miles long.
It is crossed by the River Dee and its waters are famously deep and clear. The lake now forms part of the River Dee regulation system and the level at its outflow is automatically controlled. Depending on flow conditions and the level of water in the nearby Llyn Celyn, water can flow either into the lake or out from the lake at the normal outflow point.
Place of Legends
The lake has been a fishery of importance from early times. It is said that on moonlit nights you can see towers and buildings under the waters, and that bells can be heard. These buildings, according to legend, were the palace of King Tegid, husband of Ceridwen who was the mother of (Prince) Taliesin. Llyn Tegid is also home to the rare and protected whitefish called the Gwyniad (a kind of land-locked herring, that is said to date back to the Ice-Age) which roams the deeps.