Bala - the outdoor centre of Snowdonia, Wales
What can be found in the great outdoors
There is a wide range of outdoor activities available in the Bala area, with facilities that are internationally known. The Bala area has hosted the World Championships for white-water canoeing and is a regular venue for triathlons and cycling events, such as the Wild Wales Challenge. However there are activities for all, whether an international, an ironman or the whole family. The activities available include white-water rafting and canoeing, sailing and canoeing on lakes, mountain walking in three mountain ranges, mountain biking at dedicated centres and leisure cycling on quiet roads or tracks. While for the more adventurous the list is almost endless.
The National White-water Centre (Canolfan Tryweryn) provides white-water rafting and a venue for whitewater canoeing. The Centre is an international venue and has hosted the World Wild Water Canoeing Championships in 1981 and 1995 and the Junior Wild Water Racing World Championships in 2002. A rafting trip down the “graveyard” and “ski-jump” will be a memorable experience. Nearby is North Wales’ other permanent white-water centre - located at Llangollen on the River Dee - where rafting and canoeing is available.
Lake Bala is the largest natural lake in Wales and the surrounding mountains provide a memorable setting for sailing and canoeing. Dinghy sailing, boardsailing and canoeing/kayaking are available and the lake makes a perfect location for learning to canoe or to improve skills before tackling the nearby white-water.
There are three mountain ranges around Bala and these provide un-crowded walking, either of a strenuous nature, with peaks approaching 3,000 feet, or relaxed valley walks suitable for young children. There are many local scenic walks and some which can be combined with a ride on the Bala Lake Railway. The Arenig Mountains offer many walks with excellent views and without the crowds. The Aran ridge provides an outstanding ridge walk - culminating with views of Bala Lake. The Berwyn Mountains provide excellent walking, and the highest waterfall in Wales “Pistyll Rhaeadr” is within easy access.
There are opportunities for leisure cycling - suitable for the family - on quiet roads with signed routes, dedicated tracks around lakes or along a former railway line with estuary views. For those wanting a challenge, there are several hill climbs over mountain passes around 1,000 ft high; and Bwlch-y-Groes, the highest road pass in Wales, is internationally known.
For mountain bikers there are routes through forests and moorland and dedicated tracks at specialised mountain bike centres nearby, including Coed-y-Brenin, Gwydyr Forest, Penmachno and Llandegla Forest. At the internationally known Coed-y-Brenin mountain bike centre, mountain bikers can ride the Dragons Back (30 km), the Beast of Brenin (38 km) or MBR (18 km) routes, while families can ride or walk the forest tracks.
or the more adventurous there are numerous activities to quicken the pulse, including:
- Tackling white-water in a 2-man raft (Orca) without a guide - where you literally paddle your own “canoe”.
- High ropes on one of longest and highest courses in the country.
- Rock climbing and abseiling.
- Scrambling, between mountain walking and rock climbing.
- Gorge walking (canyoning), with drops into pools or slides down waterfalls.
- Explore a mine.
- Downhill biking on purpose built downhill tracks with an uplift.
There are centres that will organise all of these activities. This is just a snapshot of the outdoor activities available in the Bala area the outdoor centre of Snowdonia.
Information provided by Ray Hind (Mountain Guide and Kayak Coach)