- 1 The Most Beautiful Lakes In Wales
- 2 Lakes In Wales – ‘Llyn’ Or ‘Lake’?
- 3 Llynnau Mymbyr
- 4 Llyn Crafnant
- 5 Llyn Gwynant
- 6 Llyn Dinas
- 7 Llyn Nantlle Uchaf
- 8 Llyn Ogwen
- 9 Llyn Idwal
- 10 Cregennan Lakes
- 11 Llyn Elsi
- 12 Llyn Trawsfynydd
- 13 Craig Goch Reservoir, Elan Valley
- 14 Llyn Clywedog
- 15 Bala Lake
- 16 Lake Vyrnwy
- 17 Llyn y Fan Fach
- 18 Llangorse Lake
- 19 Pontsticill Reservoir
- 20 Cardiff Bay
- 21 Read Next
The Most Beautiful Lakes In Wales
If you want to so seek out the most beautiful places in Wales, some of the Welsh lakes are a brilliant place to start. We’ve often gravitated to certain lakes in Wales – often many times over – in the knowledge that this is where we’d find some of the best views in Wales.
After compiling articles on the most beautiful rivers in Wales and the finest landscapes in Wales and landmarks in Wales we thought it was about time we pointed you in the direction of the most beautiful lakes in Wales.
Many of the best-known are the lakes in Snowdonia, including the largest lake in Wales, Bala Lake. We’ll also show you the best lakes in Mid Wales and the pick of the Brecon Beacons lakes, along with a surprise or two thrown in along the way.
We’ll also tell you how to reach these Wales lakes. Many can be seen from the roadside but a few involve a hike – some of the best walks in Wales – to reach your goal. So without further ado….
Lakes In Wales – ‘Llyn’ Or ‘Lake’?
When you visit Wales, you’re often more likely to see a sign for a lake in Welsh – ‘llyn’ – than ‘lake’. This is especially true in areas that are predominantly Welsh-speaking, especially north and parts of Mid Wales.
So nearly all of the lakes in North Wales that we’ve written about are usually prefixed with ‘Llyn’ rather than suffixed with ‘Lake’. In these areas – with the exception of Bala Lake (Llyn Tegid in Welsh) – it’s pretty rare to hear some lakes called ‘lake’, So the two mountain lakes high above Trefriw in the Conwy Valley are nearly always referred to as Llyn Crafnant and Llyn Geirionnydd.
This changes the further south you travel. In Welsh-speaking Carmarthenshire in the south-west, Llyn y Fan Fach is always referred to by its original Welsh name – I don’t think I’ve ever seen it translated into English. However, Llangorse Lake, across the Brecon Beacons National Park 30 miles east, is almost always referred to as Llangorse Lake, named after the nearby village of Llangors. Its Welsh name is Llyn Syfaddan, but I’ve seldom heard it used.
One final linguistic note – don’t confuse the Welsh word ‘llyn’ (pronounced ‘hlin’, rhyming with ‘inn’) with Llŷn (pronounced ‘hleen’, rhyming with ‘clean’). The latter refers to the Llŷn Peninsula in North West Wales.
The Mymbyr Lakes lie just to the west of the Snowdonia village of Capel Curig, just beyond the Plas-y-Brenin Outdoor Centre. As you pass head west past the building, one of the most astonishing views in Wales opens out before you, with the highest mountain in Wales, Snowdon, and its companion peaks in the distance, and the first of the two Mymbyr lakes nesting below to the left. Pull over to the ample car parking area, take a short walk down to the lake shore and savour one of the best places in Wales. Make it one of your top things to do in your Wales bucket list. Plas y Brenin also run kayak and canoe trips on the lake.
Crafnant Lake is one of the most wondrous beauty spots in Wales. It’s a gorgeous mountain lake high above the village of Trefriw and the Conwy Valley, up a very steep road next to the Trefriw Woollen Mills. The best view is from the northern end of the lake, with the peaks of Crimpiau and Craig Wen often reflected in the water. There’s a small café halfway along the lake which is open in season, and Llyn Crafnant, one of the best hidden gems in Wales, is also the start – or finishing – point for some great Snowdonia walks, including around Mynydd Deulyn to neighbouring Llyn Geirionnydd, and past Crimpiau to the popular mountain village of Capel Curig. It’s well within reach of destinations such as Betws-y-Coed and Conwy, both less than half an hour’s drive away.
Llyn Gwynant is a front-runner for being the most beautiful lake in Wales. It sits deep in the Nant Gwynant valley, far beneath the Snowdon massif, from which the Afon Glaslyn river – one of the most beautiful rivers in Wales – plummets. By the time it reaches Gwynant lake it is more placid, and the surface of the lake often seems calm when we’ve passed by.
By the time the A478 road reaches the lake’s shore, the backdrop has completely changed from the top of the valley. There you get a glorious view culminating in the rounded bulk of Moel Hebog. At the lake’s shoreline the mountain that dominates the scene is Yr Aran, a more angular peak in the southern shadow of Snowdon. It’s a wonderful place for a picnic, and the lake is very popular with canoeists and kayakers.
The A478 continues past Llyn Gwynant in the direction of Beddgelert, one of the loveliest villages in North Wales. After passing the start of the Watkin Path, the longest of the six paths up Snowdon, you then pass Llyn Dinas, anther stunning Snowdonia lake. For several fellow photographers I know, this is one of their favourite places in Snowdonia, a location to which they return again and again. The lake is named after Dinas Emrys, a legendary hillfort on a wooded hill at the southern end of the lake. It’s believed that the fort was once in the hands of local king Emrys Wledig, hence its name. It also has Arthurian associations, and in the Mabinogion, a collection of ancient Welsh tales, two dragons are buried there!
Llyn Nantlle Uchaf
Llyn Nantlle is a splendid lake a few miles to the west of Snowdon, Wales’ highest mountain. The Nantlle Valley – Dyffryn Nantlle in Welsh – is steeped in slate quarrying history, and it also gives dramatic views of the western approach to Snowdon – along the B4417 – framed by dramatic mountains each side. The early Welsh landscape painter Richard Wilson was drawn to this location for his ‘Snowdon from Llyn Nantlle’ painting, one of the most famous paintings of Wales, which is on display in the superb Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool.
The Ogwen Valley is one of the best places to visit in Wales, with some of the most inspiring mountains in Wales and two of its most beautiful lakes all within a two-mile (3 km) stretch along the main A5 road. I never cease to be amazed by the sight of Llyn Ogwen, despite having passed it hundreds of times. It’s surrounded by incredible mountains, including intimidating Tryfan immediately to the south, the Glyderau to the west and Carneddau to the north.
Cwm Idwal is one of the best places to go in Wales, an awesome glaciated hanging valley a half-hour walk up from Idwal Cottage car park at the end of Llyn Ogwen. Llyn Idwal lake occupies the floor of the steep-sided valley, which is part of one of the best hikes in Snowdonia, up through Devil’s Kitchen to the summits of Glyder Fawr and, later, Glyder Fach. Charles Darwin visited Cwm Idwal twice to research ‘On the Origin of Species’, noticing fossils of sea creatures on mountain-top rocks, and the action of ice on the jagged rocks of the valley.
Better known locally as Llynnau Cregennen, these two lakes are among the best places to see in Wales. They are high above the Mawddach river, close to the mightily impressive Cadair Idris mountain. They are one of the best places to go in Snowdonia, and are secreted away up a narrow minor road through the forest from Arthog on the A493 road. You’ll have to get out of the car four times on the way up to open farm gates installed to stop livestock wandering. AT the car park, there’s a small rise just behind the toilet block – climb it for one of the best 360° views in Wales, looking down over the Mawddach estuary and Barmouth one way and to Cader Idris and the steep scree slopes of Tyrau Mawr in the other.
Llyn Elsi is one of the more remote lakes of Wales, hidden in the Gwydyr Forest high above Betws-y-Coed, the tourist hub and gateway to Snowdonia. Most things to do in Betws-y-Coed tend to revolve around the river Llugwy which flows through the heart of the village. There is a great walk along the river to Swallow Falls, but the reward of reaching Llyn Elsi – via several forest paths around the village – is just as edifying. The lake – which provides water to Betws below -has a lovely setting, with awesome views over the Gwydyr Forest and Snowdonia peaks in the distance.
Trawsfynydd Lake is a man-made reservoir in stunning countryside below the Rhinog range ion Snowdonia. The two concrete cubes on the north-east corner of the lake are the long-decommissioned Trawsfynydd nuclear power station. That part of the lake is somewhat blighted by this and the accompanying pylons, but the rest of the lake is magnificent,surrounded by remote Welsh mountains. It’s one of the best fishing lakes in Wales, and a great spot to capture the sunset afterglow.
Craig Goch Reservoir, Elan Valley
The Elan Valley is a Wales must see, a series of lakes formed by the damming of the once-wild river Elan to supply the nearby English city of Birmingham with water.
The Elan Valley is now filled with a series of four lakes – Caban Coch, Garreg Ddu, Pen-y-Garreg and the most beautiful of all, Craig Goch Reservoir. Craig Goch is the first and therefore highest of the dams, with the dramatic backdrop of the bracken-clad Cambrian Mountains. It’s a particularly impressive sight when the dam is opened and the water flows down in full spate.
The B4518 run out of Llanidloes is a well-known Mid Wales short-cut, shaving a good ten miles off the route north avoiding a long section of the main A470 road. It’s also one of the most scenic drives in Wales, passing the Bwlch-y-Gle dam before climbing the hill just above the shore, revealing one of the finest lakes in Mid Wales, with an awesome mountain backdrop. It was built to contain the headwaters of the river Severn, which were often prone to flooding. There are also some great walks, including one of the best sections of the Glyndwr’s Way National Trail, and the lake is also a popular location for watersports, especially sailing.
Bala Lake – Llyn Tegid – is the largest lake in Wales. It’s in the south of Snowdonia National Park, with the market town of Bala (Y Bala in Welsh) on its northern shore. It’s a popular destination for Wales activity holidays, as the lake is ideal for canoeing, kayaking and other watersports. The views are pretty special too, especially south-west down the lake towards the summit of Arenig Fawr. It’s also only a short drive from Dolgellau, Cadair Idris and Barmouth in one direction, and Llyn Trawsfynydd in another. If you want to explore more of beautiful wales, head here.
There aren’t many more stunning places to stay in Wales than the Lake Vyrnwy Hotel, a fine Victorian country house built by the City of Liverpool to entertain visitors overlooking the city’s main reservoir. The view from most of the Hotel’s room is phenomenal – a forest of fir trees, a mock-Gothic water tower, the vast lake and the Berwyn mountains beyond. It’s one of the finest scenes in Wales, and the lake – Llyn Efyrnwy in Welsh – is also a great spot for country walks, birdwatching, fishing or boating. Or just sitting in the bar gazing at that view.
Llyn y Fan Fach
For me, Llyn y Fan Fach is up there with the very best of Wales. It’s high above the Carmarthenshire village of Llanddeusant at the foot of several Black Mountain peaks. It can be reached from the village, which has a great youth hostel, by following signs to Llyn y Fan – it’s then a 20-30 minute trudge up the water board track to the shore of the lake. Its name means ‘Small Lake of the Beacon’, and its larger neighbour, Llyn y Fan Fawr, is two miles to the east as the red kite flies. According to Welsh legend a lady emerged from the lake and married a local prince on the condition that if he struck her three times she would return to the lake. This is exactly what happened, although she did come out tooffer herr sons guidance from time to time.
Llangorse Lake is the most popular Brecon Beacons lake, great for watersports and with a rope climbing centre just up the hill from the shore. It’s the largest natural lake in South Wales, and surrounded by spectacular Welsh scenery – a mixture of rolling green hills (including Mynydd Troed, on the east side of the lake)and the peaks of Cribyn and Pen y Fan. Look out for the Crannog, a man-made island on the north shore of the lake which may once have been the location of a palace or a high-status residence of similar importance.
Most lakes in the Brecon Beacons are reservoirs, constructed to keep the thirsty populace of South Wales well hydrated. Ponsticill Reservoir – sometimes also called Taf Fechan Reservoir – is one of the most picturesque Brecon lakes, offering views north to the summits of Pen y Fan and Corn Du, which from there look rather gentle and not at all intimidating. Ironically the toughest approaches to Pen y Fan are from this side, taking in the summit of Cribyn en route. You can also enjoy the views from the comfort of a steam train on board the Brecon Mountain Railway, one of a great many day trips from Cardiff.
“Why not throw a city lake into the mix?” I thought. Cardiff Bay, as it is now known, used to be a vast tidal mudflat where the river Taff flowed into the Bristol Channel. Then a Barrage was put in place to turn the area into a lake, opening as and when required for boats. It’s one of the biggest Wales tourist attractions, with a mixture of old Cardiff landmarks like the graceful red-brick Pierhead Bulding and black-and-white wooden Norwegian Church with new ones including the Senedd, the seat of the Welsh Government, and St David’s Hotel & Spa. Much of it was completed around the turn of the Millennium, with the exception of the Wales Millennium Centre, which opened in 2004.