4 Sep 2017

Family Travel Itinerary for Bala, North Wales

Another summer has come and gone and we are back at school today. After a whirlwind few weeks where I was struggling to keep my head above water with regards to the blog, I now have time to reflect on the holiday that has been.

We spent the first few weeks at home waiting for the incessant rain to stop. We did have a couple of reasonable days with a hint of summer, which were spent in the park and meeting up with friends.

It was only in the latter half of August, when M had time of work and the sun finally made a more determined appearance, that it truly felt like summer. By then, the evenings and early mornings were distinctly cooler and already reminiscent of autumn. We were not about to let a little chill thwart our plans.

Family Travel Itinerary for Bala, North Wales

So we packed our bags, crammed the bicycles into the boot of the car (that’s right, the Honda Civic is not unlike the Tardis – you can fit the whole house in it and more), and headed off to North Wales to enjoy a much awaited break.

Tithe Barn 2 - our base in Bala

Our destination was Bala, a little market town in Gwynedd in the Snowdonia National Park. We stayed at the Abercelyn Country House in one of the self-catering cottages on the estate. It was the perfect base from where to experience all that Bala and its surroundings has to offer.

Across the road from the property is the Byd Mary Jones World with its little museum, cafe and most importantly, children’s play area. A couple of minutes’ walk into the woodland adjacent to the centre brought us to the edge of Bala Lake. Lying between the centre on one side and the main road, the A494, on the other, is a bicycle/walking path that goes all the way from Bala to Glanllyn. This served as the starting point of a big walking adventure we had in search of Llanuwchllyn and the Bala Lake Railway. It was also the route we walked almost every day to get to Bala Lake and into Bala town.

Trek from Bala to Llanuwchllyn along the Leisure Network

A 10 minute walk along this path took us to the Bala Adventure and Watersports Centre on the shore of Bala Lake, where we spent an hour in a canoe. It was our first family outing in a red canoe. J, as expected, was ridiculously excited to wield the paddle and insisted on ‘helping out’. I don’t quite know how, but I ended up in the stern with M in the bow. Needless to say, this caused some friction especially when it came to steering. For no matter how hard we tried, the canoe refused to go along in a straight line. There was lots of bickering, a few raised voices and an episode where J almost caught the back of M’s head when switching sides with his paddle. We ended up with sore arms, but with huge grins on our faces and a determination to do it all again when the opportunity arises.

Canoeing at Bala Adventure and Watersports Centre

Another 5 minutes walk from the Watersports Centre took us to the Bala Leisure Centre and Tourist Information Office. Add another 15 minutes, and we reached Bala town with its delicious  ice-cream, locally made chocolate and Welsh beers. I cannot recommend Aran ice-cream enough. It is the creamiest and most delicious ice-cream I have ever tasted. You can buy it in some cafes and shops in and around North Wales. But the best place to eat it is in the Aran ice cream shop in Bala. On offer are 17 mouth-watering flavours from the more traditional rum and raisin (which, by the way, is totally boozy and utterly divine) to the more eclectic lavender and rose.

Failed attempt to hike to Moel y Garnedd

Adjacent to Abercelyn was the starting point of yet another walking adventure. This one promised to take us to the top of Moel y Garnedd with an ascent of 750 feet in 2 to 3 hours. What happened is a story for another day and another blog post! Suffice to say that some rambles end up with youngsters being carried back because of tired legs. Or because the parents can't decide on the route but insist they are not lost.

Cycling the Mawddach trail

Not all our adventures end in disaster. We spent one gorgeous summer day cycling nearly 20 miles along the Mawddach trail from Dolgellau to Barmouth and back. The trail follows the track of a disused railway line. Being car-free meant J could cycle with minimum supervision. We were thoroughly impressed by the beautiful beach at Barmouth, so much, that we took the bus there the next day and spent the entire day building castles in the sand and eating fish and chips.

At Barmouth beach

The week came to an end with a whole day spent enjoying steam engines at the Bala Lake Railway Steam Gala. We bought day rover tickets, much to the amusement of the gentleman manning the ticket counter. When you have a train-mad six year old, there is little else to be done but journey back and forth on the next available steam train. So that’s what we did. J even got to ride in the cabin of one of the engines and pretend to be a train driver.

A day out on the Bala Lake Railway

Here’s our itinerary for a week’s holiday in Bala and its surroundings. Hope it inspires you to have your own adventure in North Wales.

Family Travel Itinerary for Bala, North Wales

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