6 Most Breathtaking Lakes (Llynnau) of Wales
For all the modern, man-made splendour of the Cardiff Bay skyline, Wales is a country brimming with the beauty of nature. And with the rising popularity of camper vans, more people than ever are getting out to see it. It’s easy to see why: You can cruise and camp in comfort without having to tow along a trailer or commandeer a huge hulk of an RV. For those who can’t or don’t want to rough it, camper vans open up a whole new world.
Maybe you’re a first-time visitor. Maybe you’ve already fallen in love with Wales and have come back to see and experience more of what it has to offer. Maybe you want to get out there and appreciate the beauty of your own native country in a way you haven’t really done before. It’s easier than ever and as rewarding as always. Why not rent a camper van and see for yourself?
As for where to go?
“A lake is one of the most expressive and beautiful features of landscape. It’s an eye for the Earth; to look into which the beholder can measure the depth of his own nature.”
-Henry David Thoreau
Not only that, there’s something especially magical about a day at the lake. Picnicking by the shore. Skimming stones across the water. Gliding over the glassy surface in a canoe. Lakesides are nostalgia for the old, adventure for the young, and holiday heaven for everyone. And with a camper van, you could stretch that day to a few days… Or a week… Or longer.
(FYI: For wild camping in Wales, i.e. camping outside of a designated camping area or caravan park, you need to have prior permission from the landowner. Make sure to do your research and make any necessary arrangements in advance. National parks typically have designated camping sites.)
Some lakes in Wales are referred to predominantly by their English name, some by the Welsh name, and others by both. No matter what you call them, and no matter where in Wales you live or want to travel to, there’s a picturesque lake waiting for you to come and leave your footprints along its shores. Below are a handful of highlights.
1. Lake Bala (Llyn Tegid)
Lake Bala (or Llyn Tegid, in Welsh) is one of the most breath-taking sights in Snowdonia National Park. At 5 miles in length, 1/2 mile in width and 40 meters in depth, Lake Bala is Wales’ largest natural lake. Surrounded by lush deciduous forests and mountain peaks, it’s a perfect place to be if you just want to sit back and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature. If you’re the active type you’ll find plenty to do, from kayaking and canoeing to swimming and hiking. Keep an eye out for the beast of Llyn Tegid (affectionately known as “Teggie”). Sometimes described as a smaller “Loch Ness Monster”, it’s said to reside in the depths of the lake but sometimes takes a sojourn to the surface…
2. Mymbyr Lakes (Llynnau Mymbyr), aka the Capel Curig Lakes
These ‘twin’ lakes, nestled in the Dyffryn Mymbyr valley, were once one. Now a grassy delta stretches ¾ of a mile across, splitting the original lake in two. These lakes are very popular for canoeing and kayaking, and are used by Swim Wales to train children and adults in ‘wild’ or ‘open water’ swimming safety.
3. Llyn Gwynant
If you want to camp right on the lakeshore, Lake Gwynant should be one of your top choices. Sitting at the base of Mount Snowdon, Llyn Gwynant Campsite offers campers of all persuasions—tenters, van campers and motorhome owners—a chance to have that coveted lakefront site, even if it’s just for a few days of vacation. Surrounded by mountains, rivers, and of course, the lake, the views are truly spectacular. It operates year-round on a first come, first served basis. Families and children are welcome.
4. Lake Vyrnwy (Llyn Efyrnwy or Llyn Llanwddyn)
Lake Vyrnwy is a man-made lake created in the late 19th century. It may not have been carved out by Mother Nature, but it lies in the middle of the 24,000-acre Lake Vyrnwy Nature Reserve and Estate, an important and protected habitat for several rare bird species, as well as bats and other wildlife. In addition to trails for walking, hiking and biking, and boating on the lake itself, there are some really fun activities for kids here—including an animal puzzle trail and Wild Play Park.
5. Llangorse Lake (Llyn Syfaddan)
Located in the Brecon Beacons National Park, this lake is the largest natural lake in southern Wales. It’s renowned for its fishing and is popular for a wide variety of water sports. It’s the only lake in the country that features a crannog, a man-made island that dates back to 916 AD and may once have been the site of a royal palace. Ancient legend has it that Llangorse Lake is home to its own ‘beast of the deep’, nicknamed Gorsey.
6 Llyn y Fan Fawr and Llyn y Fan Fach
Roughly two miles apart and also located in Brecon Beacons National Park, these ‘sister’ lakes were created by melting glaciers at the end of the last ice age. Overlooking them are the majestic peaks of the Black Mountain range, the highest of which is over 802 metres above sea level.
Llyn y Fan Fach is sometimes associated with an ancient Arthurian legend, “The Lady of the Lake”. If you’re into folklore or fantasy, there’s plenty to read that would get you excited to visit this spot. Lonely Planet even named Llyn y Fan Fach as one of the top 1000 sites in the world to visit.
Now, it’s time to explore.
So… what are you waiting for? Are you really going to sit in front of that screen all summer? All autumn? Or are you going to pack up that van, get on out there, and see the world?… or at least, this lovely little piece of it we call Wales.