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Lake Bala

Llyn Tegid is Wales’s largest lake being nearly four miles long. It lies in a rift valley running north east to south west, extending down to the sea at Tywyn. The lake is 529 feet above sea level, has a maximum depth of 136 feet and covers an area of 1084 acres.

It is believed to be the only place in the UK where you can find the rare gwyniad, an Alpine fish, with extremely white scales which has been trapped there since the last Ice Age. The population is under threat due to poisonous algae, deteriorating water quality, human activity and the introduction of the ruffe in 1980 (a small aggressive fish that eats the eggs an young of the gwyniad).

Llyn Tegid, probably due to its size, is connected to one of those inborn legends in Welsh tradition, that of the drowned city. Tradition implies that it is the watery tomb of the ‘palaces of iniquity’, the legend of Tegid Foel. Once upon a time, where Llyn Tegid lies today was the old town of Bala. Tegid Foel, who was very cruel prince, lived in a palace in the town. Despite numerous warnings that vengeance would come for his cruelty, he still didn’t change his ways. When his first grandson was born, the prince held a banquet to mark the occasion and he invited all of his friends and acquaintances who were all equally as cruel. Along with the food and the drink, the prince had hired the best harpist in the country to entertain them. During the feast, the harpist heard a voice saying “Vengeance will come!” When he looked over his shoulder he saw a little bird, which enticed him out of the palace and up to the hills where he fell asleep. Upon waking in the morning, the harpist saw that the old town of Bala had been drowned, and he found his harp floating on the lake. The lake was named after the cruel prince, and it’s said that boatmen, can hear at times, a feeble voice saying “Vengeance will come, vengeance will come” and another voice enquiring “When will it come?” The first voice replies “In the third generation”.

Another creation story for Llyn Tegid, concerns Ffynnon Gower (Gower’s Well) in the old town of Bala. The well was very precious and was protected by walls and a lid. There was a minder who was responsible for making sure that the lid was replaced over the well every evening – failure to do this would mean that evil spirits, even the Devil, could get into the water. One night, the minder forgot to replace the cover and its water began to rise and over flow. The water continued to pour out of the well and in no time a lake had formed drowning the old town of Bala.

Let’s not forget, there is of course a real drowned community close by, Capel Celyn, to the north west of Bala, which was deliberately flooded in 1965 to form the reservoir Llyn Celyn. This was done to supply Liverpool and the Wirral with water for industry. The former community and the dead in its drowned graveyard are now remembered in R.L. Graper’s lakeside chapel built from glacial boulders and slate. There is also a bronze plaque to remember the former Quakers in this valley, set in a large boulder near the lay-by at the dam.

According to legend the Llyn Tegid is inhabited by a monster akin to the Loch Ness monster, known affectionately as Teggie.

Bala is reached from the A494, the lake lies to the South East of the road.

Simon Topham

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