Always on the go

Cheshire based mum of 3 sharing our favourite family adventures

Lake Vyrnwy

In all the day trips we’ve done over the years, it is Lake Vyrnwy that stands out the most. It’s as beautiful as the lake district, but without the crowds and ticks every box for me - waterfalls, views and stunning walks…Yes it’s a bit of a trek to get to (1.20hr from Chester) but what I will share below is, in my humble opinion one of the best days out you can have!

Built between 1881 and 1890 the lake is in fact a man made reservoir created to provide water to Liverpool via an aqueduct. But the countryside around it is as natural and spectacular as you’ll find anywhere in Wales and I implore you to come and visit this underated spot in Mid Wales!

Rhiwargor Waterfall

If you know anything about me by now it’s that I love a waterfall, so this was the first stop on our day trip to Lake Vyrnwy. This hidden gem is situated at the northern end of the lake and if you’re coming from the direction of Cheshire you’ll find it’s a very scenic drive along the lakeside road.

The trail starts from the free car park (‘Rhiwargor Waterfall Car Park’) and before we’d even started the trail the kids were off playing - you know the walk’s going to be good when the car park is beautiful! Look for the start of the path in the opposite end to which you entered the car park.

Just the walk alone through the valley alongside the Afon Eiddew would be enough to satisfy most, it’s truly idyllic and we took our time stopping to paddle in the river where we could (don’t forget your wellies!)

Do note that there are 2 routes to the waterfall from this wooden bridge. If you’ve got push chairs in tow, take the right hand forestry commission trail over the bridge, which is flatter but less scenic route. Otherwise, ignore the bridge and take the path straight on and enjoy the splendure of the waterfall opening up to you.

We set up a spot at the base of the falls, enjoyed a lovely picnic and the kids played in the river. With my two older ones we hiked up the top of the waterfall following a path on the LEFT hand side of the waterfall, it was very boggy (we visited in April) and was a bit of a scramble so not suitable for younger ones but absolutely brilliant. The kids were really proud of themselves for getting up there and the views from the top were amazing.

Lake Vyrnwy Hotel & Spa

After a long morning at the waterfall, we needed something a bit more relaxing so we headed to the lakeside hotel for some drinks and snacks. They have a lovely outdoor decking area with brilliant views across the lake (head outside from the delightfully olde world ‘Tower Bar’). It’s the kind of hotel I’d love to stay in and write my memoirs one day, although I’d probably only need a 1 night stay, it wouldn’t take that long!

Giants of Vyrnwy Trail

Just when you think Lake Vyrnwy can’t get any better, the Giant’s of Vyrnwy Trail is waiting for you! Whilst only a very short trail amongst some gigantic douglas fir trees you’ll see a beautiful sculpture and river to splash about in.

There is a small free car park just off the main road, park up and take the left hand signposted path.

Follow this and you’ll come to the tree sculpture named ‘The Giant’s Hand of Vyrnwy’. This tree used to be the tallest tree in the UK (209ft!) but was due to be felled after being damaged in a storm. Natural Resources Wales commissioned Simon O’Rourke to carve this unique giant’s hand into the tree.

After a pause to admire it, continue downwards holding onto this rather imaginative hand rail!

This will bring you to this little waterfall and stream which flows out into the lake. We spent ages playing here and had the place to ourselves, it was as idyillic as it comes.

Across from the car park, there’s a small grassy area with picnic benches, if you fancy a breather before the next stop.


Next, in search of more drinks and food we headed into the lake’s village Llanwddyn. The original village was submerged when the reservoir was created in the 1880’s and relocated to it’s current location by the Liverpool Corporation who built it. If you don’t want to do a full day trip and visit all the above attractions, then I would base yourself here because there’s enough to entertain you for a few hours.

There’s a large pay and display car park (link in the Sat Nav will take you directly there) and opposite is the village playground so no doubt this will be your first port of call in the village! It’s a fantastic little park, complete with mud kitchen and a little stream for them to play in.

To walk into the village itself, there is an obvious path on the entrance site of the car park which goes up to the road, at this point turn right and follow it towards the village. On the way you’ll pass Artisans cafe, where we always call in for ice creams.

Next to the cafe there’s an RSPB bird hide and across the road is their shop. The area is a successful breeding reserve for around 90 species of bird and there are several bird hides around the lake.

Keep walking on up the road and you’ll come to the all important free public toilets!

A trip to LLlanwddyn wouldn’t be complete without a walk over the reservoir bridge! It’s a narrow pavement and cars use the bridge so keep a close eye on the kids. The views across the lake are beautiful and you can peer over the big drop on the other side if you dare!

On the other side of the river to the playground & car park is the Llyn Vyrnwy Sculpture Trail, a short, pushchair friendly walk (10/15 mins) around a scenic grassy area with wooden sculptures. Unfortunately a lot of the sculptures are deteriorating, but it’s still a pleasant walk and interesting to see the damn from a different angle.

Even more things to do

If all of the above has got you asking for even more, then Lake Vyrnwy can still deliver!

Keen cyclists can tackle the 12 mile route around the lake. It’s flat most of the way around and perfect for older children, it is on the road but most of the traffic is centered around Llanwddyn so it’s pretty quiet on the rest of the roads (I think you can hire bikes from Artisans cafe).

If you’re lucky with the weather you can hire kayaks and canoes from Bethania Adventure about 400m from the dam at Llanwddyn on an hourly basis.

Finally, although I’m hesitant to recommend anything I’ve never tried, top of the list on my next visit is a drive on the second highest mountain pass in Wales ‘Bwlch y Groes’ or Hellfire path as it’s also known. The placeholder on Google Maps for Bwlch y Groes doesn’t give you the road location of the view point, to find it drive away from Lake Vyrnwy on the road going through Eunant on the western side of the lake. Follow this all the way until you get to a junction, take the right turn signposted ‘Bala’ then the viewpoint is 500m up on your left. The road in the opposite direction signposted Dinas Mawddyy is meant to be a spectacular drive and a quick look on good ole Google Streetview confirms that!


April 2023
Some free, some Pay & Display
In the village of Llanwddyn