14 Top-Rated Lakes in Wales
The picturesque lakes in Wales are so pristine that they almost do not seem real. The lakes are the accents sitting at the higher elevations in the Snowdonia Mountain region, the quiet retreats in the Dee Valley, and the serene seclusion in the hills of the Brecon Beacons and beyond.
The Welsh word for lake, Llyn, is generally what you will see on signage, especially in areas like North Wales that have many Welsh-speaking people.
Welsh lakes are central to afternoon picnics and outdoor recreation, like paddleboarding, wild swimming, and kayaking. While many of them are found along the roadside, some of the best treasures involve a small hike, a picturesque drive on a single-lane roadway through farmland, or a few extra miles off the beaten paths. These finds are worth the extra effort.
Fill up with a tank of gas and head out to the countryside with our list of the best lakes in Wales.
1. Llyn Tegid (Bala Lake)
Llyn Tegid is better known as Bala Lake, and it's one of the most popular recreational lakes in Wales. Located in North Wales in Gwynedd, it is the largest natural lake in the country at nearly four miles (6.3 kilometers) long and one-mile (1.6 kilometer) wide. On most days, you will see people taking advantage of the lake's space with paddleboarding, fishing, swimming, boating, windsurfing, and picnicking.
Bala Lake is nestled in Snowdonia National Park, one of the top attractions in Wales. It's surrounded by a landscape decorated in vibrant purple flowering heather, and free-roaming sheep. Though Llyn Tegid is popular, the space is quiet, giving a nod to the Welsh meaning of its name, Lake of Serenity.
Like many natural areas in Wales that have folklore attached, Llyn Tegid comes with its own: the legend of Teggie, with stories of the lake monster that go as far back as the 1920s. While you may not spot Teggie on your trip to the lake, if you go in the winter, you might just spot the native Gwyniad rise to the surface. This unique fish species is believed to have survived in the lake since the Ice Age.
2. Llyn Crafnant (Crafnant Lake)
Llyn Crafnant, or Crafnant Lake, is one of those "worth the effort" lakes that might just end up topping your favorites list for its beauty, the unexpected scenic surprises, and the wild hikeable landscape around it. The mountain lake is only accessible by a single-track road or by hiking. It sits above the village of Trefriw in northern Wales.
The road to Llyn Crafnant winds for several miles bordered by dense forest, and you might think you're on the wrong path, but keep going. At the top of the hill, the scenery opens with views of the lake, small cottages, and sheep and horses in the pastures.
There is no boating on this lake, but trout fishing is allowed with a permit.
The recreation around Llyn Crafnant, like biking and hiking trails, is one of the reasons for its popularity. You can take a two-mile trail around the lake or pack up for a full day and hit the longer trails that go over the hills through Snowdonia.
A small café next to the lake is open seasonally, but you will also enjoy bringing your own cup of coffee and just finding a quiet rock to sit on while enjoying the views.
3. Llynnau Cregennen
The steep drive back to the Llynnau Cregennen lakes near Barmouth hides some of the most stunning lakes in all of Wales. Pass many variations of small wildflowers and roaming sheep as you make your way along the single-track winding roadway to get here. Once you arrive at the lakes, this paradise is your playground.
Enjoy lunch at a lakeside picnic table, then hike on one of the trails around the lake and hillsides. It is fun to just climb on the steep rocks for panoramic views of the landscape with the mountains and stone walls separating farmland on one side of you and the ocean on the other. You will also notice a temperature change on the hills.
The Llynnau Cregennen lakes represent some of the most profound examples of wildlife and geology in the region. This location is believed to have had ritual importance in the Bronze Age, so keep your eyes open for evidence of prehistoric stones and Cairns as you walk around the lakes.
4. Lake Vyrnwy
The beautiful Lake Vyrnwy has both mystery and history behind it, making it an intriguing lake to visit. The dam and reservoir were created in 1880 to provide drinking water for the growing population of Liverpool, and it was selected because of its high elevation streams.
The ornate dam was created by forward-thinking Victorian engineers and 1,000 stone masons that brought in supplies on horse and train. The development of Lake Vyrnwy also required submerging the entire village of Llanwddyn. Remnants of homes, the local church, and even the post office are still visible when the water level is low.
This is an ideal lake to visit for a weekend of recreation and sightseeing. Bike a 12-mile path around the lake, enjoy scenic walks, or bring your binoculars for birding to spot some of the pied flycatchers or peregrine falcons in the area.
If you have extra time, you can drive to see some of the best waterfalls in Wales, with Rhiwargor & Pistyll Rhaeadr falls both in the region.
If you want to spend a weekend at Lake Vyrnwy, there are holiday lets and a hotel/spa nearby. If you plan to visit for part of a day, you can find areas to pull off around the lake, or park at the café near the visitor center.
5. Llangorse Lake
Nestled in the Brecon Beacons and the Black Mountains, Llangorse Lake is a mecca for wildlife viewing and recreation.
As the second-largest lake in Wales and the largest in South Wales, Llangorse Lake is a popular lake for fly fishing, stand-up paddleboarding, windsurfing, and kayaking. It is also one of the top places in the Brecon Beacons National Park for stargazing.
One of the unique features of the lake is the crannog, which is estimated to be well over 100 years old. It is mostly overgrown now, but the man-made island is the only one of its kind in Wales. You can visit the Welsh Crannog Centre near the lake to learn about the royalty and legends associated with this unique heritage site.
If you enjoy looking for wildlife, Llangorse Lake has plenty. Birds like swallows, warblers, and migratory birds make stops at the lake throughout the year. Closer to the ground look for otters and other mammals that congregate around the water.
There are several lakeside walks to take around the water, with notable sights like oak trees planted in the time of Queen Elizabeth I. You can pick up a route map from several locations, including the Lakeside shop or Llangorse Community Centre.
6. Llyn Padarn (Lake Padarn)
A great lake for spending a day is Llyn Padarn near Llanberis in Snowdonia National Park. This is a large lake with clear and calm water that is popular for stand up paddleboarding, swimming, row boating, canoeing, wild swimming, and setting up camp for the day at the public picnic spots.
It is nearly two miles long, so even though locals and visitors congregate here for water recreation, there is plenty of space even on busy days.
During the summer season, many people arrive at the lake in the early morning to stake out a spot. There are biking trails around the lake and lots of eateries nearby. This is a convenient lake in terms of access, amenities, and proximity to the national park, where you can hike on one of the five nearby trails.
7. Llyn y Fan Fach
Plan for the better part of a day or at least a few hours to visit Llyn y Fan Fach depending on how much you want to walk and see. This glacial lake sits at a 1,600 foot elevation in the Brecon Beacons National Park, with a slightly steep trek to get here.
You can find a trailhead near the car park and walk from there. The gravel path is approximately 1.5 miles each way.
There are several different hikes that you can take to the lake and around the area, depending on your energy level and interest. To get the full experience, you will want to trek to the top for the best views of Llyn y Fan Fach and the Black Mountain landscape.
This lake is popular for wild swimming, hiking trails around it, and wildlife viewing. A visit also comes with learning about the myths and legends behind Llyn y Fan Fach that are as much a part of the experience as smelling the fresh air.
Legend has it that a Welsh farmer fell in love with a woman, known as The Lady of the Lake, who was a fairy princess and emerged from the water. As with most legends, the story ends dramatically, with the woman disappearing back to where she came from with a story that is as interesting as the lake itself.
To make a full day out of your visit, plan to hike to nearby Llyn Fawr lake.
8. Llyn Gwynant
The beauty of Llyn Gwynant in Snowdonia National Park is unmatched. A campground by the lake is a great way to enjoy the quiet natural retreat in the Nant Gwynant valley. You can also find yurts and glamping tents available to rent.
The calm lake is a great spot for recreational activities like kayaking, swimming, stand up paddleboarding, and canoeing. You can rent water sports equipment near the lake, and plan to spend a day or a full vacation. The appeal of the lake is also the ability to make it a base for other outdoor activities like hiking in Snowdonia.
While Llyn Gwynant is great to enjoy at the base of the hills, the best views of it are from above. Take a drive up to one of the lookouts and capture a great perspective of the lake couched in the heart of the mountains, green rolling landscape, and delicate flowers. Don't forget to look up, as you might just see a resident osprey or red kite flying overhead.
9. Llyn Ogwen (Lake Ogwen)
The small gem of Llyn Ogwen is a glacial lake that is worth the scenic journey alone. It sits in the valley between two mountain peaks in Snowdonia National Park.
While recreation on the mile-long lake is limited, there is plenty of hiking and biking in the area. There is a lovely circular walk to enjoy around Llyn Ogwen that lets you enjoy the views of the water and the Tryfan and Glyderau mountains in the distance.
For a more adventurous day, you can catch the trailhead for the Tryfan peak from the carpark and extend the day by also heading to nearby Llynnau Mymbyr, which has a stunning view of Snowdon Mountain.
Parking is easy, with several public parking spaces along the roadway and by the lake, but during peak periods in the summer, you will want to go early in the day to find a spot. There are public restrooms located adjacent to the lake.
10. Llyn Elsi
If you enjoy the thrill of finding hidden lakes, Llyn Elsi is one of the most remote lakes in Wales. It's located in North Wales near the recreational village of Betws-y-coed. You can reach Llyn Elsi with a 30-minute walk from the trailhead and a steep hike to the lake through the Gwydyr Forest.
Once you reach Llyn Elsi, you are rewarded with impressive views of Snowdonia. This is a worthwhile lake to visit, especially if you plan to do other outdoor activities in the region. The lake is prized more for its idyllic and untouched natural beauty than for recreation. Take a walk on the trails near the lake, or just sit to enjoy a picnic by the still water.
In the town of Betws-y-Coed below, you can catch other trailheads, find lodging and food, and rent bicycles.
11. Craig Goch Reservoir
Settled in the Elan Valley in mid-Wales is the Craig Goch Reservoir. It is one of several lakes that were formed after the Elan and Claerwen Rivers were dammed. The Craig Goch Reservoir has views of the Cambrian Mountains and probably the best views of all the lakes since it is the highest.
One of the best ways to see the area and the lakes is by taking the Elan Valley Trail that passes the four lakes of Craig Goch Reservoir, Caban Coch, Pen-y-Garreg, and Garreg Ddu. The entire trail is nine miles long, so you can plan for a half-day or full-day hike to see Craig Goch and the other lakes.
You can start and end your visit at the Elan Valley Visitor Centre to learn about local history of the area and get some insider tips to exploring the region, along with a bite to eat after your walk.
12. Llyn Trawsfynydd
Trawsfynydd Lake is one of the best recreational lakes in Snowdonia National Park. This is a calm lake that has easy access for boating, fishing, and kayaking. The lake has biking and hiking trails that weave through an abundance of flowers and natural landscape.
A designated car park around the lake is located just off the main road, with plenty of signage leading to paved walking trails and lake access points.
You can add a stop to Trawsfynydd Lake during a longer day or weekend exploring Snowdonia National Park and stay in one of the small nearby lodging options.
13. Pontsticill Reservoir
One of the most scenic lakes in the Brecon Beacons in South Wales is Pontsticill Reservoir. It was built in 1927 as the "Taff Fechan" reservoir and continues to be an important water supply, providing clean drinking water to the people living in the valleys of South Wales.
While swimming is not allowed in the reservoir, canoeing and kayaking are permitted with a proper permit. The large reservoir is more than 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) long, with a dam that holds back enough water to fill 6,000 Olympic-size swimming pools.
The summits of Corn Du and Pen y Fan hover in the distance as you sit to enjoy the views. Be sure to stop by the bell-mouth spillway, which is an iconic image of Pontsticill Reservoir and unique in South Wales.
Since the Brecon Beacons is popular for hiking, one of the best ways to enjoy Pontsticill Reservoir is by walking one of the nearby trails. Another fun way to make your visit into a day trip is by hopping on board the Brecon Mountain Railway that offers rides through the Brecon Beacons.
14. Llandegfedd Reservoir
The Llandegfedd Reservoir is a 434-acre reservoir just outside Newport, and it is one of the most popular recreational lakes in South Wales. The mountainous landscape makes a day on the water picturesque, whether you are paddleboarding, kayaking, windsurfing, or canoeing.
There is a water sports center at the lake to rent watercraft or take lessons. If you bring your own equipment, you will need a "pay and play permit" for water activities.
Besides water sports, the lake is popular for land activities in the preserved meadows and forests that surround it. Take the Lakeside Trail through wild-growth meadows to the visitor center, where you can learn more about the area, enjoy panoramic views from the windows, and enjoy lunch from the café overlooking the water.
This is a Site of Specific Scientific Interest, which means that hiking through the forest landscape offers a nice option to round out your day by the water. There are some protected areas for wildlife, so keep your eyes open for the nesting boxes for the house martins that come to the lake each year to nest.