Lake Vyrnwy is perhaps the most beautiful lake in Wales. Certainly the powers that be seem tolike it. They’ve made it a National Nature Reserve, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a SpecialProtection Area and a Special Area of Conservation.
But 130 years ago it wasn’t there at all. And the village of Llanwddyn – 37 houses, 10 farms, three inns and a couple of chapels to be precise – was two miles farther upstream on the river Vyrnwy.
That was until the Victorians decided to flood the valley and create an immense reservoir sothe people of Liverpool 68 miles away could have clean drinking water.
For years the people of Llanwddyn went on with their daily lives as the great stone walls of the dam grew higher. Then one day in 1888 the valves were closed and their whole community slowly disappeared beneath the waves.
Fortunately by then the Liverpool Corporation had built them a brand-new village on a slope beside the dam and at the bottom of the valley.
Today Llanwddyn is the first port of call for the many thousands of bird-watchers, walkers,cyclists, sailors, shooters and anglers that come to Lake Vyrnwy every year.
It contains a village shop, cafés, craft shops and an RSPB visitor centre with wheelchair-ac-cessible bird hides. It marks the start of an internationally renowned sculpture trail withdozens of wooden carvings.
And it provides an unbeatable view of the world’s first big stone-built dam. So big in fact that ithas more than 25 arches and a road bridge running along the top.
Half a mile away is a Gothic revival straining tower that looks more like a Bavarian castle thana filter for debris. It obviously does a pretty good job – Lake Vyrnwy is the water source forBombay Sapphire gin.
Or more accurately it comes from the 311 streams, waterfalls and rivers that flow into thelake from the surrounding hills and mountains. They’re all part of a 24,000-acre nature re- serve that’s home to 90 different species of bird, six species of bat and any number of dragon-flies and butterflies.
You can get up close and personal with the peregrine falcons, pied flycatchers, redstarts, sis- kins and wood warblers of Lake Vyrnwy from the hides scattered all along the shore.
And every spring you can get really hands-on at the RSPB Lake Vyrnwy farm run by Gwynfor and Janet Evans. Their Lambing Live sessions give you the chance to act as midwife during a birth at the biggest organic farm in England and Wales.
An emotional experience like that can take it out of you. Time to relax. Five-star Cyfie Farm at Llanfihangel is a 17th century Welsh longhouse with oak beams and log fires. But you might just be more interested in a very 21st century addition – their hot tub and sauna spa.
Meanwhile, 900 feet up at the famous Lake Vyrnwy Hotel, they boast an aromatherapy salt in- halation room, mud therapy chambers, heated tepidarium couches and an eight-person whirl pool overlooking the lake.
No wonder the Good Spa Guide gave it four bubbles. And Times Online called it “a spa pool thatmay lay claim to the best waterside view in Europe”. It should set you up nicely for anothermooch in the craft shops of Llanwddyn.