On his journey through the countryside and castles of Wales, Mark Bibby Jackson stays at Lake Vyrnwy Hotel & Spa to enjoy what must be one of the most spectacular views afforded by any hotel in Wales.

There are hotels with views and views with hotels – Lake Vyrnwy Hotel & Spa is most definitely the latter. As I arrive I am immediately taken aback by the most amazing panorama overlooking the lake, and the sensation is never to leave me during our brief stay. You would pay a fortune for these views if you were in the Alps.

History of Lake Vyrnwy

Lake Vyrnwy is not a natural lake, but is a reservoir formed in the 19th century with the construction of the Lake Vyrnwy Dam in 1888. It was built by the Liverpool Corporation Waterworks to supply the expanding city of Liverpool with fresh water. The area was chosen due to the more than 400 streams that run directly into the Vyrnwy Valley as well as the solid rock bar lying across the valley bed.

Lake Vyrnwy Hotel & Spa
Lake Vyrnwy Hotel & Spa with its beautiful gardens, photo Mark Bibby Jackson

The project flooded the valley including the village of Llanwddyn with its church, inns, farmhouses and 37 houses. Needless to say the villagers, who were rehoused, objected to the proposals. Apparently, when the water levels are low you can still make out traces of the village, although probably not hear the sound of the bells from the 13th century church.

Their loss is most definitely now our gain. Especially as the summer sun glistens on the surface of the water it really is quite mesmerising.

Construction of Lake Vyrnwy Hotel & Spa

In 1890, with the dam completed the worthies of the Liverpool Corporation went about constructing a 15-room hotel to impress dignitaries and show off their engineering marvel. The first Lake Vyrnwy water didn’t reach Liverpool until 1892.

Understandably given the stunning views, the hotel gained a formidable reputation and a further 19 rooms were added in 1905 with the addition of a new wing. It was once more expanded in 1930.

In more recent times, the hotel underwent a major refurbishment in 1995 when a further eight rooms as well as conference and banqueting facilities were added. At the same time the Coach House was converted into the Tavern Bar. Finally in 2007, a spa was added as well as a further 14 bedrooms.

A View with a Hotel

There’s an air of grandeur at this spacious hotel with its pitch pine, deep leather chairs, soft furnishings and log fires.

Luxurious interiors at Lake Vyrnwy Hotel & Spa
Luxurious interiors at Lake Vyrnwy Hotel & Spa, photo Mark Bibby Jackson

Many of the individually decorated bedrooms have lake views and private balconies, while the spa and thermal suite allows you to soak up the view. Unfortunately the spa was closed during my visit, due to Covid regulations.

I was given room number one, which had magnificent views of the lake, allowing me to watch the enthusiatic paddle-boarders.

Dining at Lake Vyrnwy

As we arrived the sun was slowly starting its late afternoon descent into the hills behind the lake, so we enjoyed an equally slow drink charting its measured progress while listening to the birds chirping away in the gardens.

One of the distinct features of the restaurant at Lake Vyrnwy Hotel is that the tables are set before the window, meaning that the outstanding view never leaves you throughout your dinner. The seasonally changing menu makes the best use of local produce from the hotel’s own estate.

To start we enjoyed some wonderful fresh brown butter scallops with a pea puree and lobster bisque, which I followed with a chilli and garlic marinated aubergine steak served with sweet potato and cherry tomatoes, while my partner had a sirloin steak. All dishes were excellent as was the service. We concluded with a selection of local cheeses that were equally good.

Later on we shared a bottle of wine courtesy of some fellow guests who lived in my birthplace St Asaph and frequently came to Lake Vynrwy. After such a convivial feast a good night’s rest was virtually ensured, and I awoke to the same spectacular views that had bewitched me the previous day.

Things to Do Around Lake Vyrnwy

The view from Lake Vyrnwy dam, photo by Mark Bibby Jackson
The view from Lake Vyrnwy dam, photo by Mark Bibby Jackson

The easiest thing to do in the area is to visit the dam itself. Standing some 144 feet high and 1,171 feet long, it is an impressive feet of engineering made from slabs of Welsh granite. When constructed it was the first large stone built dam in the country.

You can easily walk across the dam and enjoy the views or visit the Sculpture Park. There is also a small water sports centre, Bethania Adventure, on the bank of the lake close to the dam, where you can hire paddleboards, kayaks or windsurfs. They can also arrange abseiling if you are so inclined.

Lake Vyrnwy Walks

Alternatively, Lake Vyrnwy Hotel has its own 24,000-acre estate around which you can walk. The hotel also can arrange activities such as birdwatching – Lake Vyrnwy RSPB is a 24,000-acre reserve and base at the lake – to clay shooting and classic fly fishing from mid-March to mid-October.

Casual cyclists can enjoy the flat 12-mile ride around Lake Vyrnwy on quiet roads, with bicycles available for hire at the Old Barn Cafe and Artisans Coffee Shop. Alternatively, you can hike around the lake on the five waymarked trails ranging from one to five miles across a range of terrain.



Lake Vyrnwy Hotel & Spa

Lake Vyrnwy Hotel & Spa, Llanwddyn, Powys, SY10 0LY

Prices at Lake Vyrnwy Hotel & Spa start from around £145 B&B per night for two sharing; dogs welcome in selected rooms. Book through Welsh Rarebits Hotels of Distinction, www.rarebits.co.uk, or call 01570 470785.

More information about Lake Vyrnwy

For more inspiration about the things you can do around Lake Vyrnwy, click here.

Main image by Mark Bibby Jackson.

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