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A man-made reservoir that has become the largest nature reserve in Wales

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This tricky-to-spell lake is surely among Wales' prettiest. It's surrounded by green, wooded hills that look incredible from any angle. The water is skirted by a 19-kilometre road that's perfect for walks. As you stroll through the trees, you'll hear the sound of hundreds upon hundreds of birds. Vyrnwy is the largest nature reserve in Wales, and it's wildly popular with birdwatchers. Over 90 different species use the area as a breeding ground, including falcons, buzzards and wood warblers.

Photo by suetupling
Though it's usually referred to as a lake, Vyrnwy is actually a man-made reservoir, built by the Victorians to supply Liverpool with fresh water. This feat was achieved with a huge stone dam, 357 metres long. Constructed in the 1880s, it was the first of its kind in Britain. After it was finished, the reservoir took 2 years to fill up.! The water completely covered an old village called Llanwddyn, which stood in the valley. During some periods of reduced rainfall, the water level drops low enough for parts of the village to be visible. The tops of the buildings, just poking above the water, make for a quite unsettling sight.

The stone dam on Lake Vyrnwy
Photo by Christopher Owen Jones
The submerged village was replaced with a new one, with exactly the same name. The rebuilt Llanwddyn is split into two halves; one is next to the dam, and one is in the valley below it. Neither is especially large, but they have cafes, shops, and a Tourist Information Centre. Most visitors to the Vyrnwy end up passing through at some point.

Canoeing on Lake Vyrnwy
Photo by Dave-F
Sticking out into the lake from one of its banks is a small arched bridge. It leads to a strange pointed tower, which looks like a bit something from a fairytale. Its roof is made from copper, which has oxidised to green. Inside the tower a fine mesh is used to filter out solid material in the water, before it is delivered to Liverpool for use.

The arched bridge and Tower
Photo by Bladeflyer
You can launch yourself onto the lake in a boat or canoe, and explore its various corners. You can even bring your fishing rod. It may seem unusual to find fish in a man-made lake, but actually there are plenty. Shortly after Vrynwy's construction, 400,000 trout were imported from Loch Leven.

Walking near Lake Vyrnwy
Photo by Dave-F
This part of Wales, close to the English border, contains some of the country's most spectacular water features. As well as Vyrnwy there's the nearby Lake Bala, the largest lake in Wales. The two bodies of water are close enough to visit in the same day. If you've got the energy, the journey between them makes for a spectacular cycle ride. If you haven't, then there are also some outstanding views from the road.
To the east of both lakes is Pistyll Rhaeadr, arguably the prettiest waterfall in Wales. It's hidden within a peaceful wooded glen, where the only sound is the noise of the water. With a total height of 80 metres, Pistyll Rhaeadr is actually taller than Niagara Falls! It's a mysterious and mythical place. All sorts of strange creatures are said to have lived here, from dragons, to faeries.

Pistyll Rhaeadr Waterfalls
Photo by erwlas

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