Forming a portion of the border between Denbighshire and Conwy County, Alwen Reservoir (or Cronfa Alwen) is a picturesque body of water stretching out from a beautiful dam at its south-eastern corner. This place is a wonderful combination of dense patchworks of woodland surrounding a serene lake well worth a day out in its own regard, or at least dropping in to explore briefly to see that spectacular dam and continue on with your day. The area is also welcoming to fishing enthusiasts as well as walkers, so there is plenty for all outdoorsy folk. We took the drop-in approach, letting us explore the southwestern end of the lake in all of its beauty - now it can be your turn.
Getting to the lake is a pretty simple process, the B4501 connects through from neighbouring attractions as well as Cerrigydrudion in the south and Denbigh in the north. You can travel through Cerrigydrudion via the connecting A5 so you will be well linked to pretty much anywhere across northern Wales and into England beyond. When travelling by car, you will depart from the main road at the turning sign-posted here, be aware that my sat-nav attempted to send me down an inaccessible road (it told me to turn down the road that would lead to the waterworks at Alwen which were blocked at the time of my visit, rather than the public car park) so make sure you are paying attention as you approach and look out for the Cronfa Alwen Reservoir sign. There is a decent sized car park right at the entrance to the dam, you will need to travel down a narrow country lane to reach it but visibility is good for the most part so just take it slow and you will get there before you know it. Public transportation links are a little limited - there are bus stops in the town of Cerrigydrudion but that would still leave you with a 3.5-mile walk to arrive at the dam, so be sure to account for this if you are planning an adventure out here via public transport.
Our trip to Alwen Reservoir was a quick one, but this is a place that is still worth a quick stop just to be able to enjoy the beautiful dam, plus we also managed to fit in a quick trek into the neighbouring woods to enjoy the natural beauty in the area. If you are looking for a grander adventure then there are plenty of options around this lake, there is an absolute spiders web of walking routes here all carving their own paths through the trees and beyond, plus there is a footbridge at the far end of the lake which could make for a wonderful circular option. You can even go beyond the extent of the lake to see the neighbouring mountains of Mwdwl-Eithin (the highest point on the Denbigh Moors) or any of the surrounding hills, or alternatively, you can make the trip to a different lake, with Llyn Brenig a reasonable walk away through the woodlands.
The main attraction for us here is certainly the dam, it has a distinct footbridge across the top and is very ornate in design. I love the arch-gravity design, which gives it a satisfying curve strengthening it against the weight of the black water beyond, and masonry construction reminiscent of the dam at Lake Vyrnwy - both of these combine to give it a charming aesthetic, one that I would love to have seen with the spillways open. Walking across the dam to its little observation deck near the middle gives an impressive uninterrupted view up the lake and beyond, and looking out the other direction allows you to see the Afon Alwen as it makes its way from the dam and past the waterworks, eventually crossing the landscape in order to link up with the River Dee.
The reservoir began construction in 1911 but wouldn't be completed until 1920, mostly due to the disruption caused by the First World War. As with many reservoirs in the area, its purpose was to feed water into the then growing English cities, specifically for the Wirral and Liverpool. Although it required the flooding of a Welsh valley this particular reservoir saw little to no opposition from local people - it seemed the land at Alwen was mostly abandoned farmland. The water treatment plant was constructed in the shadow of the dam, although the old buildings are now empty as a modern structure has taken over this role. To this day, the reservoir continues to supply Birkenhead with water via direct pipeline.
There is great potential at Alwen Reservoir for adventures on all scales, and with so many exciting things nearby you could have a day out in this great little spot or just drop in as you pass through the area. This lake wasn't too far from Betws-y-Coed, so I would absolutely recommend combining a stop at some of the wonderful waterfalls in the area, such as Conwy Falls or Fairy Glen, with Alwen Reservoir for one great day out! Otherwise, you could spend a great day out at this charming lake, soak in all of the viewpoints around its shoreline and enjoy an atmospheric walk in the neighbouring woods - all in one convenient location.