I love browsing maps to discover new places and interesting spots to explore, but nothing has caught my eye more than the spectacular shape of Llyn Clywedog! This beautiful reservoir has only existed for the last 60 years or so but it combines with the remarkable local landscape to make an astonishing place for adventurers of all skill levels; anyone looking to be in an area of pure natural beauty, regardless of whether they are here in search of a walk out into the countryside or simply a nice place to sit and enjoy lunch, you will find something to love here. So let us give you an overview of Llyn Clywedog, the dams (yes, two of them) and all the amazing beauty spots around its shores - from this you could plan some amazing walks, a driving tour of the lake's shoreline or just pick the perfect spot for a day out.
Llyn Clywedog reservoir is a sprawling collection of different roadside spots and lay-bys to enjoy with multiple routes connecting to it, but it is easiest to get here via the B4518 - this road is a nice track that spans the local hills making for a picturesque journey whether travelling south from Snowdonia or north from Llanidloes and beyond. If you wish to see the dam then you will want to head to the southern tip of the lake and turn off of the B4518, following the signs for Bryntail Lead Mine/Llyn Clywedog/Coedwig Hafren Forest; the unnamed road to the dam and mines may lack a dividing line but it is a nice wide lane and the parking for the dam has a one-way system. Getting to the lake via public transport isn't the easiest with bus stops all around Llanidloes but nothing much closer - you'll probably have to walk the remaining distance, or grab a taxi if you want to see this lake. If you did arrive in town and planned to walk to the dam's viewpoint you would be looking at a roughly 4-mile walk.
To begin with, let us look at the handful of viewpoints dotted around the lake. The most well known, and one you absolutely cannot miss if you find yourself in the area, is the lay by on the north-east edge of the lake; I would consider this spot to be the main viewpoint over the landscape, with sprawling views over the massive bend of the lake's widest point, plenty of seating space and ample parking this is a great quick stop or somewhere you can take a lunch and just soak up the wonderful atmosphere. From this vantage point you will be able to see the next spot on our tour around the lake, the lower reservoir viewpoint on the smaller dam at Bwlch-y-gle - again this spot has ample parking and a great view out over the lake from its lower position, plus places to sit and information making it another great place to begin an adventure from around the lake. Over on the opposite side of the lake, you will have to contend with much narrower lanes as you travel around but the views are no less spectacular. If you fancy taking to the waters then the Clywedog Sailing Club is nestled in one of the meanders of the lake, but otherwise, there are a couple of awe-inspiring lay-bys along the lane to soak in those panoramic lake views. As an aside, please take care to only park in lay-bys and not in passing points on the narrower lanes, as a simple rule if only your car can fit in it, it is not a lay-by. That being said, to fully enjoy the lake from all angles you will either need to have some form of transport or be willing to strap on your walking boots - so bear that in mind. You can check out all of these viewpoints in our map above.
The shape of this lake is simply a thing of beauty, I have a love for lakes and spend plenty of time exploring around the huge number that Wales has on offer, but mid-Wales has some of the most amazing lakes courtesy of the enormous valleys they must carve through, and Llyn Clywedog is a stunning example of it. If you can find a way up high, either by flying a drone or ascending some of the local hills then you really need to but otherwise, you can still take advantage of the lake's unique shape by walking its peninsulas as far as they will take you. There are a couple of marked walks in the area including one that starts out from near the dam and travels out onto arguably Clywedog's best bit of land - this one allows you all the way to the tip and has some pretty great vantage points at the top so make sure you check this one out when you are over by the dam. The whole of this side of the lake is great for walking as Glyndŵr's Way skirts the lake on its colossal 135-mile adventure around central Wales. Back on the other side of Clywedog, you can still find plenty of walking opportunities with trails that let you climb up the local hillsides and see some amazing vantage points - you can see more on our map above.
The main attraction beyond the shimmering lake itself is the dam at Llyn Clywedog - the whole reservoir is man-made and was officially opened in 1967, now it serves to regulate the flow of water into the River Severn while also supplying drinking water into the West Midlands. By absorbing excess waters that make their way down the River Severn via the Afon Clywedog (a tributary of the Severn), the reservoir is able to reduce flooding on the Severn by storing a surplus of water in the lake and releasing it at times the Severn sees a lower flow rate; in the process of managing the water flow, some 50 million litres of drinking water are produced. At a height of 72 metres and a length of 230 meters, Clywedog dam is the tallest concrete dam in the United Kingdom and towers over the historic Bryntail lead mines below (an attraction worth visiting in their own right, but one I will talk about another time). The smaller dam at Bwlch-y-gle is a more modest structure, constructed to prevent the neighbouring Cerist valley from flooding.
While Llyn Clywedog's dam and reservoir may be an iconic part of the landscape now, it wasn't quite so well appreciated at the time of its construction. The reservoir obviously required flooding the local landscape which, as is unfortunately typical of a lot of reservoirs in Wales and around the United Kingdom, didn't really respect the wishes of the locals. Unlike other examples such as Lake Vyrnwy, flooding this valley didn't require displacing a whole little village but instead required the destruction of agricultural land and the displacement of the farmers from those lands. The construction began in 1964, but protests and the detonation of a bomb slowed down progress but could not prevent its construction. The bomb was believed to have been detonated by Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru (MAC), a group founded in response to English flooding of Welsh land to supply their nation with water, in particular, the Llyn Celyn flood that destroyed the village of Capel Celyn; the link between the bomb and MAC was never proven however and no one was directly arrested for the incident. It is easy to marvel at the stunning lake that was created, but it is unfortunate to think of the lives that were changed by the reservoirs constructed throughout Wales - you can see a photo of the valley prior to its flooding here.
That just about sums up our quick adventure around Llyn Clywedog reservoir - this is an unmistakably beautiful spot with a surprisingly rich history that allows for plenty of things to see and do, as long as you are willing to find it. I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent around the lake and would love to come back for a longer stay where I can truly find all of the hidden gems it has to offer, and hopefully, this little taste has inspired you to do the same. While there is plenty to do at the lake, if you are looking for extras then you are just a stone's throw from the town of Llanidloes, but if you don't mind heading out towards the coast then one of my favourite towns isn't too far away: Aberdyfi (Aberdovey). On the way there you could always stop off at another quick stop with the Waterfall at Furnace! This is another great area of Wales with many things to find, but if you don't fancy journeying out then you're hardly going to be disappointed being stuck at Llyn Clywedog...