Sunday, 1 February 2009

[TR] Llangorse Lake

A Weekend in Wales

Hidden away in the heart of the Brecon Beacons lays one of Wales’s paddling jewels. It is the second largest lake in Wales and also one of Britains most important canoeing sites in history.
I first heard about the magnificent Llangorse lake, from Tony Robinson on the tv show Time Team back in the early 90’s. A small island in the middle of the lake had been identified as a ‘Crannog’. An iron age, man made island, which they discovered during the programme had been a Royal residence back in early medieval times. This was all quite interesting but what really caught my attention was the mention of the prior discovery, of an old canoe underneath the water. Way back in the 1920’s a local carpenter had spotted what appeared to be a dug out canoe at the bottom of the lake. After the long dry summer of 1925, the water had receded enough and a successful excavation was made. It was in remarkable condition and can now be seen at the Brecknock museum, a few miles down the road in Brecon. Initially they thought it was a roman craft but in 1970, it was radio-carbon dated at a staggering AD800. Well over a thousand years old.
OK so enough of the history lesson and back to the trip report.
I arrived at the lake on Saturday evening and received a lovely warm welcome from the staff at the Lakeside Caravan and camping site. I pitched my tent in ‘The Orchard Field’, which was literally a minute’s walk from the water edge. There was an excellent vibe in the field with a mixture of tents and caravans and people of all ages from all parts of the country. We even had a nightingale singing for us. The campsite has an excellent Bar, mini supermarket and a café for a late morning (or early, if you have kids) fry up and they serve an excellent mug of tea.
Sunday morning I took the short walk down to the lake and met Tabby, Callum, Jules and Tom who live in the nearby village and had come to show me around and keep me company on the first part of my journey. At the lakeside there is a large Round House visitor’s centre which is full of information and pictures about the lake and surrounding area. There’s a replica of the dug out canoe which was found in the lake and you can even buy some bird food and feed the very friendly ducks and swans. You can hire everything here from fishing boats to pedaloes, lasers to mountain bikes. I chose a Canadian 16 foot canoe which cost £20 for the whole day. A bargain considering that included hire of the paddles and buoyancy aids. Boats can also be hired by the ½ hour for a mere £4.00 so ideal for families wanting to give paddling a go for the first time or for carbon footprint fighting folk who like me, travel there by train and bringing their own boat isn’t a practical option.
The section of water around the Round House was bustling with different craft. There was one lady trying her wind surfer out for the very first time, a couple of quite large guy’s squashed into a tiny Laser that they’d just restored after 8 years and then there were the canoeists, the pedeloists (if there’s such a word) and some kayakers. I stayed around here for a while with the kids and we had a fantastic time. We’d tried loads of balancing games which ultimately ended up with all the kids getting totally drenched. It was great to see teenagers having so much fun on the water and not sat transfixed behind the latest video game on tv (gosh I sounded like my mother then).
Anyway, after an hour or so with the kids I decided to leave the bustle behind and paddled through the crowds past the Crannog and towards the furthest end of the lake. The scenery is stunning around here and the lake soon become peaceful, apart from the odd water skier that sped past every now and again. About half way down the western side, not far from where the ancient canoe was found, there’s a couple of small beaches ideal for a picnic. There is also a very rickety looking landing platform floating on the lake if you fancy stopping somewhere slightly different for lunch. I chose the beach as a pair of Swans had bagged the platform and I wasn’t feeling brave enough to argue with them.
As I ate my lunch I noticed some otter tracks on the beach and the remains of their last meal shoved between two rocks. I’d heard there was a good population of otters here however they tend to be nocturnal so imagine my delight when, just 20 meters away I spotted one coming out of the water. I got my camera out which, sadly disturbed it and he soon disappeared back into the lake, leaving me with only one slightly blurry photo.
After lunch I paddled to the furthest end of the lake which was a popular venue for fishing boats. According to one of the fishermen, the largest pike ever caught by rod in the UK was caught here, back in 1846 and weighed an almighty 68lbs!
Everyone I’ve met on this trip have been so friendly, even the fishermen! It really is a lovely part of the world.
I carried on around the lake past a church and some fields and then some towering high reeds. Unfortunately, landing on the eastern and southern end of the lake isn’t allowed as the reed beds and shore line are designated SSSI areas. A pain if you need to pee but fantastic if you enjoy bird-watching and looking out for rare mammals like the water vole.
I arrived back at the Round House in late afternoon, totally relaxed and happy from a wonderful day on the water but it was time for me to leave this fascinating lake.
The history which surrounds you here is incredible. To paddle, where our forefathers had paddled thousands of years ago and to sit in your boat knowing they had sat in their boats in that exact spot is absolutely mind blowing.

Useful Info
The original dug-out canoe is on display just down the road in Brecknock Museum, Brecon. It is incredibly well preserved and well worth a visit.
Opening times: April-Sept Monday–Saturday 10-5pm. Closed between 1-2pm on Saturdays. Tel: 01874 624121. Admission: adults £1.00 children 50p

Caravan hire from £50.00 per night.
Camping £5.75 - £6.75 per adult per night. and children £3.25 each.
Open March til October
Tel: 01874 658226 Email:

The lake is purely a coarse fishery offering bream, roach, perch, pike and some unusually large eels. All fish must be returned. Bank fishing is not allowed but hire boats are nearly always available. Permits are required. (small children can stand on the small jetty around the corner from the roundhouse with their little rods and nets)

Kayaks £5.00/ half an hour and £18.00 per day, Canadian Canoes £10.00 per half an hour and £26.00 per day. Rowing boats are £25.00 per day.Kayaks £4.00 ½ hour £15.00 a day
Please go to the Boat Hire Cabin or the reception at Lakeside Caravan Park for lauching permits and boat hire

Many thanks to Melanie from Lakeside Caravan Park and the staff at Brecknock museum.


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