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This place is conjectured to be coeval with the Roman government in Britain, if not of Roman origin: yet notwithstanding, no place has figured less upon the page of history : perhaps from its retired situation and the sterility of the adjacent country. The mount, on the South East side of the town, called Tommen y Bala, appears to have been artificial, and of Roman workmanship; it once had a castelet or citadel on its summit: on the opposite side of the lake is another, on which are the remains of walls, &c. : Of both these the Welsh took advantage in the times of invasion. Pennant supposes the latter to have been the scite of the castle, and to have been fortified by Llwelyn ap Jorwerth, A. D. 1202.
Vid. Powel, p. 224. After the Conquest, it was made dependent upon the castle of Harlech : from the reign of Edward II. it was expressly committed to the custody of the constable of that castle. Subsequent to this period we scarcely hear of the place; and for centuries its inhabitants probably had to be grateful, that Bala did not exhibit a more prominent feature in the political history of the principality. Llyn Tegid, or Pimble Meer, is justly the pride and ornament of this sequestered spot : it is the largest lake in Wales; and is undoubtedly a beautiful extraordinary expanse of inland water. It lies in a direction from N. East to S. West, in length four miles; its greatest breadth little more than 200 yards. It is many fathoms deep, and its greatest depth is near Bryn
Goleu. Towards the S. West the depth diminishes, where the mountain torrents carry into the lake great quantities of loose earth and stones. The gra dual accretions of these have formed small islands in this part of the lake. These, when the winds blow violently from the West, combine to form an encroachment on the North Eastern boundary. In stormy weather the billows run prodigiously high, and a heavy surf rolls over the gravelly banks; and it is not uncommon, on these occasions, for the waters to rise to the alarming height of nine or ten feet; so as to threaten the town with inundation : which it would certainly do, were it not for a great dykę or artificial mound of earth thrown up for its security. - Before this, inundations were frequent; and many acres of excellent land were lost : and even now, after heavy rains, when the superabundant waters descend from the mountains, if the wind is downward, the obstructed waters force a passage over the dyke, to the great injury of the otherwise rich pastures of the fair vale of Edeirnion. The quality of the waters is similar to that of most others in the lakes of North Wales, exceedingly pure, defying the most accurate chemical tests to detect the least quantity of earthy matter.
The lake abounds with a variety of excellent fish; salmon, pike, trout, perch, eels, and a fish peculiar to alpine lakes, called gwiniad : it is the salmo laveretus of Linnæus, and the same with the ferra in the lake of Geneva. It takes its British name, gwiniad, a whiting, from the peculiar whiteness of
its scales : this is a gregarious fish, and some of the northern shores abound with them. They are very numerous in the lake: they spawn in December, increase prodigiously, and are esteemed by some very good eating; but they have a peculiar insipidity to me. They for the most part weigh about eight ounces, but have been caught as large as four pounds. They are seldom taken by angling, keeping generally at the bottom of the lake; where they feed on small shell fish. Sometimes they approach the shallows to feed on the leaves of the LOBELIA DORTMANNA, when their flavour is esteemed pecuJiarly delicate.
The Fishery in the thirteenth century belonged to the abbey of Basingwerk : the whole property
is now vested in Sir Watkin W. Wynne. It has been observed that the salmon are never found in the lake ; nor the gwiniad in the river : hence the vul. gar inference, that the waters of the river never intermingle with those of the lake, but the Dee flows through it unmixed, as the Rhone was fabled to do through the lake of Geneva; and the classic Alpheus through the waters of the Adriatic. This may generally be the case; “ But by accident, (says D. Barrington) the gwiniad has been known to stray as far as Llandrillo, six miles down the river; and a salmon has now and then been found trespassing in the lake.”
The boundaries of the lake consist of cultivated and wooded slopes, diversified by dark rocks; and now and then a crag presenting itself in conjunction
with the expanse of water, forms an agreeable and striking landscape. The view, to the South West is prodigiously fine: looking over the lake, a line of rich corn fields and verdant meadows is seen to bound its waters on the right: on the left the bridge through which they are discharged to the bed of the river, over which rises in picturesque beauty, a large rocky hill well clothed with wood : a range of
crags thence leads the eye to the lofty Arrans with their summits Penllyn and Fowddy. On the North West are the cloudy tops of Arennigs, Vawr, and Vach; and, soaring high in the distant horizon, the tripple head of the majestic Cader. At the North East corner issues out the river called Dee, which at its outset is a stream of respectable size and depth, even in dry seasons; in wet it is full, and rolls with great velocity in dark eddies through the arches of a rough stone bridge, thrown across it a few yards from the lake. No name perhaps has more exercised the prying eye of etymologists than this. Some, considering the river to commence before it enters the lake, derive its name from that of the mountain torrent Dwy; others from Dduw, Divine; and a third part from Ddu* Black, from the dark appear
* Mr. Pennant in one place denies the dark appearance of its waters, yet in another he says, “ I again crossed the Dee, at Pont Gylan, a bridge of two arches, over a deep and black water.” But the general appearance of the upper part of the Dee, after great rains, is a deep tan colour : and this hue many of the Welsh rivers assume, owing to the marshy peat soil, through which they flow: Rhaiadr Ddu is called from the dark hue of its torrent; and whoever has
ance of its waters : as the matter is still Lis sub judice, I am strongly inclined to the first opinion : not because it flows from two fountains, for many rivers do this as well as the Dee; but taking into the account the generally received opinion, that this river flowed through the lake in a miraculous way, without the intermixture of its waters; and that the same quantity and quality flowed out as flowed in ; it is reasonable to suppose it would bear the same name below as above the lake: and this
interruption in the apparent bed of the river might give rise to the appellation. If, however, with Mr. Pennant, you are determined to consider it of divine origin, I submit. Divona was a common name amongst the Romans, for
any river they held sacred. Our original race, the Gauls, certainly deified lakes and rivers ; and 'Deva's wizard stream' was undoubtedly held in high veneration by the Druids.*
Most nations had one more sacred than the rest : the Peneus was worshipped by the Thessalonians; and the Germans paid divine honour to the Tiber. The Rhine was famed for deciding legitimacy of birth ; and the Ganges is still adored by the natives of Hindostan.
Gyraldus says the Dee was prophetic of good or ill to the Welsh, by the shifting of its channel;
followed the Dee through the lovely vale of Edeirnion, must have noticed the gloomy aspect of its waters there.
Æres, terrestres, & alia minora Dæmonia, quæ in aquis fontium & Aluminum versari dicuntur.
Vid. Procop: de Gath, Lib. II.