Days out: The shy monster of Bala lake

Forget Nessie, meet Teggie (if you can find her)

Bala, a Welsh market town and the eastern gateway to Snowdonia National Park, has more than its fair share of sheep. Yet, deep in Bala Lake, Wales's largest natural body of water, lurks a monster that could swallow a whole flock.

Bala, a Welsh market town and the eastern gateway to Snowdonia National Park, has more than its fair share of sheep. Yet, deep in Bala Lake, Wales's largest natural body of water, lurks a monster that could swallow a whole flock.

Teggie is her name, taken from Llyn Tegid, the Welsh name for the lake and she's the kind of slippery character who makes Nessie look like a camera-obsessed celeb. Her last big film appearance was back in the Technicolor days of 1976, and, aside from breathless outbursts from fishermen and a submarine search by a Japanese film crew in 1999, she seems more closely related to Lord Lucan than her attention-seeking cousin.

But Arwel Morris could change all that. He manages Bala's lake and, like police chief Brody in Jaws, he spends much of his time nervously eyeing the water from a watchtower. "I have not seen anything in 12 years, but Dowie Bowen, my predecessor, did." Mr Bowen's story is potent inspiration for any dracontologist. "I was looking out at the lake and saw this thing coming towards the shore," he says. "It was at least 8ft long, similar to a crocodile, with its front and rear ends about 4ins above the water." He rushed to the shore but found nothing.

Monsters usually make good PR, but Teggie could have the reverse effect on Bala. The town's tourist selling point is watersports: kayaking, canoeing, catermaraning, windsurfing and fishing. One windsurfer recently reported being strangely "lifted out of the water". And many boating accidents have been attributed to the beast.

My favourite explanations were found in the bar of the Plas-yn-Dre restaurant. During the First World War, secret military experiments were carried out with seals, which were trained to place limpet mines on their targets. Some escaped and ... you can guess the rest.

Alternatively, there is Gwyniad to consider. A relic of the last ice age, this giant fish came up the river to spawn, got hemmed in by a pesky glacier and ended up adapting to live in the lake. Pah? She's been caught and documented. The best and most feasible theoryis also probably the nastiest. "There are pike out there the size of men," one local told me. "If you fall in, there won't be much of you left."

Hire some watersports gear and take a look for yourself. Or if you prefer to view from a safe distance, Bala Lake Railway travels along the shore. A return trip takes 90 minutes. For all those great shots of Teggie, it's just the ticket.

Bala

Bala is on the A494, 22 miles west of Llangollen. Bala Adventure and Watersport Centre hires watersports equipment (01678 521059). Bala Lake Railway (01678 540666; www.bala-lake-railway.co.uk) runs from April to September. The Tourist Information Centre (01678 521021) offers a free guided walk.

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