The White Lion Royal Hotel, Bala

The White Lion Royal Hotel, Bala

This former coaching inn has been a Bala landmark since c.1700. It was extended several times in the following two centuries. Some original interior features survive, including the ceiling beams in the bar to the right of the entrance.

The word “Royal” was added to the inn’s name after Queen Victoria visited in 1889. The area’s “united choirs” assembled outside the White Lion to sing the national anthem as she arrived, accompanied by a guard of honour: 100 soldiers of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers.

Travel writer George Borrow described the inn as a “large old-fashioned house” in his 1862 book Wild Wales. The ale, brewed on the premises, was “equal to the best that I had ever drunk before”; despite being pale and delicate, it “was nearly as strong as brandy”! On his second visit, he was delighted by the breakfast, comprising hare, trout, shrimps, sardines, beefsteak, eggs, muffin, bread and butter and tea.

The hotel’s “little freckled maid” said her late Irish father was a Roman Catholic before marrying her mother, a local Methodist. Both then became Anglicans. Her father refused to join the Methodists and alleged that they wouldn’t swear but would “lie through a three-inch board”.

In the early 20th century, people came to the White Lion to marvel at the “Bala vase”, which landlord William Owen bought for a pittance when a local mansion’s contents were auctioned. It was covered with bronze lacquer until he discovered it was made of gold!

In 1901 Mr Owen bought the defunct whisky distillery at nearby Frongoch and most of its stock. The Welsh Whisky Distillery was founded in 1889 but closed in 1900. During the First World War the site was requisitioned from Mr Owen and housed 410 German prisoners of war from March 1915. Later it housed c.1,800 Irish prisoners, arrested after the Easter Rising (revolt against British rule) in Ireland in 1916. They included Michael Collins, who later led the Irish Republican Army’s campaign against the British.

In 1916 Mr Owen donated a calf for auction in aid of the Red Cross fund. The calf fetched almost £3.

Postcode: LL23 7AE View Location Map

Website of the White Lion Royal Hotel