Keeping it local – a shopping trip to Bala

shop window in Bala, Gwynedd

When my husband announced that he had to drive to Bala for a meeting, I decided to join him. Not for the meeting, of course – but for a shopping trip to a town I hadn’t visited in nearly 20 years…

But this trip would be different to my outings to Caernarfon, Pwllheli and Porthmadog – because this time, it was more about window shopping and getting ideas than it was about buying things. After all, when there’s an audience waiting to hear about what it’s like to shop in different locations around Gwynedd, without using chain stores, one needs to show a bit of dedication!

So off we drove to Bala. As it was only 8.45am when we arrived, most of the shops were closed when hubby went off to his meeting, so I asked him to leave me outside Jan’s Cafe so that I could have a cuppa and a quick read while I waited for the shops to open. A cup of decaf and a home made Welshcake later and I felt much more awake (we’d left home at 7.30 – a pretty unsociable hour by anyone’s standards!). The cafe had a lovely relaxed vibe, and felt very homely… and the Welshcake was absolutely delicious!

Suitably refreshed, I walked up and down the main street peering in shop windows, making notes and generally enjoying the prettiness of the town. The last time I visited Bala properly was in 1997 for the National Eisteddfod – my first ever visit to one, actually – while I was still living in London. I was surprised and delighted to see that Sospan Fach, a little tea room that I remember visiting during my visit 19 years ago, was still very much in business; how lovely to learn that this little business was still going strong after such a long time!

The High Street still seemed very familiar to me after such a very long time, and it was lovely to wander up and down the road, reminiscing about my previous visit.

One thing that struck me about Bala was that despite there being no grocery superstores in sight – just a smallish Co-Op and a Spar – the town is very well-served when it comes to places to buy fresh produce. I noticed two family butchers and a good old-fashioned greengrocer’s shop – one of those things you don’t seem to see on high streets very often these days. It was also great to see a proper sweet shop too – Cocoa – which displayed a mouth-watering selection of naughty-but-nice things to eat.

We’re planning to completely change our kitchen soon, so during my trip to Bala I spent some time looking at kitchenware and decorative items that would work well in the new kitchen. I spotted some gorgeous kettles at Celfi Penllyn, as well as some cute egg cabinets (my in-laws have recently started keeping chickens, and hubby has become a bit of a snob about how to store freshly-laid eggs… seriously!) Siop Ria also had some cute pieces that would look good, so I took some photos to add to my Pinterest board along with the photos I’d taken through the windows of the other shops.

It’s a shame we arrived so early, as I would have loved to explore these shops properly… but on the other hand, if the contents of the windows were anything to go by, it’s probably for the best that they were closed, otherwise I’d be getting a telling-off from hubby for spending too much! Still, there will be other opportunities to go back to Bala and explore the shops properly – especially now that I know what they’re selling, i.e. things I really want to buy! Or perhaps I’ll just add Bala to the “days out” list for the next visit from my parents… that’s one way to guarantee I’ll get to visit the town again!

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