Bala was founded by Royal Charter around 1310 by Roger de Mortimer of Chirk Caslte. He was keen to establish the town as a means to taming the rebellious 'Quakers' of the Penllyn district (Penllyn being an area near to Bala, rather than Penllyn on the Llyn peninsula).
These Quakers had gathered in Penllyn around a Puritan priest from Wrexham named Morgan Llwyd. He lived in Cynfal Fawr near Ffestiniog, and during his journeys between his home and Wrexham, would journey through Penllyn, and there began preaching at a house known as Bodwenni between Bala and Llandderfel. His sermons stressed the importance of listening to the 'light within' that we might today more commonly call our conscience. Morgan Llwyd died in 1659 and his followers at Bodwenni discovered a natural empathy with the teaching of the Quakers.
The town we see today is largely that built as a result of Roger de Mortimer street layout, which marked out a series of square courts in the fourteenth century. The main street running through the town known as 'Stryd Fawr' being the exception. This was the place where markets were held, and continues to provide the civic focus in the town.
One of the earliest structures is the Tower of Bala or 'tomen', a tumulous or moat hill formerly thought to mark the site of a Roman camp. Other notable structures and buildings include the large stone built Calvanistic Methodist theological college - 'Coleg y Bala' and the grammar school, founded in 1712. A statue of the Rev Thomas Charles (1755 - 1814) is also a key feature in the town. He was a renowned theological writer credited largely with the foundation of the British and Foreign Bible Society.
During the eighteenth century, Bala was known as one of the leading centres for the manufacture of flannel, stockings, gloves and hosiery. Many people in Bala made their living as 'knitters'. Almost everyone knitted socks and generated income from selling them at the popular 'knitters market' which helped to make Bala's name further afield. Today, the main local industries are farming and tourism.
Nearby Frongoch was the home of Frongoch Internment Camp which was used to hold prisoners of war during the Irish Republican Rising of 1916 and the First World War.
Bala Lake, or Llyn Tegid, is over four miles long and a mile wide at it's widest point, making it the largest natural lake in Wales. It is an important home for the rare 'gwyniad' fish - a species that became trapped in the lake at the end of the last Ice age some 10,000 years ago. It is a member of the whitefish family, and is only found in Llyn Tegid.
The lake takes its name from Tegid Foel, a character in the Mabinogi, the collection of early native Welsh tales, in which he is the husband of Ceridwen the enchantress.
Afon Tryweryn which is fed by Llyn Celyn that runs through Bala is world renowned as a white water kayaking river. Leading canoe organisations hold national and international events there every year and the National Whitewater Centre has its home at 'Canolfan Tryweryn' in Bala.
According to the 2001 census, 80.1% of Bala's population are fluent Welsh speakers, ranking the town 11th in the list of highest percentage of Welsh-speakers in Wales. Bala is home to one of Urdd Gobaith Cymru (the Welsh Youth Movement's) main residential camps. Situated on the edge of Llyn Tegid, it welcomes thousands of Welsh children and young people each year for courses where they can enjoy a host of water and outdoor pursuits activities while practicing and developing their use of the Welsh language. The town hosted the National Eisteddfod in 1967, 1997 and 2009.