Hellfire Pass

A pass through the mountains in north Wales above Tan-y-Bwlch.

Here lived the giant Rhitta, who had an penchant for collecting beards from the men he killed in order to make a cloak. One day, however, a man he picked on killed him and threw him down the hillside, where he was buried, presumably as he was too heavy to move and bury elsewhere. A path leads down the hill to Tan-y-Bwlch, which is known as Rhiw Barfe, meaning “The Way of the Beared One.” The giant’s grave consists of a long, narrow trench surrounded by large boulders.

The alternative site for this battle, and for the giant’s grave, is Yr Wyddfa Fawr (Mount Snowdon). This tale was later embroidered to make vanquisher of Rhitta none other than King Arthur himself, who obviously had no desire to part with his own beard, the fight occuring on the occasion when Arthur was travelling through the pass en route to visit Merlin.

Bwlch-y-Groes is situated in the southern part of Snowdonia National Park. The pass reaches an elevation of approximately 545 meters (1,788 feet) above sea level, making it one of the highest public road passes in Wales. The pass has been used as a trade and travel route for centuries, connecting the coastal area with inland regions. The road through Bwlch-y-Groes has been a vital link between communities in the area. The alternative name, Hellfire Pass, comes from the steep and treacherous nature of the pass.

– Bwlch signifies a break or breach, generally found in place names where there is a narrow pass in the mountains.
– Groes means ‘cross’. Such as Bryn y Groes, ‘Hill of the Cross’.

See also
Bwlch-y-Saethu | The Legend of King Arthur