Bwlch-y-Groes

Hellfire Pass

Bwlch-y-Groes, often referred to simply as Bwlch, is a mountain pass in Wales, known for being one of the highest public road mountain passes in Wales and the United Kingdom. It is situated in the Snowdonia National Park in Gwynedd. The alternative name, Hellfire Pass, comes from the steep and treacherous nature of the pass.

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 the village 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.


Notes
– 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