Roman Roads (Bwlch y Ddeufaen) - Sarah Woodbury

Roman Roads (Bwlch y Ddeufaen)

Roman roads crisscross Britain and for centuries were the best way to travel through the country. In an earlier post, I discussed the routes across the Welsh and English countryside during the Middle Ages.  Many of these roads were based in the Roman roads, built between the 1st and 4th centuries AD.  In Wales, the Romans built roads but also improved old ones, which wasn’t their normal operating procedure. It was forced upon them, however, because they found the land so inhospitable that it made it difficult for them to lay down their straight roads.

The Roman roads lasted such a long time because the Roman legions who built them designed them to do exactly that.  The Romans built over 53,000 miles of roads, intended to connect every corner of their empire ultimately with Rome.  Britain, of course, was one of the places Rome conquered that couldn’t connect directly, as it is separated from Europe by the English Channel.  Still, within Britain itself, the road system was extensive.    “The roads were first surveyed to keep them straight. Roadbeds were dug three feet down and twenty three feet across. It was then filled with large gravel and sand for the foundation. A layer of smaller gravel was placed down and leveled. The sides were lined with blocks and hand-carved stones. Stones were often pentagonal in shape (five sided) and fitted together to make the top layer of the road. The roads were sloped from the center so rainwater would drain off into ditches at the sides of the roads.”  The following image is an illustration of this construction:

In Gwynedd, in particular, the Romans built a road from Chester to Caernarfon. Instead of following the coastal plain, as the modern highway now does, it skirted the rock formations along the coast, running through St. Asaphs, curving north to Caerhun where it crossed the Conwy, took the ancient Welsh track between the standing stones at the pass of Bwlch y Ddeufaen, and then back down to the coast at Aber.

This is the road that Welsh people used from ancient times, through the Middle Ages and beyond. The best maps in for this era in Wales are the Ordnance Survey maps of Roman Britain and Ancient Britain, and online:

Make sure you choose the ‘ordnance survey’ map, to show all the castles, forts, roads, and ruins.

Much of what existed in the past has disappeared into the earth, as evidence by the discrepancy between this map, and what archaeologists have actually uncovered.

2 Replies to “Roman Roads (Bwlch y Ddeufaen)”

  1. Thank you Sarha for your interest in Welsh history, its very inspiring!
    Please say hello to the spirit of Dafydd ap Gwilym under the Yew tree at Strata Florida, the greatest poet that Wales ever produced!
    Enjoy your dinner tomorrow night!
    Love to you both, Hywel

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