Altitude Profile (10 ft to 1,545 ft)
Sarn Helen is the name given to a number of Wales’ Roman roads. The roads were built after the conquest of the Welsh tribes to create a network of all-weather routes linking the Romans' forts. "Sarn Helen" is a misnomer meaning Helen's Causeway or Road and refers to Elen, a Romano-British princess and the wife of the emperor of Britain, Maximus. Whilst she is fabled to have got Maximus to build roads across Wales to help defend it, it is considered that Elen is from a much later period than the roads themselves. These roads suggest a route from a fort in Neath in South Wales all the way up to a fort near Conwy in the north. Parts of Sarn Helen (such as this) are off-road and make for interesting MTBing, but much of Sarn Helen is tarmac or obliterated. However, I’m inspired by the idea of a south to north route, split into bite sized chunks, which follows Sarn Helen or haunts its surrounding countrtside and visits the Roman sites along the way. This is a self indulgent nod to my nerdy side!! ;-)
The idea was originally in my head as a South to North route. Whilst this section of Sarn Helen is almost entirely worthy of completing on a Mountain Bike and makes a fitting start to the whole idea of a cross Wales trail ride, it really comes into it's own if it's run in the opposite direction!!! So, to keep with the theme we run up into the Resolven forest on the Northerly leg and visit a couple of Roman camps in the hills south east of Hirfynydd. Then we return to Neath via Sarn Helen running it as a slighlty more downhill section.
A WIP. I've uploaded an alternative which I think makes for better navigation through Rheola forest to the Sarn Helen start point.
N 51°39.820' W 3°48.834'
N 51°39'49.254" W 3°48'50.098"
N +51.6636817 E -3.81391614
N 51°39.819' W 3°48.833'
N 51°39'49.140" W 3°48'50.030"
N +51.6636501 E -3.81389737
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