Following ‘Sarn Helen’, an Ancient Roman Network of Roads, Across Wales

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Pavement mosaics showing ‘Sarn Helen’ routes in Wales, one of which lies between the two mosaics.

Following ‘Sarn Helen’, an Ancient Roman Network of Roads, Across Wales

Looking at a detailed roadmap of Wales, one will notice an unusual feature; alongside, and sometimes between the expected highways and scenic byways is a broken assortment of dotted lines identified as ‘Sarn Helen’. These splintered lines are scattered across western Wales, from near Caernarfon in the north to near Carmarthen in the south, meandering through moorland and isolated valleys, climbing hills and skirting mountains. Bits and pieces of ‘Sarn Helen’ pass by intriguing locations, including numerous standing stones and megalithic sites, an ancient gold mine, Roman fortifications, and important ecclesiastic centres.

Sarn Helen’

Map of ‘Sarn Helen’ crisscrossing Wales. (Image courtesy of the author)

A Network of Roman Roads

 ‘Sarn Helen’ is the name of the network of ancient Roman roads that linked Imperial settlements across Wales. Short stretches of these roads can still be seen and travelled upon, although most have been obliterated over the millennia. Some of ‘Sarn Helen’ now lies beneath bustling modern roadways and railroad tracks; other parts are buried beneath the crops in farmers’ fields. But in isolated spots, far from modern development, it is still possible to walk upon the ancient Roman paving stones.

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