Ffordd Pen Llech
Gradient warning sign at the top of Ffordd Pen Llech
|Length||0.2 mi (0.3 km)|
|Location||Snowdonia National Park, Wales|
|Postal code||LL46 2YL|
|north end||Hwylfar Nant
Ffordd Pen Llech ([fɔrð pʰɛn ɬɛχ]) is a minor road in the town of Harlech which lies within Snowdonia National Park, North Wales. Its distinguishing feature is being the steepest signed public tarmacked road in the United Kingdom.
Ffordd Pen Llech is one of two roads surrounding Harlech Castle World Heritage Site, and linking the higher town centre with the Cambrian Line railway station, housing and camping areas close to sea level. Its descent of the rock spur to the north of the castle gives it a tangentially measured gradient at its steepest section of 1:2.73. Whilst this translates to the vertical rise being 36.63% of the horizontal going, it is normal practice for UK highway authorities to round gradients to a nominal figure to avoid confusing road users with excessive precision; hence the warning sign gives a slope of 40%. This sign was, in common with all earlier gradient warning signs in the United Kingdom, displayed as an arctan ratio of 1:2½, and subsequently changed to the new standard of the tangent expressed as a percentage.
The street is a single-track road for the majority of its length. To avoid problems with vehicles meeting on the slope and being unable to restart, the northern half has been made a one-way street for the main descent.
In addition to containing tourist facilities and its proximity to Harlech Castle, with its 165-foot (50 m) drop over a short distance, Ffordd Pen Llech is popular with cycling enthusiasts seeking extreme slopes. Its popularity is limited by the one-way system requiring downward travel only (UK law treats bicycles as vehicles and requires riders to observe all traffic signs), meaning that a cyclist would have to defy the regulation to attempt the ascent or make the upward journey via the adjacent road, Twtil, which has a gradient almost as steep at 25%.
The name Pen Llech, derived from the Welsh words pen ("head", "end", "top") and llech ("flat rock", "slab", "smooth cliff") can be translated approximately as "end of the rock", "head-stone", or perhaps "stony headland". The rock around the castle is Rhinog grit, layered over softer slate and sandstone.
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