This little well proved very elusive the first time we looked for it but the exploration was interesting. We asked directions from a man who was tie dyeing table cloths for his 70th birthday. He was a little uncertain but pointed us in the right direction. We searched hither and thither but found nothing that looked very well -like. This time though we had a guide – my friend Hannah whose husband is from the area and who, once he heard we were searching for wells, went out to find it. He marked the spot with a white pole and Hannah took us out there.
What an incredible setting. Castlepoint is a skinny peninsula jutting out into the sea. As the name suggest, there is a castle, Leamcon, right at the very end but there is no road down to it, just an ancient walled boreen, now collapsed here and there, but still visible as it wends its way steadily down towards the castle.
Almost too narrow to even take a cart, you wonder how on earth they brought in materials and food to sustain a living here? By boat, I suppose is the answer but there is no obvious quay. The castle is in good condition and is currently being restored.
This is a wild and remote spot but we soon found the little well, quite close to the boreen but now barely distinguishable. Thank goodness for the white stick. The water bubbles out of the hillside fresh and clear and then seeps out into the very boggy area surrounding it, great for watercress.
Once there was a drystone wall curving protectively around the well but this has become ruinous and covered in grass and reeds. The site is in a sad and neglected condition, the whole area is in disrepair, unprotected from the cattle who are usually in the field. Incidentally the water is meant to be excellent for promoting health in cattle; they obviously approve for there were many hoof marks around it. Some slabs remain in front of the well where pilgrims once knelt to pray to its patron saint, St Brendan the Navigator.
Rounds used to be done here on St Brendan’s Day, 16th May. He is a very popular saint in West Cork, patron of seafarers and travellers and you don’t get much closer to the sea than here! He was one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland and was ordained in 512 by Bishop Erc. He founded monasteries in Ardfert and Clonfert, where he’s buried, but is most known for his quest to find Hy Brasail, the Isle of the Blessed. His epic voyage is described in the Navigatio Sancti Brendani Abboti where he comes across a small island that turns out to be a whale! It seems very likely that during his seven year voyage, he reached the shores of North America. There is a fine sculpture of him in Bantry Square – actually it’s not there at the moment as it’s away for repairs, but should be returning shortly!