Beara Wells 2 & a trip into Kerry

Like a terrier with a stick, I kept on thinking about St Mochuda’s Well as yet unfound, and the mystery well at the roadside. A few weeks ago we had a second trip to the Beara Peninsula and  had time to investigate further. A gorgeous cold day, snow on the mountains, the wind whipping through our bones.

Looking out towards Hungry HIll

We parked at the picturesque remains of Massmount Church (CO103-006) and I followed the GPS though a rough field down into dense bog. No sign of the well described by the Archaeological Inventory as a:

….. Square, shallow, water-filled depression, cut into rock. Rough crosses and harp incised into rock surrounding well. Still venerated.

Not many rocky outcrops at all and those there were were surrounded by squelchy bog and covered in ferns and brambles.

A lot of work was being done up here with a digger. The thought occurred that maybe the water from the original well had somehow been diverted down to the well discovered at the roadside? Was this St Mochuda’s Well after all? If anyone has any information about this please let me know.

Roadside well

Onwards up the Healy Pass – an absolutely jaw-dropping and winding path, just us and a few sheep struggling up but what sublime views!

Long and windy road: the Healy Pass

The views from the top are also pretty distracting.

On to our next destination Gleninchiquin, first stopping to admire the incredibly scenically placed Uragh Stone circle (KE101-105). This five stone circle with massive outlier sits on a little knoll overlooking a lake, with a waterfall backdrop. A powerful spot.

Uragh stone circle

The Glen itself is wonderful – a tortuous windy road leads up to the parking spot then amazingly the land opens out into incredibly lush green pastures dotted with oak trees, ewes and their lambs gambolling, surrounded by mighty craggy mountains. Today we just walked to the waterfall, multi-pronged, gushing from the mountain top – the gorse and greening larch tree adding rich colour. Everywhere the sound of water and magnificent sights in all directions. We ventured up to the restored famine cottage, sadly a bit marred in its authenticity and aesthetic appeal by a tarpaulin covering the roof – my photo of the cabin was taken last year.

Famished we headed into Kenmare for some hearty food next to an open fire. Thus fuelled I suggested we visited the two holy wells in the vicinity – it would have been rude not to! So two guest wells today for we are now in Kerry.

Lady’s Well, Tobar Muire, Kenmare

Found right in the heart of Kenmare town, this is a beautifully kept well dedicated to Our Lady. It’s clearly signed, the gates and railings painted a suitably ladylike blue and the area planted and landscaped. A paved path complete with kissing gate leads you down to the site.

A statue of the BVM gazes down into the gardens, gold embellished daisies at her feet rather than the usual snake.

The well itself lies a little below her and is quite unassuming – a rectangular basin, slabbed with concrete on each side. The water isn’t exactly copious but was once visited by persons afflicted with sickness.

Lady’s Well

Next to it is a stone reveals how much the site is revered. It is covered in heavily inscribed crosses, small stones placed nearby should you wish to do the same.

The well is traditionally visited on the 15th August, the Assumption of Our Lady. A very peaceful spot, still much appreciated by the look of it. Take a little tour if you fancy.

St Finian the Leper’s Well, Kenmare

This well is just outside Kenmare and can be found near the old cemetery. The route is well signed through the graveyard, passing the remains of St Finian’s church, then down some steep steps onto the stony strand.

Best visited at low tide, this well is right on the water’s edge and blends in remarkably well with its surroundings, looking like a large rock from most angles.

St Finian’s Well, right at the water’s edge

It is actually built against rock and into the hillside, with a sturdy stone built well house, the water seeping out from the ground and trickling down towards the sea. The trees and top of the well are festooned with offerings: ribbons, rosaries, candles, pine cones, shells, fragments of pottery.

A selection of offerings

A heavily inscribed cross next to the well spoke of pilgrimage and devotion.

A remarkable spot for presumably it gets water-logged twice a day yet the water remains fresh and clean. The water is considered to have curative powers and is especially good for eye complaints.

Robert testing the .water

This well has a remote and quiet feel to it, you would never guess you were so close to a busy town.

St Finian himself is an interesting character. He is normally known as St Finian Lobhar, or Finian the Leper. Stories conflict how he got this name. Some say he was born with the disease or something similar. Leprosy sufferers were not necessarily stigmatised but could be marked out as something holy due to the burden of their affliction. Other stories tell how a small child was brought to him, suffering from leprosy. St Finian cured the child and took the disease upon himself. The information board in the cemetery explains that he was divinely directed to this well because of its curative powers.

Evening sky, looking out from the well

The information board also gives the pattern days as the 3rd May and 14th September though St Finian’s Feast Day is traditionally the 16th March.

The next blog will be back in County Cork!

The locations of these wells can be found in the Gazetteer.

5 thoughts on “Beara Wells 2 & a trip into Kerry

  1. Robert

    I’m sure it’s excusable to set foot in County Kerry just this once… I’m intrigued by St Mochuda’s Well, though: the roadside site had all the attributes of a holy well – even a cup! As you say, perhaps the stream has been diverted from the original source.



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