The Good, the Bad & the Ugly …

… a quick whizz through some of the most memorable holy wells visited in 2017.

Most privileged encounter: St Patrick’s Well, Castletownroche

The year started with a wonderful encounter where we were not only privileged to visit St Patrick’s Well, Castletownroche, right on the Blackwater River, but we were also given an extensive and personal tour of Blackwater Castle, including the opportunity to admire the sile na gig.

Most obscure: St Peter & St Paul’s Well, Skibbereen

This was followed by another warm and generous encounter, when Pat took me to see the incredibly obscure well dedicated to St Peter and St Paul somewhere outside Skibbereen. Once renown for containing two blessed eels the well had not been visited for many years.

St Peter& St Paul’s Well, near Skibbereen, home to two blessed eels

Most unexpected: St Paul’s Well, Ballygarvan

A sudden whim on the way home from the airport after the Christmas holidays, I stopped at the house to see if there was any chance of visiting the well which lay on private property. I was led down through bamboo woods to this unexpectedly beautiful and satisfying well, slowly sinking into leaf mould on the edge of a river. Dedicated to St Paul, vestiges of a verdigris-coloured paint were still clinging on.

St Paul’s Well, Ballygarvan

Most seriously neglected: St Dominic’s, Glanworth

Visited at the end of a hard day’s well hunting, the well itself was very difficult to find right down by the river. It was in a shocking state, hard to distinguish and covered in undergrowth. Once much visited the remains of a pilgrim shelter still lurked amongst the ivy and briars nearby. It has since had a bit of a facelift but still needs some serious tlc.

Well dedicated to the most ferocious saint: St Fanahan, Mitchelstown

Atmospherically approached along an avenue of beech trees, the well is beautifully kept and still much revered. St Fanahan himself seemed to have been remarkably ferocious – a warrior saint called on whenever there was a scrap, armed with his mitre named Cennachathach – Head Battler.

Most unprepossessing: unnamed well, near Mitchelstown

Flat with the turf and hard to find, this simple circular well still held enough potency to cause a careless digger to run aground when driven recklessly across it!

Small well near Mitchelstown

Most jam- packed with statues: All Saints’ Well, near Blarney

A highly atmospheric spot in which to shelter from a downpour, crammed with statues and offerings. Mainly the result of one man’s devotions and beautifully tended.

All Saints’ Well, Blarney

Most challenging to get to: St John’s Well, Castletownbere

A serious trek along moorland, a scramble up a mountain and then a teeter along a quartz ledge to get to this well, cut into the rock. This is traditionally visited on St John’s Eve, 23rd June, and is apparently best approached barefoot. Respect.

Tiniest: St Michael’s Well, near Allihies

We searched high and low for this well dedicated to St Michael, also way up on a mountain. Eventually we found a cross-inscribed stone as described in the Archaeological Inventory. On lifting it there was a minuscule hollow, damp at the bottom – presumably the well.

St Michael’s Well?

Most beautifully kept: Sunday’s Well, Rooves Beg

Visited shortly after May Day, this little well was bedecked in blues: fresh blue paint, blue candles and bluebells.

Sunday’s Well, Rooves Beg

Most adventurous to get to: St John’s Well, Doonpeter

A long walk starting near a Mass Rock, through moorland, fields, pastures – across rivers and dodgy bridges, the decaying remains of little benches attesting to the path once being well trodden. It’s well worth the walk though for the site includes a well, a bullaun stone, various shrines, a cilleen and is within a ringfort.

Most surprising: St Lachteen’s Well, Donoughmore

A chance encounter, I was taken into a field with Connie and his three bouncy greyhounds. One huge beech tree remained amongst the green, slowly consuming the well once dedicated to St Lachteen. The well is now dry and is said to have moved to a new site at Grenagh some years ago.

St Lachteen’s Well, Donoughmore

Saddest: Lady’s Well, Dripsey

A poor, flattened and neglected well, lying only 10 metres away from its sister well – Sunday’s Well. Why is one still  revered and the other completely ignored?

Most atmospheric: Lady’s Well, Rockspring

Visited after a long damp day, I just gasped out loud when I saw this site. Enclosed by a stone wall the area includes a huge pool of fresh water, an illuminated shrine, statues and paintings, oozing with atmosphere and mystery.

Lady’s Well, Rockspring

Most scenic: St Mughain’s Well, Sherkin Island

A scenic if midgy walk above the cliffs, then into a bracken filled valley with instructions to look out for the fuchsia bush which marked the well. There it was, hidden yet full of fresh water, with incredible views in every direction

Freshest water – St Finnian’s Well, near Rathmore

Kindly taken to by Jim and his grandson, this well dedicated to St Finnian is found within a fulachta fiadh. The water bubbled up fresh and clear and was once used to ward off piseogs connected with butter making.

Most inventive example of recycling: Kilmacow Holy Well, near Kanturk

What a delightful little place, enclosed in circlet of trees, a well full of fresh water and a shrine to the BVM made out of some sort of agricultural implement, resting on a red plastic box.

Most forlorn sight: Tobar na Súl, Lough Ine

Many trees in Knockomagh Wood were flattened by Storm Ophelia in October this year, including those that surrounded Tobar na Súl, only just discernible amongst the debris. Hopefully it will be restored once work is completed clearing the timber.

Here’s to a productive 2018.  Bliain nua Shona.


8 thoughts on “The Good, the Bad & the Ugly …

  1. Ravensare

    Thank you so much for sharing these! I lived in Blarney as a teenager, and although ancient sites have always fascinated me, I didn’t have the means to visit them then. It’s absolutely lovely to read all about your explorations and experiences here!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. freespiral2016 Post author

      Thanks for that lovely comment Ravensare. Cork is so rich in wells, it is a real pleasure to visit and discover them. Some very interesting wells around Blarney, especially All Saints Well.



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