… a quick whizz through some of the most memorable holy wells visited in 2017.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Visited shortly after May Day, this little well was bedecked in blues: fresh blue paint, blue candles and bluebells.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
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.
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.