Guided Tours of Ireland's Hidden Gems 2022 Extra September date added due to demand. Available for booking now with Susan Byron 

Irelands Holy Wells 

There are 100s of holy wells all over of Ireland, many of which were sacred places long before they were credited with the Christian saints names they bear today and are well worth a pause and a prayer if you are lucky enough to come across one of them. ‘Tobar’ is the Irish word for well, so anywhere with a name that ends in ‘tubber’ as in Baile an Tobair (the town of the well) or Ballintubber is bound to have one. By the way, you will find that particular one in the grounds of Ballintubber Abbey, County Mayo, where Pierce Brosnan was married second time around. Others, you will spot these easily enough by the roadside, as they are often adorned with statues, colourful (plastic) flowers and dozens of rosary beads and holy pictures. But many more you will have to ask about locally to get directions and possibly hike over some muddy fields and ditches to get to them....

Susan Byron at Gleninagh Well, County Clare.The author Susan Byron at Gleninagh Well, County Clare.

Which will be 'well' worth the trouble (call it penance) as nearly all these holy wells are in stunning locations (the celts, monks, saints knew how to pick them) high up in the mountains, isolated on islands, or in wild and remote places such as the Burren which has over forty holy wells with various cures attributed to them, these holy wells  lend themselves to peaceful prayer, contemplation and appreciation. And while many are named after Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland quite a few are named for St Brigid, who was a pagan goddess originally before she was Christianised. Her feast day is on the February 1st and is supposed to herald the start of Spring, you will find the well about a mile down on the right hand side from the Cliffs of Moher. Local saints include St Colman in County Clare who wells are credited with being a cure for most ailments, but most popularly for eyes and teeth....

St Brigid's Well Liscannor beside the Cliffs of Moher.St Brigid's Well Liscannor beside the Cliffs of Moher.

Whether that was because of the lack of dentists or the expense of spectacles back then who knows, but these places are still being visited today probably even more so. Often in fact as a cure for depression in these modern times or world weary travellers seeking solace in nature, where the water (a symbol of new life in many cultures) gushes forth from the earth. People often leave small (if odd) tokens like chocolate wrappers, coins or pieces of cloth tied to the branches in the overhanging trees. Which makes you wonder about the lives of the people who have visited these same wells over 100s of years, hopefully their prayers were answered and their ailments cured.

Click on the following link to return to the homepage re St Patrick's Day

Irelands Hidden Gems