And Another Sacred Well
Well after posting the last blog I had to dash out and try for some more. I am staying at Cong, Co. Mayo over Easter so I thought while the sun is out, visit some more wells.
I have wanted to check out sites around Lough Mask on the Mayo and Galway border for some time. In the summer the landscape is very overgrown, the Lough has a foul odour in summer for some reason, which Lough Corrib next to it does not, and it is swarming with flies and biting insects.
Right now in Spring it is perfect and I had a chance to see how beautiful Lough Mask really is. It seems to have a bit of a Mississippi Delta feel to it with the trees growing directly out of the Lough water, very surreal.
I was intrigued by two Holy Wells shown side by side on a map at a place called Fox Hill. Again I was driving on unsurfaced climbing roads. Fox Hill is a beautiful place but I never found the wells. I did find the remains of two cairns side by side though. I wonder if the map made a mistake.
As the sun was setting fast I wanted to move on as there was one site I really wanted to catch, St. Fechin’s well in a remote spot at the base of the magnificent and beautiful Ben Beg mountain. The single track road to the site was very Scottish, like the remoter parts of Ross & Cromarty, winding through a remote high mountain valley with the valley lough to the side.
Finding the well was lucky guesswork as the well is not on the Ordnance Survey map. A nearby ancient, almost megalithic looking, graveyard nearby is on the map. There was a welcoming pedestrian gate at the roadside and an ancient looking track going uphill from it. Also there was a very handy spot to park the minibus so I thought this was it.
It was not straightforward to find as the route is kind of “Z” shape and the well is actually quite tiny, what remains of it.
The photos I have seen of this well shows it hidden by bracken so I thought this might be an impossible find.
Fortunately, the mountainside sloped field of the well is now a delightful pasture and someone has placed a gated enclosure around the well, though I feel it is a bit too close.
Arriving there it reminded me of Columcille’s Well at Glencolumcille, one of my favourite sacred wells and on a mountainside. When I stepped back I noticed that it did have the half moon court cairn shape of the Glencolmcille well, but most of the cairn stone here have gone to local stone wall building. Also like Glencolumcille its is surrounded by stone cairns, which are part of the Turas as Glencolumcille, but no Holy Turas here.
St. Fechin was the founder of 6 monastic sites with Fore in Co. Meath being the most famous because thats where he unfortunately died due to a plague in 665 AD. This site in Co. Galway is known as Cammanhagh and it is almost at the end of a long winding road from Clonbur, about 12 km west of Cong and follows a beautiful spur of Lough Mask. OS reference is map 38 L 968 574
If you are staying in the Cong or Joyce Country area it is worth finding this well as a day out on a sunny day. Barely any other tourists will venture this road. Take a picnic and sit on a ridge above the well and take in the wonderful peace and views through the mountain valley and over Lough Mask. A wonderful, wonderful spot.
I was also very interested in the vernacular thatched cottages on the way, a touch of disappearing old Ireland.
top left: Fechin’s Well in its enclosure. Note the round “turning” stone on the right. I have seen earlier photos showing two “turning stones. They would have been intricately engraved but since worn. Too many of these stones are being taken from sites as souveniers. I wish those people were not so selfish. I cannot imagine any benefits from such a violation.
top right: Remains of the stone cairn around the well that would have once formed a dramatic court cairn ceremonial area similar to Columcille’s Well at Glencolumcille. These stones were obviously taken for building the surrounding stone walls.
I will post more pictures here as soon as possible.