By Richard Scriven
The holy well is one of the most distinct, yet understated, features of the Irish landscape. By their sheer number of over 3,000 recorded sites across Ireland, they are remarkable. They can be found down country boreens, by seashores, on mountain passes, and, even, in the centre of towns and cities.
More than this, they hold a unique role as symbols of Irish culture. They are part of our connection with the natural environment, they represent the continuing influence of Celtic heritage, they capture long-held Christian beliefs, and they are based on enduring communal and personal devotion.
While talk of water is wrapped up with bills and protests these days, the local well has been of crucial importance in Ireland for centuries. While springs and wells are obviously crucial as a source of drinking water, their significance can also be felt in all parts of life. They have sustained farming, local industry, and communities.
The holy well, however, has provided other benefits to the Irish, as spiritual and healing spaces where people, families and groups have gone for solace, prayer and to seek assistance.