Tour Scotland
Home Page



Tour Scotland on a relaxing, small group vacation of
my homeland. Click here for the Best Scottish Tours !






May Dew

Wells . . . Magic, Holy and Medicine

It seems certain that wells, springs and pools were accredited with healing powers long before the Christian era. The custom of visiting “ holy wells” on the days of the saints who had blessed them can be traced back to a pagan water-cult of much more ancient times.

Scotland is a country of many waters, and thus there is no shortage of wells and springs. There were over six hundred holy wells dotted over this country at one time, and no doubt the Tay region had its fair share, though many have now fallen into oblivion.

Probably these magic or holy wells were originally the shrines of local deities. A spring of water bubbling out from some secret crevice of the rocks or from some obscure pocket of the soil meant life, and where there was life there was a spirit. But in due course these wells were Christianised. There are tales of St. Columba and other saints blessing wells of evil repute, and driving the evil demons from them.

Grew's Well ( Dunkeld ) St. Fillan’s Well (Loch Earn), St. John’s Well (Marykirk, in the Mearns) and St. Trodlin’s Well (Rescobie, Angus) are examples of holy and “healing” wells, much visited on certain days of the year. Sometimes a “ holy fair was held in the vicinity of such wells, and no doubt in the revelry that accompanied these pilgrimages many relics of paganism survived.

There are several “Nine Maidens’ Wells.” The one in the park at Glamis Castle serves as a memorial to nine saintly ladies of the 8th century, whose missionary labours, conducted from Abernethy, earned them a place among our earthly saints. But the tradition attached to another such well, near Dundee, tells of a farmer’s nine daughters failing to return, when sent one after another to fetch water. Seeking the cause, the farmer and a prospective son-in-law discovered two great serpents lurking by the well. Valiantly they drove the monsters away, and finally dispatched them at Balluderon.

Gifts of silver coins and pieces of cloth were often left in or alongside wells as a thanks offering. This is still done to some extent, and like the practice of throwing coins into the River Tay for luck, is certainly a pagan and superstitious custom.

I should also mention the practice of making a bargain over running water. In a way it is “calling the water” as a witness. Lovers plighting their troth stood on opposite banks, dipped their fingers in the burn, clasped hands and exchanged vows. Thus Robert Burns plighted his troth with Highland Mary, and many other lovers have done the same thing since. In Angus, however, young folks were often more sparing with the water—they simply licked their thumbs and pressed them together. “There’s my vow, I’ll ne’er beguile thee.”

Farmers, too, spit in their loofs before shaking hands over a bargain. “Dookin’ for apples” at Halloween was in origin a Druidical rite associated with water. Water was used as a witness in witch trials at such places as the Witches’ Pool, St. Andrews, and at a similarly named pool at Lunan.

But the most sacred of all water was the dew of the morning, and the lasses of Tayside and round about still rise very early on the first of May to wash their faces in the May dew, thus linking themselves with other maidens of the long-distant past.

Wells Of Angus

1. Queen’s Well-Glenmark, Lochlee Parish.
2. Monk’s Pool-near church ruins, Kit kton, Lochlee.
3. Scots Well-near Stripe of Droustie, Lochlee.
4. Meg Blair’s Well- ditto.
5. Droustie’s (St. Drostan’s) Well,near Invermark Castle, Lochlee.
6. Nettle Well-Nettlewell Hillock, south of Cornescorn, Edzell Ph.
7. Mary Well-south of Meikle TulIc, Edzell.
8. St. Drostan’s Well-site of, west of Mid-Mains of Balfour, Fettercairn.
9. McComie’s Well and Chair-south of Creagan Caise, Glenisla.
10. Holy Well-near chapel ruins (1693) Balnaboth, Cortachy.
11. Bell’s Witter, Clach of Glentaire, Cortachy and Clova.
12. Well, near Priest’s Stone, Newbigging, Lethnot and Navar.
13. St. Mary’s Well, near church, Bridgend, Lethnot and Navar.
14. Well-Caterthun Fort, Gallows Wood, Lethnot and Navar.
15. Well and Baths-Edzell Castle ruins, Edzell.
16. Lady Well. site of, Chapelton, Menmuir.
17. Bra Well, near church, Stracathro.
18. Golan Well, and Well, near chapel-site and Auchenchapel, Glenisla.
19. St. Andrew’s Well, south of Londrum Earn Scar, Lintrathen.
20. The Docken Well, Scad Cairns, Catlaw border of Lintrathen and Kingoldrum.
21. Whey Wells, north of Leytack, east of Eastside wood, Pinderachy, Fern.
22. St. Aidan’s Well, Kirkton of Menmuir.
23. Jenkins Well, Balrownie Wood, Menmuir.
24. St. Vivian’s Well, near Vane Castle, Fern.
25. College Well, St. Michael’s Mount, Brechin.
26. St. Martin’s Well, St. Martin’s Den, Logie.
27,28. Wells in wood, Dovecot, Kirkside, St. Cyrus.
29. Well of Bowbale, Hill of Fernyhurst, Glenisla.
30. Duckladge Well, Black Hill, Lintrathen.
31. Abernathan Well, near Castlehill Wood, Kirriemuir.
32. Cattle Well, Lochmill, Kirriemuir.
33. Witch Pool, Meikle Mills, Kirriemuir.
34. St. Columba’s Well, Shielhill, Kirriemuir.
35. St. Mary’s Well, Gallow Path, near site of chapel, Rescobie.
36. Chapel Well, north-east of Whitemire, Aberlemno.
37. Well-Vitrified Fort, Hill of Finavon, Oathlaw.
38. Nine Wells, Hill of Finavon, Oathlaw.
39. Hen Well, north-west of W’hinnydrum, Aberlemno.
40. St. Murdoch’s Well, near West Drums, Brechin.
41. Pater Well, near Burial Ground, Deerpark Cottage, Kinnaird.
42. Rosamond’s Pond, near Kinnaird Castle.
43. Battle Well, Battle Drum, Montreathmont Moor, Brechin.
44. Lady Well, near Rosehill, Lunan Den, Brechin.
45. Well, near Fort, Barry Hill, Alyth.
46. St. Ninian’s Well, north-east of Powderwalls, Alyth.
47. Dovecot Well, near Balloch, Alyth.
48. St. Madden’s Well, site of Cleikheim, near Kirkton of Airlie, Alyth.
49. Hassock Well, west of North Whitehills, Forfar.
50. Lunan Well, near Restenneth, Lunanhead, Forfar.
51. St. Fergus’ Well, also remains of church, north of Woodfaulds, Glamis.
52. Maid’s Well, Drumhead Plantation, Rescobe.
53. Purdie’s Well, east of Ouchterlony, Rescobie.
54. Cardinal’s Well, quarry, Hillend, Dunnichen.
55. Paterlochwell, near Cottarward, Dunnichen.
56. Camperdown Well (formerly St. Causnan’s)-near site of St. Causnan’s Chapel, Dunnichen.
57. May’s Well, south of Dunnichen Moss.
58. Tothel or Lothel Well-West Mill, Dunnichen.
59. Hogg’s Well, west of Fairies’ Knowe, Dunnichen.
60. Medicine Well, near Idvles Sawmill, Dunnichen.
61. King’s Well, Dumbarrow Hill, Dunnichen.
62. Nine Wells, East of Peallock Quarry, Lunan.
63. Lady Well, Netherton, Alyth.
64. St. Anthony’s Well, south of Henderstone Wood, Auchterhouse.
65. Iron Harrow Well, Hayston Hill, Tealing.
66. Knellock Well, Gallow Hill, Sidlaws, Inverarity.
67. Seggie Well, west of Guynd, Carmyllie.
68. King’s Well, east of Fallaws, Carmyllie.
69. Golly Well-Milton of Carmyllie.
70. St. John’s Well, east of the Temple, Roman Camp, Guynd.
71. Helly Well, east of Shelterfield, Arbirlot.
72. God’s Well, south-west of Swirlburn, Arbirlot.
73. St. Ringan’s Well, alongside Rottenraw Burn and field named the College, Arbirlot.
74. Well, ruins of St. Vigean’s Chapel, Arbirlot.
75. Mary Well, Marywell Village, St. Vigean’s.
76. Silver Well, Silverwells, St. Vigean’s.
77. Nickies Well, Witchwood, Arbroath and St. Vigean’s.
78. Lanuner Well, south-west of Newton Hill, Arbroath and St. Vigean’s.
79. Cartyheugh Well, Kelly Den, Arbroath and St. Vigean’s
80. Monk’s Well, Kelly Den, Arbroath and St. Vigean’s.
81. Dripping Well, beside rock-arch called the Castle Gate, Arbroath cliffs.
82. St. Ninian’s Well, site of chapel, Whiting Ness, Arbroath.
83. Bower Well, in wood, Brunty Sawmill, Blairgowrie.
84. Camp Well, site of Roman Camp, Campmuir, Kettins.
85. Horse Well, Smithton, Smithton Hill, Lundie.
86. Craig Well - ditto.
87. Scotston Well, Little Scotston, north of Kirkton of Auchterhouse.
88. Nine Maidens Well, site of Bracken Bruach, south of Kirkton of Auchterhouse.
89. St. Andrew’s Well, East Hillhead, north of Kirkton of Monikie.
90. Peter’s Cauldron, Guildy Den, Panbride.
91. Matty’s Well - ditto.
92. Dundas Well, site of Boath Chapel, Pitlivie Moor Planta tion, Arbirlot.
93. Peatmire Well, Black Wood, Arbirlot.
94. Batties Well, north of Haughhead, Arbirlot.
95. St. Kane’s Well, site of Ardestie Castle, Monifieth.
96. Nine Maidens Well, Castle Park, Glamis.
99. The Tottler, Milton of Conon, Carmyllie.
100. St. Sinavey - localIy known as Sunny Vie, Den o’ Mains, Dundee.

Return to Folklore