We came across this sacred well on a trip to Applecross, in Rosshire. It was a beautiful sunlit day, with a soft breeze stirring the grass and the waves. Swifts were swooping through the sky doing bombing runs for insects in low sweeps of the ground. I had stopped to watch and listen to the sound of their calls of delight, and the to the oceans waves in the distance. The peace was immense, silence streaching up into the infinite blue sky, and the distant drone of busy bees visiting wild flowers, bringing a smile to my lips.
I became aware of a quiet little sound, lost at first in the imense sweep of this bay, but growing ever more insistant to my ears….the sound of trickling water. Turning to look for its source I saw the stone work of the well, its pale sandstone glittering in the sunlight. As I approached my sense of peace grew, and I was filled with a deep happiness which poured through me. It was such a beautiful and timeless scene. I wondered how many people over the centuries had visited before me.
I scooped a palmful of the sweet clear water into my mouth…deep peace. As though I was transported out of time itself.
A little research tells me that Applecross was founded as a Celtic monastic site by St Maelrubha in 673. It had taken him 2 years to reach this site from Bangor. The name was originally Abercrossan – Bay of the Cross. Maelrubha declared sanctury in a 6 mile radius around his monastery. So our well would have fallen within the Sanctuary.
In fact he wasn’t the first settler, as traces of Mesolithic hunter-gatherers have been found, all along these coasts. A broch has been uncovered along with evidence of earlier settlement….
Until 1975 the only was in and out of the valley and bay by land, was over the Bealach nam Bo – The Pass of the Cattle – and thus the Bealach was a huge guardian of Applecross, keeping it secluded and safe. It still has a wonderful air of seclusion, and its poor phone reception means it offers sanctury from the calls of modernity.
Nigel Pennick in his book Celtic Sacred Landscapes tells us that water from springs and wells comes directly to us from the waters that exsist unseen beneath the earth, from the mysterious chthonic realms of Annwn. We are participants not consumers when we take water from these sources, and we are in personal relationship with its origin. We are drawing water from the source. Its a lovely thought that my palmful of water hadnt seen the light of day until it poured out of the dark earth into my hands and into the sunlight.
From darkness into light….