Tobernalt Holy Well

The well


Holy Well

I stood in awe looking around this really beautiful ancient well. The name Tobernalt is derived from the Irish-Tober an Alt meaning well of the cliff. The natural spring well is beautifully situated in a small wooded area at the base of Cairns Hill. There are two cairns on the hill dating to neolithic times. It is believed the ancient pagan festival Lughnasa, the beginning of the harvest season, was celebrated here long before christianity came to Ireland. In the fifth century the ancient well became christianised and the pagan festival, which took place at the beginning of August, was replaced by Garland Sunday, a Christian festival celebrated on the last Sunday of July.

The water flowing out below the well head

The path to the well

During Penal times in Ireland Tobernalt became a place of refuge and priests would celebrate mass here. There is a replica of the penal cross here at the well and the original mass altar can be seen in the foreground of the top image. There are many christian shrines present at Tobernalt and also a rag tree. The pagan tradition of people tying rags or clooties to the tree as well as more christian objects such as rosary beads is still in practice today. Whatever your religious affiliations may be, Tobernalt, comes across as a very spiritual peaceful place and is a credit to the local community.

Fast flowing stream

One of the shrines around the well

Situated: From Sligo town head south on the N4. After 3.4 kms take the S2 exit. Take the 2nd exit on the roundabout on to the R287. Then 1.7 kms turn left onto Holywell road. The well is on your left 650 metres down this road.

Discovery Map 16,25: 7093 3288. Last visit June 2012.

Longitude: 8° 26' 45" W

Latitude: 54° 14' 38" N

Google Map

Photos: Jim Dempsey

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