While Moher Cottage is fortunate to be beside the Cliffs of Moher, it is blessed to be located in a place called St. Brigid’s Well. St.Brigid's Well gets its name, from the holy well beside us dedicated to St. Brigid, one of Ireland’s most loved and possibly most visited holy well.
Regarded as a place of healing, the well at this pilgrimage site is in a little cave-like structure filled with offerings that include holy pictures, rosaries, medals, and similar items left by pilgrims. Tourists passing to the Cliffs of Moher are drawn to stop as they notice St. Brigid’s form encased in glass keeping watch over a vista that looks down over Liscannor and the bay.
St. Brigid’s well is divided into two sections; the upper sanctuary (Ula Uachtarach) and the lower sanctuary (Ula íochtarach).
The upper sanctuary is accessed by a small winding path that makes its way up through the trees to a stone cross that stands at the entrance to an ancient cemetery, said to be the burial grounds of the King of Dái gCais and containing the mausoleum of Cornelius O’Brien the local landlord who died in 1857 having built the tower at the Cliffs of Moher.
The Well itself is in the lower ground, the ‘Ula íochtarach’ or lower sanctuary, enclosed in a little house full of votive offerings such as holy pictures, rosaries, medals and so forth left by pilgrims.
The video below gives you a little tour of the holy well of St.Brigid, but really it is one you should visit in person. It is hard to put into words the peace and sense of tranquility you feel when taking that moment there.
Feast days are still celebrated at this well and in particular the feast of St. Brigid on Feb 1 and the feast of the Assumption in August. In the past great gatherings of many hundreds of people took place here with people from all over County Clare and the Aran Islands who covered the site in small flickering candles as they prayed. The Rite of Saint Brigid at the well is still said today, although in a slightly less demanding format. The pilgrim makes a salutation to Christ, then Brigid and Mary (this is known as a ‘rann’, or ritual verse), reciting numerous ‘Hail Mary’s’ and ‘Our Father’s’ and ‘Creed’s’ before reciting the same at various points along the path through the lower sanctuary and up into the upper sanctuary before finally entering the well.
The Masons’ Parochial Survey, from 1814-19 has an interesting extract on the traditions linked to St. Brigid’s Well back then:
Patrons, St. Bridget’s Well
The last Sunday in July is a patron day, when a number of people assemble at Lahinchy: they amuse themselves with horse-racing on the strand, dancing, &c. near it. This Sunday is called Garlic Sunday, but for what reason is not known. On Saturday evening preceding this Sunday, numbers of people, male and female, assemble at St. Bridget’s well, and remain there the entire of the night. They first perform their rounds, and then spend a good part of the time invoking this saint Bridget over the well, repeating their prayers and adorations aloud, and holding their conversations with the Saint, &c. When this ceremony is over, they amuse themselves until morning by dancing and singing, &c. They then (on Sunday morning) repair to Lahensey, distant from this well at least three miles, to conclude their merriment. This well is also resorted to, on the first of February.
It is not difficult to understand why this holy well is so popular with both locals and tourists alike. It’s sheltered spot is a very moving experience as the well has a particularly mysterious atmosphere which may be felt at once by the visitor as they enter and hear the gentle lapping of the water in the background.
RTE Radio Programme on St.Brigid’s Well – June 2015
To learn a little more about the Well we were delighted to be asked by RTE, our national broadcaster, to talk to them with some of our neighbours and share the local stories.
Morning Ireland, Ireland’s most listened to radio programme, had decided to do a series this week on Ireland’s ‘holy places’ and selected St.Brigid’s Well as the focus for their Tuesday morning programme.
The aim of the series was to look at the appeal of attractions like St. Brigid’s Well and how they fit into a modern Ireland. And so they sent their award winning reporter Cian McCormack on the road to Liscannor who called into us to bring him on a tour of the St. Brigid’s Well. Cian also spent time talking with others locally and tourists who shared their varied and indeed touching insights. In particular he spent time with one of the very best local historians in our parish and a gifted storyteller, Mary Nagle, who gave a fascinating insight into the Well, its history and why its treasured so much by all here in Liscannor. To listen to the broadcast please click on the link below: