Holy Well: OS Grid Reference – NT 20813 90189
Also Known as:
Along the B925 road between Dunfermline and Kirkcadly, ⅔ of a mile (1.07km) west of Auchtertool village, go down the small track leading down to the isolated church on the rise in some trees. Walk through the churchyard and out the other side where a small footpath runs downhill. 50-60 yards along, by the walling, this holy well is/was said to be.
Archaeology & History
Both history and tradition are pretty shallow on this all-but-forgotten site, which Penny Sinclair guided us to see in the summer of 2016. Sadly the entire area where the waters are reported to emerge were completely overgrown in nettles when we visited and, despite us trampling the Urtica down, we could find no remains of the spring. (the Church and its followers here should ensure that the well is properly maintained)
The greatest description of the site seems to be that given by William Stevenson (1908) in his rare work on the parish of Auchtertool. He wrote:
“As you approach the Kirk of Auchtertool by the old road…you come upon a well by the wayside. For many years it was the well that supplied the Manse with water, but it is now seldom used, even by the passing traveller. There is a belief that at one time this well was what is known as a holy well. Be that as it may, a friend of the late Rev. Walter Welsh, the late Dr Robert Wilson, caused a stone over the well to be inscribed with the following lines:
“Ye who the gently-winding path have trod,
To this fresh fount beside the house of God,
Taste the clear spring; and may each pilgrim know
The purer stream where living waters flow.””
The well was included in Ruth & Frank Morris’ (1982) survey, where they added that the waters from the well were “used in celebration of the mass.”
In William Stevenson’s rare work, he told that an old path which led to the church—to which this well is adjcent—went by the name of the Ladies Walk: seemingly an old corpse route along which bodies were carried at midnight to the old kirk. His narrative also told,
“that every year on the same night in the month of August a ghostly procession comes along the Ladies Walk to the Kirk of Auchtertool, bearing a shrouded coffin shoulder-high, and attended by a piper clad in the tartan of the Skenes, playing an ancient lament.”
- Morris, Ruth & Frank, Scottish Healing Wells, Alethea: Sandy 1982.
- Stevenson, William, The Kirk and Parish of Auchtertool, James Burt: Kirkcaldy 1908.
Acknowledgements: Many thanks to Penny Sinclair for taking us to this locale.
© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian