Whilst we were in Weem in Scotland it would have been rude not to pay a visit to St. David’s Well. So we set off early Sunday morning past the Aberfeldy Weem Hotel, around the side of the Church Of Scotland and up a steep incline.
We met a farmer coming down so we asked him the directions to the Well; after a brief conversation, he said it was around 50 yards up and around the top of the steep embankment.
To be honest, it was more like 300 yards.. and it’s definitely not a climb for the less able amongst us. After walking around and up the embankment I had a vision of an angel carved out of a solid piece of rock awaiting us at the top; instead it was a rock face with a small pool of clear water.
Not far from the curious Weem Wood carvings, hidden beneath one section of the long high crags in remains of the ancient forest, is this trickle of fresh water which collects into a small stone-lined pool. (a small round plaque which reads ‘St. David’s Well’ on the cliff-face above the waters is helpful) It’s in a truly lovely setting, with a small ‘cave’ west along the same footpath and a modern carved ‘cross’ in front of it.
The well was formerly known as St. Cuthbert’s Well, who, so legend tells, lived nearby—probably at the Christian-druid college at Dull. It was he who collected the waters from the rock face into the small pool we see today. This used to be known as St. Cuthbert’s Bath. But several centuries after the saint’s death, the local laird, Sir David Menzies, came and restored the well and gained a reputation for spending much time living hereby, sometimes in the small cave along the edge of the cliffs.
Described in several old local history works, the site was included in the giant folklore tome on Scottish waters by MacKinlay (1893), who wrote the following:
“In the wood clothing the steep hill of Weem, in Perthshire, is St. David’s Well, said to be named after a former laird who turned hermit. The spring has a considerable local fame, and many have been the wishes silently breathed over its water. Part of an ancient stone cross lies at its margin, and on it the visitor kneels while framing his or her wish.”
We didn’t see a cross, but it is alleged that its remnants are housed at Weem church in the village below (later blog). Also in the 19th century, occasional Christian gatherings were held here and as many as fifty people came “for religious services.” Thomas Hunter (1886) reported that “a collection of human bones” were found near the well in front of the crags. There is also what looks like a newly cut large cup-marking with two carved lines reaching out from it, heading towards the well, on a small ledge of stone close to the pool.
Folklore tells that once, long ago, dragons lived in these old woods—overcome no doubt by the incoming Christians who stole and denigrated the olde peasant ways of our ancestors. In bygone times, locals used the waters here for their health-giving properties. As Ruth and Frank Morris (1982) told
“It was an ancient wishing well which was still visited in 1954, when such objects as pins and buttons and an occasional penny was thrown in.”