The Clootie Well

The Clootie Well

Ever visited a clootie well?

Even if you don’t believe in magic – they are pure visual magic!

Clootie Wells are spots where ancient customs prevail. They are found in the Celtic corners of the UK and centre on a natural spring, usually surrounded by trees. Through history people have visited these special wells in order to make wishes, or to ask for healing. In pre-Christian times, places where water emerged from the earth were considered magical and miraculous, portals to the sprit world, and were often a centre of worship – a place were you could be closer to the spirits and ask favours of them.

The Clootie Well, Black Isle, Scotland

I visited my first clootie well at Madron, Cornwall, when I was young but we’re lucky to have one 30 mins from home here in the Scottish Highlands, near Munlochy, on the Black Isle (just north of Inverness).

Accounts of how exactly to use a clootie well depend on who you speak to and the particular well you are visiting, but often involve taking a cloth or rag (a cloot / clootie / clout) and rubbing it on an area of the body where there is disease or pain, symbolically rubbing away or transferring the illness or injury. You then tie the rag to a tree near the well and ‘leave the illness or pain behind’ when you leave. Other clootie well traditions involve washing yourself in magical well water, using the water to tell the future, or writing wishes on rags and leaving those at the well.

A post shared by Nicki MacRae (@nicki_macrae) on

On arriving at the Clootie Well on the Black Isle, you’re first astounded by the sheer volume of the rags and offerings… but as you focus in on the individual items that have been left, you will find yourself both amused and amazed!

Initially you notice items that make sense – things that are more traditional or that would be easily to hand during a visit (and are no real loss to leave behind) – like hankies, hairbands, ribbons, cleaning cloths (that perhaps were easily grabbed from your car) , pieces of plastic bag…

Then there are items you might easily have with you on a visit, but perhaps would be less happy to give up – like scarves, hats, blankets…

Even more bemusingly, there are the items of clothing that make you wonder ‘surely they didn’t go home half naked? Or barefoot?’…

And then some people obviously went for the ‘what item of clothing will nobody notice is missing’ option…

Some offerings are obviously a bit desperate…
‘What have we got in the car mate?’
‘Err, an umbrella,  a latex glove and the string bag off some Tesco satsumas?’

And some were decidedly Christmas themed!

I’m guessing this one came out of a kind of political despair…
Nicki MacRae Art - EU flag at the Clootie Well
This was the most literal take on bodily healing we saw. I’m not sure, though, that chucking your leg plaster cast in the water was going to help you along in a purely medical sense…
Leg cast at the Clootie Well

All of the above was amusing – but THIS was by far the WEIRDEST item we saw…

Electric sander at the Clootie Well

The electric sander was a good 10 feet up a tree! Who knows, perhaps an offering to the Gods of Endless Home Renovations?

 


If you want to visit the Clootie Well just north of Inverness, in Ross-shire, Highlands of Scotland…

From the A9 travelling north or south, take the A832 off the Tore Roundabout (signposted Fortrose, Cromarty and services). Continue for 2.5 miles, until you are driving through woodland (directly after the Munlochy turning on right). Look out for a turning into the wood on the right, clearly marked ‘Clootie Well’.

There’s a small car park just off the road, amongst the trees. Well offerings can be seen from the car park, but you need to follow the clear path over the small rise in order to find the well and see the full array of tree adornments. The ground is usually a bit muddy. Those with mobility issues, but able to walk (like me), will find the terrain a little tricky and there are a number of steps. There is sadly no wheelchair access.

2 thoughts on “The Clootie Well

  • How fantastic, I had no idea it was there, thanks for the insight and directions, I see an “outing” coming on ❤️

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