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Tobar na Dabhaich

Sacred Well


This well is located around 2km north west of Ardbeg. It is marked on the OS map as Tobar na Dabhaich. The name probably means 'Well of the Hollow' - Tobar=Well, Dabnaich='vatlike hole or hollow' (Watson, 1926). This would fit, as the well is set in a hollow in the side of a small hill. It appears to be a natural spring, with a shallow pool in the rock.

An alternative name seems to be St Michael's Well, perhaps linked to the fact that immediately to the south is Druim Claiggean Mhicheil which is "ridge of Michael's good field" (Domhnall MacEacherna). It is close to the ruins of what is reputed to be the remains of a plague village (see folklore).

My father (who grew up nearby) told me that it was a place where people visited for good luck when they got married, and indeed there at least two horseshoes above in the rock when we found it, one old and rusted and one seemingly fairly recent with ribbon attached. I believe there were also coins in the water.

The antiquity of the site's human use is unknown, but it is some distance from the nearest house (and a difficult journey) so it is clearly not a modern (re)invention. It is close to a hut circle, so at the very least could have been a water source in ancient times. It would certainly bear checking out by people more knowledgeable in the archaeology of well-sites. Now the difficult bit – getting there.

My father took me there in 1984 (see photo) from Callumkill, a journey involving going over several hills and getting wet feet in the bog in between, and getting lost (hence teenage sister's fed up expression in the photo). Last year (2005) I attempted to revisit it with 'clear' directions from my uncle Jim, who used to live at Callumkill. This time I headed via a public footpath marked on the OS map heading north east from Ardbeg and passing close to the well. Let's just say it is not as easy as it looks – I got lost in bracken over head height, caught in a sudden storm, lost my map climbing over a fence and stumbled over a dead cow in a stream. A reminder of taking care when you are looking for sites in more remote locations – you won't be able to get reception on your phone to call for help! I didn't find it, but hope that someone else will have more luck.


Domhnall MacEacherna, The Lands of the Lordship (1976), Argyll Reproductions.

WJ Watson, History of the Celtic Place Names of Scotland (1926)
Posted by Neil-NewX
26th November 2006ce
Edited 27th November 2006ce

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