Healing Well: OS Grid Reference – NS 7894 9389
Also Known as:
- Spout Well
Said by John Allan (1907) to be “at the base of the Brandy Hill, about 210 yards west from the parish church,” to get to it from the town centre Stirling Arcade, go across and along the Corn Exchange Road and as it goes down the slope, take the path that leads into the trees on your right-hand side. Follow this path along to the bottom of the woods. Once on the level at the bottom, walk on the path in the direction of Stirling Castle and eventually you’ll reach the fancy walling with the dried-up well right in front of you!
Archaeology & History
This much-neglected site got its name from there being a number of archery shooting targets, or butts, which used to be erected in the fields immediately below this once popular drinking spot. Although the Stirling historian J.S. Fleming (1898) could find no definitive records of the place as a holy or healing well, he told how,
“The copious spring arising in the centre of the rock on which Stirling Town and Castle are built, must have been extensively used during the Royal occupation of the Castle for watering the horses engaged in hunting in the Park…and it must also have been the source from whence the canal or ornamental waters and fountains in the ancient pleasure-grounds of the King’s Knot were supplied, the fall being amply sufficient for the rise to a considerable height of the latter… The Well had at one time a railing surroundings its then open trough, the marks of the lead used in grouting the rails remaining visible until the last alteration.”
Early accounts of the Butt Well are few and far between. Ronald James (1899) found it to have been known in earlier centuries as the Spout Well in 1582, but additional descriptions of the place are scant. The well is not included in the surveys of either MacKinlay (1893) nor the Morris’ (1981), though John Allan (1907) thinks that this site was a “congenial retreat” where “the bard of the chief” would gain insight. The remains of walling behind the old well he thought may have been the ancient remains of an old hermitage of sorts, but there’s little evidence to prove this. Today, although dried-up, the site appears much it as did when Fleming described it:
“The Well has had the old wall — formed of granite boulders — rebuilt and cemented, and a rustic ornamental freestone front put on where the spout is inserted, but its stone seat for invalids and other surroundings remains as they were forty years ago. The Well formed the termination of the early morning walk of the town’s folk for a draught of its cold water, and was at a late period used by the wives and washerwomen of Stirling for washing their clothes, which were then bleached on the green sward lying below the Well, the tenant of the park making a charge according to the extent of the washing.”
If you go behind the walling here you’ll notice a small flow of water which emerges into the field below. The waters from here, although only a trickle, are still cold, fine and refreshing.
- Allan, John, The Days of the Monasteries and Latter Days of Stirling, Stirling 1907.
- Fleming, J.S., Old Nooks of Stirling, Delineated and Described, Munro & Jamieson: Stirling 1898.
- Ronald, James, Landmarks of Old Stirling, Eneas MacKay: Stirling 1899.
© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian