Gilfeilzie Well, Alyth, Perthshire

Sacred Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NO 2675 5071

Also Known as:

  1. Well of Gilfeilzie

Archaeology & History

Long lost, this was a sacred well whose history has all but fallen away.  Were it not for the historian James Meikle (1925), whose excellent survey of Alyth parish cites a record and brief narrative of the site, we’d no longer know it ever existed.

It was located 1¾ miles northeast of Alyth, roughly halfway between the giant and mightily impressive Barry Hill hillfort (NO 2623 5039) and the lost stone circle of Hell Hole (NO 2801 5066).  It is the name of the Well itself that invited scrutiny in Meikle’s place-name book which, he told, meant a hut, but also a “cell, shrine in a temple,” or “at the church.”  No church has ever been recorded here, although a small hamlet was in the adjacent field to the west—long since cleansed by the English in the genocide known as The Clearances.  The well was shown and named on an 18th century estate map by William Panton in 1772, as Meikle told us,

“near the south bank of the Slatenty Burn, known there are the Burn of Babylon.  The well is now drained, but it was evidently within what is the first cultivated field east of the heath-covered skirts of Barry Hill, and 40 or 50 yards from its north-east corner.  Above the well and above the old loan from Inverqueich, and mostly within the same field, were half a dozen scattered cottages, with a kiln…; and as baptisms in 1649 tend to show that there were more houses than one in Gilfeilzie, the whole group must have been so named.”

When Paul Hornby and I visited the place yesterday, we could find no trace whatsoever of the well.


  1. Meikle, James, Places and Place-Names round Alyth, Alex Gardner: Paisley 1925.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

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