St. Mungo’s Well, Gleneagles, Perthshire

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – NN 9376 0719

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 25905

Getting Here

St Mungo's Well, Gleneagles
St Mungo’s Well, Gleneagles

The best way here is to walk a mile to find it.  All the way up the road from Gleneagles Standing Stones to Glendevon, right at the very top where the two glens meet, there’s a small road heading to the Fishery. 100 yards along, park up. Then take the old green road back down the Glen, north towards Gleneagles, parallel with the new road. A mile or so down you’ll reach the farmhouse, but a coupla hundred yards before this, in a wooden gap in the electric fence, you can walk straight downhill to the large pool below you. Y’ can’t really miss it!

Archaeology & History

The strong cold spring of water known as St Mungo’s Well, now gathers into a large crystal clear pool and is gorgeous to drink and very refreshing!  All around the edges are the brilliant yellow masses of gorse, held amidst widespread vivid hues of green in this most rocky of landscapes.  Tis a gorgeous setting here….

St Mungo's Well, 1860 map
St Mungo’s Well, 1860 map

Unfortunately there is no literary information that tells us why this spring of water, amongst the many others all around these hills, gained the ‘blessing’ of one of those roaming christians and was deemed to be ‘holy’.  The greatest likelihood, as usual, is that the waters had some important heathen association which our peasant ancestors would have been able to tell us about if their animistic tales hadn’t been outlawed and demonized by the incoming cult — but we’ll probably never know for sure.  As a result, we know nothing now of its medicinal qualities or old stories.

The transference of its old name (whatever it may have been) to their ‘St. Mungo’ may date from when the character was wandering with his christians in the 7th century, but we have no literary account proving as such.  The name ‘St Mungo’ was an alternative name (a nickname if y’ like) of St. Kentigern — or at least that’s what the church historians tell us.  There is no history of Kentigern or St Mungo up the glen, but we do have a more prosaic account that tells of a Mr Mungo Haldane of Gleneagles, a member of the Scottish parliament in 1673 onwards; he was succeeded by another Mungo Haldane MP in 1755.  However, it’s highly unlikely that these political characters gave their name to the well.

The clear waters, looking south
The clear waters, looking south
Crystal clear perfect drinking water
Crystal clear perfect drinking water

Even the Scottish holy wells surveys are pretty silent on this beautiful site.  It was mentioned in Morris’ (1981) survey, but with no real information.  The earliest account seems to come from an article written in the Perthshire Advertiser in 1856, and thankfully reproduced in the otherwise tedious genealogical history of the Haldane (1880) family; but even here, the narrative simply mentions the presence of the well and no more.  Described in a walk up Gleneagles, it told:

“Journeying westward along the desolate moor…we soon came in front of Gleneagles, a narrow picturesque glen in the Ochils, through which the old road from Crieff leads into Kinross-shire.  The hills here, as throughout the whole range, are strictly pastoral, but in no place more so than Gleneagles.  Crowning the heights on both sides of the glen, we have craigs ragged and bare enough; but their show of beetling hard sterility is as nothing to the winding receding mass of grassy heights that bound the view. In looking on that quiet, sunny, Sabbath-like retreat, one would be apt to deem the name a misnomer, and yet it is not much above a hundred years since the monarch of birds had a home among its cliffs.  There, too, the Ruthven Water that dashes past Auchterarder has its rise — not in a scarcely seen bubbling spring almost covered with moss, but issuing at once into daylight at the bottom of yonder steep in volume sufficient to drive a mill.  In ancient times, as now, it must have been an object of mark, as it is called St. Mungo’s Well; but who this St. Mungo or St. Magnus was — whether the ghostly patron of Glasgow, Auchterarder old chapel, or the guardian saint of this particular spot, we cannot tell.  But he seems to have relished cold water; and it is satisfactory to know that he must have got his fill of it there, if his cell happened to be in the vicinity.”

The well was mentioned in passing in the Object Name Book in 1860 and shown on the earliest Ordnance Survey maps.

Folklore

Apart from the fact that the waters here never run dry, we have no other folklore. However it should be noted that St. Mungo’s Day was January 14th — which may have been when the qualities of the spring were deemed most efficacious, or when olde rites were enacted here.  However, a hundred yards down we pass the stream known as Bride’s Burn, probably in honour of the heathen Queen St. Brigit, whose name and myths are integral to our great Earth goddess, the Cailleach and whose celebration date is only two weeks later than that of Mungo.  Hmmmmmmm…..

References:

  1. Attwater, Donald, Penguin Dictionary of Saints, Penguin: Harmondsworth 1965.
  2. Haldane, Alexander, Memoranda Relating to the Family of Haldane of Gleneagles, C.A. MacKintosh: London 1880.
  3. MacKinlay, James M., Folklore of Scottish Lochs and Springs, William Hodge: Glasgow 1893.
  4. Morris, Ruth & Frank, Scottish Healing Wells, Alethea: Sandy 1982.
  5. Watson, Alexander, The Ochils – Placenames, History, Tradition, Perth & Kinross District Libraries 1995.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

St Mungo's Well

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St Mungo\'s Well 56.245378, -3.715907 St Mungo\'s Well

Gleneagles Stone Circle, Blackford, Perthshire

Stone Circle (lost):  OS Grid Reference – NN 93 08

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 25929

Archaeology & History

Virtually nothing is known of a stone circle that was described in the 18th century old Statistical Account of Scotland, where a ring of stones was seen “in the parks of Gleneagles.”  Its exact whereabouts remains unknown and the grid-reference given for the circle is an approximation.  The writer told that this was “supposed to have been places of Druidical worship,” and it is mentioned alongside the megalithic sites at nearby Sheriffmuir and the Glebe.

The circle is mentioned without further details on the Canmore website.  A number of stones above St. Mungo’s Well looked promising when I was bimbling in the area the other week — and as the landscape levels out above the well towards Glen Devon, we have a promising panorama, but there was nothing there.  It would be good to have a team of us bimbling round here to see what could be found.  However, the site may well have been destroyed.  Any further information about this site would be hugely welcome!

References:

  1. Sinclair, John, The Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-1799 – volume 3, EP: Wakefield 1979.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Gleneagles circle

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Gleneagles circle 56.251985, -3.728668 Gleneagles stone circle

Gleneagles ‘A’, Blackford, Perthshire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 9211 0962

Also Known as:

  1. Blackford
  2. Loaninghead
  3. Peterhead Farm

Getting Here

Standing Stone near Peterhead Farm

Along the A9 dual carriageway between Blackford and Auchterarder, take the A823 road south, up Glen Eagles towards Pool of Muckhart and Dunfermline.  Less than 100 yards up the road, turn immediately right and go past the standing stone of Gleneagles B for a coupla hundred yards or so, where there’s a left turn (down to Peterhead Farm). Stop here and look into the field in front of you.  You can’t really miss it!

Archaeology & History

Gleneagles A stone, looking west

This short standing stone, more than 3ft tall, has an elegance about it which megalith lovers alone will understand!  Maybe it’s the setting; maybe the feel of the land; or maybe something else.  I dunno… On my first visit to the site, Nature was wearing a grey overcast cloak, but the site and I didn’t seem to care; and although the view from here doesn’t have the same grandeur of Glen Eagles to view as its companion stone a few hundred yards to the east might have, there felt a greater welcoming at this smaller stone.  Odd, considering this monolith had been knocked over and re-positioned by the farmer in the not-too-distant past.  Anyway…less of this subjective nonsense of feelings from the landscape and megaliths!  Utter drivel all of it!

The earliest measured account of the stone is to be found in Mr Hutchison’s (1893) essay, where he notes this and its companion close by, giving us the dimensions of this monolith:

“This (stone) is roughly columnar in shape, but wider at the base than above. Its height is 3ft above ground; circumference at base 6ft. 5in., diminishing to 4ft. 2in at the top. It is of metamorphic schist.  The line of direction between these two gives a horizontal angle of 260°.”

Since that day, in the mass of archaeology essays that have been scribed, this smoothed upright gets only a minimal description.  Charles Calder’s (1947) account is typical, saying simply that it is,

“Somewhat cylindrical in form with a girth of 7 feet at the base, it rises with a decided tilt towards the west to a height of 3 feet 10 inches above ground-level.”

The stone fares better in Andrew Finlayson’s (2010) fine local survey of megalithic ruins, where he points out that this and its compatriot stone Gleneagles B, are in an alignment with the fallen Boat Stone and the upright White Stone, a few miles to the southwest.  This line works on 1:50,000 map, but when transferred to larger-scale surveys, the alignment misses each outlying site by 20-30 yards here and there.

References:

  1. Calder, Charles S.T., “Notice of Two Standing Stones (one with Pictish Symbols) on the Lands of Peterhead Farm, near Gleneagles, Perthshire,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 81, 1947.
  2. Feachem, Richard, Guide to Prehistoric Scotland, Batsford 1977.
  3. Finlayson, Andrew, The Stones of Strathearn, One Tree Island: Comrie 2010.
  4. Hutchison, A.F., “The Standing Stones of Stirling District,” in The Stirling Antiquary, volume 1, 1893.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Gleneagles A stone

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Gleneagles A stone 56.266815, -3.743460 Gleneagles A stone