The limestone of the Burren
The Pinnacle well in County Clare is situated in the Burren; a place of incredible natural beauty with a landscape that shifts and changes with every passing hour. The Burren is the largest karst landscape in all of Europe, with spectacular limestone pavements interrupted by long and sometimes very deep fissures. It’s geology is extreme and impressive. The soil rarely dips below 6 degrees centigrade and it is thought that the extensive amount of rock in the area retains the heat to create a kind of micro-climate that allows a flora and fauna to flourish that exists nowhere else in Ireland.
Doolin cave stalactite
The Burren is rich in archaeological sites dating back to the very earliest period in Ireland’s history. It has over ninety portal tombs, numerous dolmens, many religious sites and holy wells. It is also an area rich in caves, very few of which have been fully explored, although two are open to the public, one of which has evidence of use by the now extinct Brown Bear. The Doolin Cave is particularly impressive, having one of the largest stalactites in the world.
The Pinnacle Well (or Tobercornan)
The Pinnacle well is situated by the verge of the coast road near to Gleninagh Castle. It is a small spring that fills a stone basin and in 1860 a Gothic Revival style housing was built over it with a corbelled rubble-stone roof, dressed stone gable copings and corner pinnacles. It is a very decorative housing, with faux corner buttresses and an arched doorway into the well that give it the appearance of a small chapel or oratory.
The well basin
It is unclear if there was any particular saint associated with this well, but it has always been considered a holy well, and the fact that such an impressive (and faux religious) structure was built around it demonstrates just how important it was considered. The well is also known as Tobercornan, but there is no saint by the name of ‘Cornan’ in Ireland (at least not a recorded one), although it could be a mis-spelling of St Cronan who has a strong association with the area. However the site is still considered a holy place and there are items inside the well housing that sets it clearly within a religious context.
Offerings at the well
Despite ireland’s annual rainfall figures, the Burren can be a remarkably dry place and in the past drought was not unknown. The closeness of the bedrock to the surface and the network of caves mean that little water collects on the surface. There are very few rivers and lakes in the area, yet oddly enough Clare probably has the largest number of holy wells anywhere in Ireland. Although these wells may have had a religious function and significance, they were also essential for survival, and in this instance the people of Ballyvaughan relied upon water from this well during times of drought.
A full view of the pinnacles, buttresses and arched doorway
God of hope, God of healing and blessing, God of refreshment and peace, shower down upon us with your infinite love and righteousness. Send your Holy Spirit to fill us with faith. Lead us to green pastures and make us to lie down by still waters, refreshing our souls and giving us peace; for you live and reign with your Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
How to find it:
The well is right on the roadside of the R477 in the townland of Gleninagh North, before reaching Ballyvaughan.