Travelling, even in my own country, has given me much more interest in the places which many pass by, giving them little thought as they are so familiar. A small Forestry Commission car park at the side of the road not far from Inverness offers a place to stop at one such place: the “Clootie Well” at Munlochy. For hundreds of years, the “Clootie Well” has been a place of pilgrimage for some and a place of spiritual healing for others, taking on the years of history to form a kind of tradition of its own.
In Scottish dialect, the “cloot” is a piece of cloth, and these are hung by those seeking healing for themselves or others in the trees around a well, or small spring. The idea is that the cloth, which has been in contact with the afflicted person, is left to disintegrate; as it does, the afflicted are healed of their pain or discomfort. Although there is plenty of history surrounding the Munlochy well, a visit on a dank, dark day in December left a somewhat odd feeling of distaste; mouldy t-shirts, trousers, gloves and socks, as well as children’s clothing and even a train ticket – for reasons I couldn’t ascertain – dripping quietly in the gloom did little to give the feeling of quaint tradition or reverent hope.