The Clootie Well

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.