Tobar an Spá, Lishylisheen

Tobar an Spá, Lishylisheen
Tony Kirby

Townland: Lishylisheen

The townland name is a phonetic anglicisation of ‘Lios Uí Ghlaisín’, the name of a ring fort located about 1 kilometre south-east of the well. The literal translation is ‘The Fort of O’Glisheen’.

Description of Holy Well and Landscape Setting

Tobar An Spá is located at the side of the road between Kilfenora (via Noughaval) and Corkscrew Hill. Corkscrew Hill is a major pass through the hills on the main road from Ballyvaughan to Lisdoonvarna. The well water appears in the form of a spring in the roadside ditch, a couple of metres below the surface of the road. A track descends onto the well side of the road about twenty metres south-west of the well.

Commercial evergreens, planted on shale, stand behind the well. The well and evergreens are situated on the ‘shaley’ western side of the road. The eastern side of road is characterised by the classic Burren landscape of limestone pavement and thin soil.

Saint and Feast Day Associated with Holy Well

The name of this well translates literally as ‘The Spa Well’. This name emphasises the medicinal benefits of the well. ‘Spa’ signifies a mineral spring considered to have health-giving properties. The dedication of the well in this case is secular rather than religious. It is not clear what the beneficial trace minerals in the waters of the well are but the water is renowned as a cure for head ailments, according to folklorist, Lelia Doolan.

No pattern date at the well is recorded nor is there any record of customs and rituals at the site. There were no offerings at well at the time of the research visit and no remnants of any well house remains.

Another holy well, Tobar Cholmáin, Cahermackerilla is located only three kilometres north-west of Tobar An Spá. Curiously, Tobar Cholmáin and its arched stone were also noted in the past for their ability to relieve headaches.

Natural Heritage around the Holy Well

The well is located at a point where an area of limestone and an area of shale meet. The limestone is located east of the road where the well is located and the shale is west of it. It would appear that underground water can move through the porous limestone until it meets the impermeable shale. The water is then forced over ground and appears in the form of a spring. In particularly wet spells, the flow of water can be quite torrential.

The plantation of non-native evergreens behind the holy well means that there is little or no bio-diversity. The limestone pavements and soils on the east side of the road are a priority EU habitat for wild flowers. This side of the road is grazed in winter by cattle.

Heritage Attractions Nearby

Cahernacnaughten, one of the region’s most renowned ringforts, and the site of the medieval O Davoren Law School, is located about 2 kilometres along the road north of the well. The village of Ballyvaughan is about ten kilometres north of the well.

Discover More…

Doolan, L 2001, in O’Connell, J.W, Broad, R and Korff, A (Eds.), The Book of the Burren, Tír Eolas, Kinvara

Record of Monuments and Places Number

East side of the road where the well is located is limestone pavements and is a Special Area of Conservation (SAC).

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