Saint Cooey's Well – Ards, Northern Ireland - Atlas Obscura

Saint Cooey's Well

Ards, Northern Ireland

Legend says the water within these mysterious sacred springs stays cold even when boiled. 


Three medieval wells, battered by the winds of time, hold water with supposed sacred powers. They’re rare tributes to a mysterious saint who appears only in oral traditions rather than texts.

The wells are named after Saint Cooey (Saint Cu’Mhaighe), who lived in the seventh century. The Holy Wells are rare physical relics of his alleged existence. Supposedly, the saint prayed and performed miracles on a rock on the nearby shore. The smooth, flat rock has indents that are said to mark where he placed his hands and knees while in prayer.

According to local lore, the water that bubbles within these wells has healing powers. There are three separate wells, one for washing the hands, one for washing the eyes, and one for drinking. One legend says the water remains cold even when boiled.

The wells mark the site where it’s believed the saint’s temple once stood. The occasional pilgrims still visit to pray and soak in the mystical atmosphere. You can also tie a ribbon to the nearby wishing tree for good fortune.

Know Before You Go

The wells are about three miles outside the town of Portaferry. From the center of the town head out via Windmill Hill and come down the other side out toward Ballyfounder Road. Keep following this road as it swings around to the right and the wells are situated on the right. They are easy to miss as the sign is low to the ground, but suitable.

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