Saint Cybi’s Holy Well

St Cibi’s Holy Well

Saint Cybi’s Holy Well at Llangybi in North Wales is one of those mysterious and difficult to find places which turn out to be well worth the effort. Certain places have an almost otherworldly atmosphere about them and Saint Cybi’s Well is certainly one of these. Don’t rely on the brown tourist signs to show you the way as some of these are clearly missing or else point the wrong way altogether. The few signs that remain seem to have been deliberately angled to guide you straight back onto the main road to Ccricieth and Porthmadoc. Once found, a gated right of way leads eventually down to the well through a deeply wooded valley. Another path leads down into the valley over a style hidden away in the eastern corner of the churchyard behind nearby Llangybi Church. On the hillside above St Cybi’s Well lies the iron age hillfort of Carn Pentyrch.

The well itself

The holy well is named after the sixth century Saint Cybi, possibly as a result of him reputedly bringing forth spring water by striking a rock with his staff. The well itself is contained within an ancient ruined well house which once welcomed pilgrims wishing to take the water cure for a variety of afflictions. Towards the rear of the building the well feeds a larger recessed pool at the front. Remains of a cottage for the keeper of the well can be seen as can a small building once used as a privy. Treatments are likely to have lasted for some days requiring the afflicted to be both drinking and bathing in the healing waters. Success with many ailments was claimed including such diverse conditions as blindness and rheumatism. The connection with blindness is common to many such holy wells which are associated with cures for a variety of eye disorders. Such sight problems must have been commonplace and debilitating in the days before any proper medical understanding or treatment was available.

It is highly likely that the well predates Christianity and a legend associated with it suggests this. A fairly common motif shared with many other holy wells is that they are said to contain supernatural fish such as eels or salmon. At St Cybi’s well it is a great eel that dwells beneath the waters and if he chooses to wrap himself around the legs of a pilgrim a cure will surely follow.

First published in Mysterious Britain and Ireland