A guide to sites and events around Ireland honouring St Brigid

There are temples and shrines with barely recognisable stone carvings and holy wells associated with Brigid. Here's a selection.
A guide to sites and events around Ireland honouring St Brigid

A man touches a statue of St. Brigid at St Brigid's holy well in Co Kildare. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA

There are dozens of sites around Ireland associated with Brigid, both the saint and the goddess, and they range from temples to shrines and from barely recognisable stone carvings to holy wells. 

Some of the wells are so old that they are buried deep on private land, inaccessible without local knowledge or access from the owner. While Brigid was associated with Leinster, and Kildare in the main, there are sacred sites in her name dotted all around the island.

Tobar Bride or St Brigid's Holy Well, Co. Kildare 

Situated just off the M7 and close to the National Stud, is one of Ireland's foremost St Brigid's sites. At this site, now a park, you will find a very accessible well fed by an underground spring, and a stone archway known as St Brigid's slippers. 

There is also a bronze statue of St Brigid, as well as a "rag tree" or "clootie tree". People bring small strips of fabric from the clothing of a loved one who is unwell or struggling, and hang it from the tree in the hope that Brigid will offer healing.

St Brigid's Well, Faughart, Co. Louth 

Known to many as the birthplace of Brigid, the woman who founded the church of Kildare, you will find both a shrine and holy well in her name on the slopes of Faughart Hill. It is an accessible Brigid site, located at the far side of the Faughart graveyard. 

However, the well itself is about two metres below ground. There are stone steps leading down to it and it is in the shape of a beehive. It has long been a pilgrimage site dating back centuries. Pilgrims included Éamon de Valera.

Rosscahill, Co. Galway - Brigit's Garden 

This is a Celtic site, with four gardens that each represent one of the Celtic quarter festivals of Samhain, Imbolc, Bealtaine and Lughnasa. The gardens were established by Jenny Beale, and it is a non-profit organisation.

The garden is set within 11 acres of native woodland and wildflower meadows, where you can visit an ancient ring fort, a nature trail, a thatched roundhouse, crannóg, and a calendar sundial - the largest in Ireland.

Cliffoney, Sligo - St Brigid's Holy Well and Cross 

The cross slab, shrine and well at Cliffoney are not the most accessible of Brigid sites in the country. The well is located in several fields at the back of a private garden. However, should you get access, the trip to St Brigid's well in Sligo is worth the effort as its associated cross is thought to date back to the 8th Century.

Churchtown, Cork - St Bridget’s Well

Located just a few miles outside of Buttevant and located in a townland named Mountbridget, this well was an important site for pilgrims. A carved stone is the entry point to the shrine, and the well itself is in a rock or cliff face. The area is landscaped with paths leading to and from the well.

Castlemagner, Co. Cork - St Bridget’s Well 

A beautiful well complete with not one but two Síle na Gig-type stone carvings on the front-facing facade, this well would be a gem to visit, however, it is on private land and access needs to be granted by the local farmer on whose land it is located.

Liscannor, Co. Clare - St Brigid's Well 

Outside of Kildare, this is probably one of the best known and maintained Brigid sites in the country, attracting pilgrims from the Aran Islands as well as from Britain. The large site contains a Brigid statue, as you walk down the steps from the graveyard above. There are even written instructions on how to walk around the statue and offer your prayer. 

Three-year-old Emma O'Brien with her Grandmother Mary visiting St Brigid's Well, Liscannor on the saint's feast day and first day of Spring. Photo: Eamon Ward
Three-year-old Emma O'Brien with her Grandmother Mary visiting St Brigid's Well, Liscannor on the saint's feast day and first day of Spring. Photo: Eamon Ward

Near the statue is a tunnel that leads down into a well, it's filled with candles and photos of pilgrims' loved ones. Situated on the road to Doolin and just across from the Cliffs of Moher Cafe, there is also a "rag tree" or "clootie tree", similar to the one in Kildare.

Pilgrim's Path - Brigid’s Way 

If you're looking to make a longer pilgrimage to a Brigid site in Ireland, there is Brigid's Way, a nine-day, three-county path that was rediscovered in 2012.

Starting at Brigid's Well in Faughart Co. Louth, pilgrims will walk a more or less straight line, taking in several sacred sites including the Hill of Tara and Hill of Slane, until they reach The Curragh and Brigid's monastic city in Kildare.

The pilgrim path was pioneered by Karen Ward and Dolores Whelan after hearing a 2012 lecture by Anthony Murphy (co-author with Richard Moore of Island of the Setting Sun: In Search of Ireland’s Ancient Astronomers).

The famous name of Brigid: From Hitler to Cromwell 

The meaning of the word Brigid and its various spellings has its roots firmly planted in the term "exalted one", as per old Irish. While we cannot exactly state its popularity as a name here, going back centuries, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) holds data on baby names from the early 1960s on.

The name Brigid peaked in popularity here in 1965, with 293 girls named Brigid that year. It was the 26th most popular name for girls that year. However, its popularity started to wane thereafter according to the CSO statistics, but it did remain in the top 100 most popular girls’ names until 1975.

The name started to almost die out for baby girls at the turn of the millennium, with fewer than eight babies given the name Brigid in any year except for 2006, when 10 such names were registered. There were fewer than three babies called Brigid in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

There is also a note to be made here — there are many variations on the spelling of the name here in Ireland, the most popular of which is Bridget. In 2020, 23 girls were named Bridget, and in 2021, the figure was 20, when it was ranked 228th in terms of popularity.

In fact, the number of girls named Bridget reached a peak of 595 in 1964 when the CSO first collected such data and was the eighth most popular name for girls that year. It only dropped out of the top 100 most popular girls’ names in 1998.

Other variations include Breda, Bríd and Brigid spelt as Bridgid or Brighid.

Outside of Ireland, and perhaps a surprise to many, Oliver Cromwell, who landed here in 1649 to reconquer our land, named his eldest daughter Bridget.

Another famous Bridget of the same spelling is Bridget Hitler, although not named by Adolf Hitler, she was the sister-in-law of the German dictator, and was born Bridget Dowling in Dublin in 1891, and is found on the Irish Census of 1901, as living in Ballsbridge. She met Alois Hitler, half-brother to Adolf, at the Dublin Horse Show in 1909 and the pair eloped to London in 1910.

Other famous women include the actress Brigitte Bardot.

Events marking St Brigid’s Day have been underway since January, including Herstory illuminating iconic landmarks with Brigid art.

Brigid of Faughart Festival, Co. Louth

Brigid’s home county has long held a festival in her honour. Events here have been running since January 29. Today there will be two special events, a sacred site tour at the Hill of Faughart, and an Imbolc closing festival.

For more details see: www.brigidoffaughart.ie

Imbolc Festival Clondalkin, Co. Dublin

Events kicked off here on January 26, and wrap up today. However, there are lots of things to join in on today.

Starting at 9.30am, there will be a Brigid’s Way Imbolc Pilgrimage, departing from The Sanctuary Holistic Centre on Stanhope Street. It is led by Dr Karen Ward, one of the pioneers of the Brigid’s Way between Louth and Kildare. If you aren’t up and out by 9.30am, there are various meeting points and times along the way.

At 2pm there will be a fire and water ritual held at St Brigid’s Well in Clondalkin, accompanied by speakers and musicians. There is then a talk at 4.30pm by Anthony Murphy about Brigid the goddess. 

The Clondalkin festival closes at 5.45pm with a fire performance and a dramatisation of the story of Brigid. For more details see: www.brigidsday.org

Brigid 1500 Kildare, Co. Kildare

This event hosts a huge programme of activity and began on January 24. It closes today with its St Brigid’s Camino Walk. The walk starts at St Brigid’s Shrine at Mountrice on the Monasterevin/Rathangan Road at 11am. 

There is parking at Mountrice and the walk is about 6km long. The walk is led by Bishop Denis Nulty and finishes at St Peter and Paul’s Church in Monasterevin. For more details see: www.brigid1500.ie

Crawford Art Gallery, Cork

Crawford Art Gallery in Cork city really got behind St Brigid’s Day, hosting three days of events. Today is their last day, but there is a lot to choose from.

Running from 1.30pm to 3.30pm, there is an interactive trail in the gallery. There is also a drop-in art workshop running at the same time.

At 2pm a special tour of the gallery will look at the themes of women, nature and mythology. And from 2.30pm to 4.30pm, there will be live traditional music echoing throughout the gallery.

And all day long, Rita Duffy’s short animation, Anatomy of Hope, will be screened in the gallery. All events are free and do not require booking.

For more details see: www.crawfordartgallery.ie

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