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St Abbán's,Baile Bhuirne, Ballyvourney

Category: 
Holy well & Shrine

These two sites, dedicated to St Abbán, are very close together, very hard to find but utterly magical. Once the site of St Abbán's church, all that remains now is his burial place and a tiny holy well. There is a tradition that St Abbán was the brother of St Gobnait but it is likely that he was her patron and adviser. He is credited with having established at least 10 religious establishments throughout Ireland and may have founded the original religious house in Ballyvourney, later giving it to Gobnait. He died, apparently at a a great age, in Ballyvourney in 650AD. His remains lie in a stone cist, surrounded by a now very mossy cairn. There is a a large ballaun stone on the cairn and three standing stones around it. One of the standing stones has Ogham text carved onto it. The little well a few metres away is dedicated to the saint - a very damp and bumpy place with a tiny well, full of fresh clear water.

St Abbán's feast day is the 15th March

Townland: 
Ballyvourney
Location: 
Ballyvourney, see below for directions
References: 
OS Map 79, W 1967 7688
Fieldnotes: 

Two sites which are very hard to locate but persevere. Leave you car in Ballyvourney village, somewhere near the Post Office is ideal, and set off on foot. Take the road out towards Ballingeary, across the bridge. Walk towards across the fields on your right and aim for the single oak tree. Above that is a rough track, continue along that. Red rags tied in the trees now guide your way as you enter the woodland. A short diversion to the right and a sign announces St Abbán's well. A tea tray secured with a piece of white quartz covered the tiny well, full of fresh cold water. A plastic box of assorted cups lay near by, shrouded in oak leaves. We left a couple of St Gobnait's Measures as offerings.

A little above the well is the traditional burial place of St Abbán - a cairn of mossy stones surrounding a stone cist (box) that in turn is surrounded by three upright stones, one of which has Ogham on it. Little offerings were crammed into the stone, and rosaries adorned a cross. This felt such an otherworldly and ancient site, tucked away in the woods, full of presence.

Although someone was keen that the track be clear, It didn't feel as though anyone had visited for some time but as we emerged dazed into the 21st century, two other pilgrims were struggling across the booggy grounds, inquiring whether we had found him. We had. We gave instructions and they went off to pay their respects, asking us if we had seen the bones. We had not but it appears St Abbán is till in situ.