A wee pilgrimage to St Anthony’s Chapel
Today was another climb up Arthur’s Seat, as part of my goal to climb the hill at least once a month for the whole of 2018. It was also my first solo climb to the top and my first time exploring the ruins of St Anthony’s Chapel.
St Anthony’s Chapel is located just off the main path to the summit of Arthur’s Seat and is relatively accessible by foot. (Yes, Mum, you will be able to make the trek when you visit!) It took me about 15 minutes to walk to the chapel from the carpark on Queen’s Drive, including time to stop at the well.
The chapel is believed to be from the 15th Century, with repairs being financed by the Pope in 1426. However, there is evidence of religious activities in the area in the 1100s or earlier. It was a relatively small building and only the north wall and a small bit of the west gable remains today. There is also the remains of a small storehouse nearby, built into the stone outcrop. It is possible that the chapel was built to provide for guardianship of the nearby holy well, though the well will have been used by non-Christians long before. (More information here.)
Because the chapel is easily accessed, it means that site was filled with people on my visit. On one hand, it was nice to see so many people taking an interest in a fally-downy old building. But on the other hand, it means that I had to share the space with others. And I much prefer to have places like this to myself for a bit. (But I knew to expect crowds, as I chose to explore on a weekend that had fairly nice weather!)
St Anthony’s Well sits on the pathway leading to the summit, just below the chapel. It is found at a large bend in the road with paths along either side and is probably overlooked by most of the people walking past. Up until 1674, the spring flowed from a small stone arch further up the path. Today, the spring’s outlet is a small pipe under a massive boulder and the water flows into a small stone basin. Like many wells and natural springs, it is believed to have links to sun-lore, healing properties, and Beltane rites. You can still see the remains of anchors where metal drinking vessels would have been chained for passers-by to use on their journey.
As for me, as much as I’d like to take a drink from the spring, I think the risks would far outweigh any mythical benefits! So I will just need to remind myself that the healing properties of fresh air and exercise will have to do!