Tobar an Spá translates literally as The Spa Well. The name emphasises the medicinal benefit of the water. “Spa” signifies a mineral spring considered to have health-giving properties. Thus, the dedication in this case is secular rather than religious. It is not clear what the beneficial trace minerals are in this case of this well.
A preliminary check of the 238 holy wells listed in County Clare revealed that over 62% of them had religious dedications (Christ/God, Mary and the Saints) (Houlihan 2015, 17). Therefore, Tobar An Spá is a one of the minority (albeit sizeable) of holy wells with a secular dedication.
Houlihan, M. (2015) The Holy Wells of County Clare. Self-published.
Tobar An Spá is roadside on a route way from Kilfenora and Noughaval in the south to Corkscrew Hill and Ballyvaughan in the north of the Burren. It lies about 3.5 kilometres due south of Corkscrew hill.
The townland is Lishylisheen. The name is a phonetic anglicisation of Lios Uí Ghlaisín, a ring fort located about one kilometre south-east of the well. Evidently, the literal translation is the fort of O’Glisheen (O’Donovan and Curry 1997, 74).
The well is set against the gloomy backdrop of commercial evergreens planted on shale. It appears in the form of a spring in the roadside ditch. A track descends onto the road about twenty metres south-west of the well.
O’Donovan J. and Curry E. (1997) The Antiquities of County Clare Ordnance Survey Letters 1839. Clasp Press.
The well is located at the geological interface of limestone and shale. The limestone is located east of the road whereas the shale is west of it. Evidently the watercourse proceeds under the porous limestones until it meets the impermeable shale. The water is then forced over ground and appears in the form of a spring. At some point in the past, the folk belief must have taken hold that the spring had supernatural properties i.e. the power to heal medicinally and spiritually. In particularly wet spells, the flow of water can be quite torrential.
The water is renowned as a cure for head ailment (Doolan 169, 1991). Tobar Cholmáin, Cahermackerilla is located only three kilometres north-west of Tobar An Spá. Curiously, the well and a nearby arched stone were also noted in the past for relieving head ache.
O’Connell, J. (ed.) 1991. The Book of the Burren. Lores and Cures and Blessed Wells. Lelia Doolan. Tír Eolas.