Dunino Den

Dunino is a Scottish village six miles from nowhere. I started out from St. Andrews on foot, believing that because it was beautiful, sunny afternoon it would be a nice walk. I finally got off the road at 2 PM, just in time for the sun to start setting.

I had come to Dunino to see the fairy well located behind the parish church. After walking through the equally scarce villages of Prior Muir and Stravithie I was surprised that Dunino even had a church. But the path kept its word, and I knew I was on the right path.

The fairy well at Dunino is interesting because it hasn’t been re-christened as a saint’s holy well. People still come to visit it and leave offerings to the fairies, although presumably modern sensibilities shy away from taking a drink of the water.

Centuries of pilgrims have left offerings everywhere. Many are quite recent, while others have been there at least a few decades. Steps carved into the stone lead the way down from the well to the stream edge.

Hundreds of coins are placed in niches in the rock.

The “den” itself is a tiny cave formed in the crevice of two adjacent boulders.

Part of what makes this site so fascinating is its proximity to the parish church. Standing next to the well, one can look up and see a cross rising out of the graveyard. It’s occupied a liminal space between land and water, earth and sky; Pagan and Christian.

A Christian symbol is carved into a stone face containing dozens of fairy offerings.

Even the church yard itself is not free from pagan influences. A tree stump is scattered with coins:

And on the edge of the graveyard an ancient stone believed to be part of an old stone circle is piled with offerings:

The church itself dates from 1826, although certain stones in the graveyard date from earlier. The church was remodelled in 1928.