Historic Scotland

Opening times

Open year-round; key can be collected between 9am and 4:30pm

 

Overview

Enter the darkened chamber of one of Scotland’s most mysterious sites. No-one knows who made Burghead Well, when they made it, or what it was for.

We do know there was once a great Pictish fort at Burghead, built between 2,000 and 1,500 years ago, though little of it remains today. Tradition held that the hollow visible in the corner of the ancient fort held a well.

When the planned town of Burghead was built in 1808, the well was selected as its water source. Excavations the following year revealed a solid rock chamber, with a flight of stone steps leading down.

Theories about the function of the ‘well’ include:

  • a shrine to Celtic water deities
  • a place of ritual execution
  • an early Christian baptristy
  • a Pictish cult centre, later converted to Christian use