St. Bernard's Well

Venue details
About the venue

The few visitors that jump the shut iron gate into St. Bernard's Well are usually imbibing something stronger than the legendry mineral water sourced from this area over the centuries.

The circular Roman temple structure stands in a classical setting with its location in a deep valley, with the green woodland of residential New Town parks to either side and the Water of Leith flowing below.

Although the setting of the building has not changed in 200 years, St. Bernard's Well is usually closed (has been since 1940), except for special days such as Doors Open Day.

For decades wealthy holiday makers would visit Edinburgh to partake of the well's waters. Various claims were made about its medicinal properties - a cure for arthritis, back ache, and even total blindness. Others have described the taste of the water as having the "odious twang of hydrogen gas" or even like "the washings from a foul gun barrel". As you walk along the Water of Leith path you may even still detect this dull metallic smell.

The St Bernard's Well as we have it today was constructed in 1789 to a design by celebrated Edinburgh landscape painter Alexander Nasymth drawing inspiration from the Temple of Vesta at Tivoli in Italy. At the centre of an open pillared dome stands a marble statue of Hygieia, Goddess of Health.

The way that the New Town gardens wrap around the Water of Leith fits in with the neo-classical idea of having a country in the city.

The best time to visit St. Bernard's Well is an hour after a heavy rainstorm, when rainwater from the Pentlands thunders through the channels under the Dean Bridge.