Dunino Den - Our History in a Nutshell
by John Cumming
Sacred sites in my opinion should have an incredibly special connection to those who see them as sacred. The site which I feel especially connected to is Dunino Den. Due to its remote location the site remains unheard of to most people but for those who are lucky enough to visit this place the experience is truly magical.
Located in the East Neuk of Fife on the road connecting St Andrews (the home of Golf) and Anstruther (the home of Fish and Chips), Dunino is a village commonly overlooked by most motorists who drive through it. The village is home to a few houses, a small school and a church, a path from which leads down into the Sacred Grove and Holy Well. The Grove and Well are both ancient and were used by our ancestors, however, unlike many of the famous ancient sites it remains unnoticed.
On entering the Den, visitors are met by the mystical Holy Well that is located on the edge of a rock face that plummets ten or fifteen feet down to a Burn (Scottish word for stream) which runs peacefully below. An ancient staircase carved into the rock leads down to the forest floor and to the Grove which is a oasis from the modern world. Many carvings can be found around this site. however, most are modern and not the work of those who used the Den thousands of years ago; they do add to the mystical nature of the Den though and are very interesting to look at.
Many of the people who visit Dunino Den today still use it in the same way as our ancestors. Many see it as a gateway to the otherworld, ribbons and messages can be found hanging from the trees as tokens of remembrance for deceased relatives and friends who have passed on. Others also make monetary offerings by placing coins into the rock face and it is said to be bad luck if you remove any of the money from the Den.
For myself, when I enter Dunino Den I feel completely connected to my ancestors. The Den has remained almost completely unchanged since they inhabited it. Despite the fact that the Den is usually empty I never feel alone there, I am comforted by the bird song, the peaceful sound of the Burn and the dazzling sunshine which glimmers through the leaves above. This atmosphere has never left Dunino and I hope that the magic of the Den can be shared with all who truly seek it.
A Reflection of Our History
Before entering Dunino Den, visitors must first follow the path which lies adjacent to the cemetery and a quaint rural Church. Where the Church lies is said to be the location of a Stone Circle which was destroyed. Hints of the long-gone circle still exist, stone blocks remain scattered around the Church grounds and parts of the old stones have been used in the structure of the Church building itself.
Unlike the Stones, Dunino Den wasn’t destroyed. To this day it remains hidden amongst the trees. Rumors of a sinister nature have immerged over the years which say that Dunino Den was for human sacrifices. How someone could possible conjure up this idea about such a tranquil and peaceful place is beyond me. Dunino Den is a place of healing and reflection, a place where we can look to our past and dream of the future.
If we summarize Dunino Den we can see how its story reflects our wider history. The Den was sacred to our ancestors and its wonder has now been passed on to us. Despite the fact that the world that we live in and surrounding landscape have been changed throughout history, Dunino Den has remained just as sacred and magical as it was to our ancestors. It is the secret within the forest which gives great gifts to those who make the journey down the path.
Make the Journey
If you are ever in Scotland, particularly in Fife please visit Dunino Den.
• Leave Anstruther and follow the B9131 until you come to here:
• Turn right and follow the minor road.
• Turn left at the first turn and follow the road to the Church car park. Then follow the path which lies alongside the cemetery into the forest where you will find Dunino Den.
• The ground and ancient stairs can be very slippery if wet so do wear appropriate footwear if you decide to visit.