NS 00285 84468 – St Modan’s Well has for centuries been merely a hole in the ground; hidden on a hillside above Kilmodan Church. Even if you had the exact co-ordinates you might have missed it. You simply had to know where it was. At one point it was lost entirely due to changes in surface drainage caused by forestry work, Then, in the 1970’s, the Forestry Commission erected a standing stone nearby, to make sure they didn’t further damage the site. Nowadays, this site is under the care of Colintraive and Glendaruel Development Trust (CGDT) and the well has been marked with a wooden structure so that it’s easier to find.
The walk to get there, and the crisp, clear water issuing from the well, are both experiences worthy of your time and attention. The route to St Modan’s Well takes you through Stronafian Community Forest, which is also managed by CGDT (the same people behind The Loch Lomond and Cowal Way). And what a wonderful job they have done with the grounds! The trail is waymarked and easy to follow; replete with incredible wooden sculptures to enjoy, and a picnic bench with a great view, near Lephinkill chambered cairn. The whole loop should take no more than 2hrs at an easy pace.
Park your car in the large lay-by just above Glendaruel village, at ///markets.zaps.both. If you’ve visited Kilmodan Church first, you may wish to leave your car or bicycle there, and walk out of the village to find Stronafian Community Forest. The start of the route is easy to find as it’s marked by a large wooden welcome sign just by the roadside at ///slippers.shortage.saved. The route takes you up a set of steps toward a recently installed stone circle with another wooden sign at it’s centre. Follow the path up past the circle as it ascends sharply eastwards through the woods and then bends north, routing you above a waterfall.
It’s a short, but steep ascent if you’re not used to hiking, so take your time heading up through the forest, there’s so much to see! The natural beauty and biodiversity of the forest is evident regardless of the season. The path is marked with yellow plastic circles mounted to the trees, but also with wonderful sculptures, benches, bridges over burns, and painted stones. The purpose of the community path is to loop you up to Lephinkill neolithic chambered cairn. Once you’ve conquered the steep climb, the path rises gently toward the cairn – and the picnic spot – with commanding views over the valley. It then continues north before eventually returning you to the road.
However, if you wish to find the holy well, then you must stray from the main path. After the cairn, the path heads north before turning west at ///monorail.tinsel.enacts and descending through an avenue cleared between fir trees. Standing at this junction, there is a sign directing you straight ahead for St Modan’s Well. The trail here is not as distinct as the path leading down through the trees but you should be able to see the wooden well erected near St Modan’s Well, located to the northwest of where you stand. As you head down the trail, you should also be able to see a solitary standing stone further down the hillside; this is where you need to be.
The well itself is nondescript; the pool of water over which the wooden well sculpture now sits, accompanied by the standing stone (pictured below from ///february.defender.emulating) is not precisely where the ancient well was situated. Changes to surface drainage, due to Forestry work, made this secondary pool more of a feature than the original wellspring. The actual holy well is found just a little further upstream, to your right as you look down at the new structure. The original well has been marked by some stone flags, and taking a drink from it made easier by new pipe works but aside from that, and a few white quartz stones left as offerings, it remains as it always was; a humble hole in the ground.
From here, you can either head back uphill to the main junction, or simply walk the trail downhill as it follows the stream then rejoins the main path. This stream crosses the meandering path twice more, as it strikes out directly to the River Ruel, and in both spots it pools. In these pools you may find more white stones; offerings from pilgrims who were not able to find the well, but have at least identified the stream that springs from it!