The hunt for St Modan’s Well

Exploring Celtic Christan Landscapes in Cowal

Gilbert Markus

Gilbert Markus

ex-priest, professor of history, eminent academic, and the original Faith in Cowal pilgrim trails development officer

A date for your diary.   Let’s go and look for a holy well, Saturday 27th June.

Nineteenth-century Ordnance Survey maps showed a St Modan’s Well on the hillside above St Modan’s Church, Kilmodan in Glendaruel.  [They also showed a St Modan’s Chapel, but that is a red herring, as it is actually a pre-historic cairn, so we can leave that aside.]

St Modan's Well (and the misidentified St Modan's Chapel) on OS 6 inch 1st edn map [courtesy of National Library of Scotland]
St Modan’s Well (and the misidentified St Modan’s Chapel) on OS 6 inch 1st edn map [courtesy of National Library of Scotland]

The Cowal Archaeological Society visited the well in the 1960s and recorded: ‘This spring seems to have been backed by fairly large stones and 20 or 30 quartz pebbles were found’.  Quartz pebbles have long been used as an expression of prayer or devotion in burials, holy wells, and so on.

January 2015 036The site of the well was later covered in commercial forestry, and in the 1970s the Ordnance Survey people could no longer find it.  But now the coniferous horror has been cleared, and the land has been taken over by the Colintraive and Glendaruel Development Trust.  Volunteers from that area, and anyone else who wants to come along, will gather on the morning of Saturday 27th June, and spread out over this part of the hill to find the well.  Once we have found it (if we can find it) we can begin to make something of it, connecting St Modan’s Well to St Modan’s Church (where there is a fine collection of medieval sculpture), and perhaps restoring some integrity to the well if it has been damaged by forestry operations.

If you’d like to come, send an email by the contact button on the right, or direct to, and express an interest.  I will contact you nearer the time to (a) send you a copy of a leaflet about our quest and (b) to let you know exactly where and when we will meet.

Looking forward to meeting some of you, and hoping to benefit from St Modan’s interecession as we stagger about on the hillside. G

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