Friday, June 26, 2015

Tobar Chiarain - St Ciaran's Well, Laimisiadar

I first visited Laimisiader in 1997 by walking in from Borghastan along the route Alasdair Alpin Macgregor describes in the prologue to The Haunted Isles (see book 2, chapter 18). It was only after that visit that I learned there was once a monastic settlement at Laimisiader with a holy well dedicated to St Ciaran. 

So in 2010 I decided to revisit Laimisiader to look for the well. That time I walked the coast from the Gearranan Blackhouses down to Laimisiader. 

The routes to Laimisiader
It was a great cliff-top walk, but when I reached the site of the monastery I could not find the well. These two photos date from that walk in 2010.

Laimisiader (2010)
Laimisiader (2010)
I was disappointed, but it still had been a good walk. Then, a year ago, I came across Finlay MacLeod's book The Healing Wells of the Western Isles (2000). 

It is a great reference book. Regarding Laimisiader it says that anyone with a lingering disease was taken to Ciaran's shrine (near the well), and that the priest would bless them with water from the well. The book also includes the exact location of the well: that it is to the east of a bend in the headland wall. 

Now I had seen this massive stone wall on both visits, but had not even thought of looking east of it because the wall hugs the hill on that side, and you would never suspect there'd be anything in the small (10-foot wide) bit of terrain between the wall and the steep hill. So last May I walked there again from Borghaston. 

Laimisiader (2015)
It was easy to find the bend in the wall, and just east of it was what looked like a small pile of stones.

If you were not looking for the well, would you pay any attention to this pile of stones?
I lifted off the two cover stones to reveal the well. Someone had left a cup there, but I decided against taking a drink as the water was a bit scummy. It was a remarkable little well, and I'd like to thank Finlay MacLeod for his wonderful book. It describes some 80 sites, and I've used it now to find a half dozen remote wells. You can't have a better great day out than combining a Hebridean walk with a search for a once venerated site like this.

St Ciaran's Well

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