In the days of the smugglers, Alva had a roaring trade in illicit whisky.

Among their number were John and James Henderson, Laird Morris and old Willie Cairns.

Cairns often helped Morris in his operations up Alva Glen and supplied the whisky to various buyers all along the Hillfoots as far as Stirling.

One night when he was returning from Stirling where he had sold a small amount of illegal whisky, he met a gauger in a field near Alva, which is now the Johnstone Park.

A fight broke out between the two men and became so vicious that by the time it was over, Cairns believed the exciseman was dead.

The gauger had a small sword on him but it was never drawn during the fight. Cairns now took the sword, and, thinking his opponent was dead, he cut his own chest and arms with the weapon.

He did this to prove to the authorities that the exciseman had attacked him and he had killed him in self-defence after he had drawn his sword.

In the end the incident was not as serious as Cairns had thought. The exciseman recovered and nothing more was ever heard regarding the fight that had taken place. The only people who knew about what truly happened were his fellow smugglers who teased him about his self-inflicted wounds, which they called tattoos, and the ‘good soldier blood’ that ran through his veins for having taken on the gauger in the first place. His hero status was confirmed.

During the summer months when visitors came to Alva to walk up to Ben Cleuch, many a tale was told to them about the smugglers. On the road up to the hill, through Glenwinnel Glen, the Smugglers’ Well was pointed out.

A story was told of an old Alva worthy and how he and a friend were on their way to the back hills for a day’s fishing and sat down by this well for some refreshments. The old man laid his whisky flask on the upper edge of the well, and unnoticed by him, the stopper fell out, so the contents of the flask ended up mixing with the water.

Tasting what he thought was the pure water, he was surprised at its flavour, and trying again, he exclaimed: "Faith lads, this beats a’! The smugglers hae been here again!"

His delight soon turned to an anticlimax when he realised what had happened as he tried to take a swig from his flask further up the hill.