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The Coffin Roads

Journeys to the West

by Ian Bradley

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ISBN: 9781788855082
Published: 07 Jul 2022
Format: E-Book
Extent: 192
Publisher: Birlinn Ltd
Imprint: Birlinn
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About the Book

'Coffin roads' along which bodies were carried for burial are a marked feature of the landscape of the Scottish Highlands and islands – many are now popular walking and cycling routes. This book journeys along eight coffin roads to discover and explore the distinctive traditions, beliefs and practices around dying, death and mourning in the communities which created and used them.

The result is a fascinating snapshot into place and culture. After more than a century when death was very much a taboo subject, this book argues that aspects of the distinctive West Highland and Hebridean way of death and approach to dying and mourning may have something helpful and important to offer to us today.

Routes covered in this book are:

The Kilmartin Valley – the archetypal coffin road in this ritual landscape of the dead.

The Street of the Dead on Iona – perhaps the best known coffin road in Scotland.

Kilearnadil Graveyard, Jura – a perfect example of a Hebridean graveyard.

The coffin road through Morvern to Keil Church, Lochaline - among the best defined and most evocative coffin roads today.

The Green Isle, Loch Shiel, Ardnamurchan - the oldest continuously used burial place anywhere in Europe.

The coffin road on Eigg – with its distinctive ‘piper’s cairn’ where the coffin of Donald MacQuarrie, the 'Great Piper of Eigg', was rested.

The coffin road from Traigh Losgaintir to Loch Stocinis on Harris - popular with walkers and taken as the title for a best-selling thriller by Peter May.

The coffin road on Barra – A detailed study of burial practices on Barra in the early 1950s provides a fascinating record of Hebridean attitudes to dying, death and mourning.

The Author

Ian Bradley

Ian Bradley has written over 40 books and is well-known as a  broadcaster, journalist and lecturer. He is also a Church of Scotland minister and a respected academic whose enthusiasm shines through in all that he does.

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