Coffin Road, Bealach Eorabhat, South Harris
Start location: Ceann a Bhaigh, Loch Stocinis, Bays (NG 080 968)
End location: A859, Traigh Losgaintir (NG 115 931)
Geographical area: Western Isles
Path Type: Coffin Road
Path distance: 5.6km
Accessibility info: Suitable for pedestrians
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Our route description is the opposite way to that which the coffin bearers would have travelled. Starting at the north end, the first part of the track is over the old line of the public road. It then heads to the summit over a track and then a grassy path. The descent to Ceann a Baigh Mhor (Bayhead) is very boggy. There are waymarker posts at intervals to help keep travellers on track.
For those considering mountainbiking the route, this clip from BBC Alba's series Kerry 's Kirsty: Rothan gu Robhanais gives an idea of what to expect.
OS Landranger 14 (Tarbert & Loch Seaforth)
This route has a long-standing reputation of being a coffin road from the east of the island to the west. The old burial grounds were on the machair of the west, there being insufficient depth of soil on the rocky east side. At intervals there are stone cairns which are said to have been added to by coffin bearers and acted as resting places for the coffins en route.
Some say that the story of this route having been a coffin road is merely a legend. It is reported not to have been used by a funeral party in living memory and not even the name of the last person to be carried across has been handed down. In a way, perhaps that isn't suprising as the building of the Golden Road in the late nineteenth century will have made road access to the Bays district of South Harris much easier - if it was used as a coffin road it was likely a long time ago.
Bill Lawson's book Harris in History and Legend tells the tale of a funeral party carrying a coffin through the pass. When they stopped for a rest, they heard a noise from inside the coffin and upon opening it, discovered the deceased wasn't dead after all, so she was carried back east. He also relates that the route was known to have been used as a track from the west to Loch Stockinish and the east as long ago as the 1500s. However the route has been used at different times, it's certainly very old and the Heritage Paths project would very much welcome more information about it.
This coffin road has been the inspration for a best-selling book - Peter May's Coffin Road.