January 12, 2024 7 min read
The small seaside town of Oban is located on the west coast of Scotland. Nestled in a sheltered bay, Oban has become a popular tourist destination thanks to its beautiful scenery, proximity to the islands and attractions such as the Oban Whisky Distillery. Beaches line the coast to either side of the town and the island of Kerrera provides a buffer against the Atlantic ocean, making the bay of Oban a great destination for sailboats, cruises and even the occasional dolphin or whale.
The summer months are extremely busy and the population swells to over twenty thousand. If you plan to visit from mid May to the start of September, book as much as you can in advance. Tourist attractions, tours, restaurants and cafes tend to be fully booked during the summer months. Alternatively, April to mid May and mid September to October are much quieter, the weather is still mild and the town has not yet wound down for the winter months. Of course you can travel to Oban during the winter months and will definitely see a reduction in hotel prices but many tourist spots, cafes and activities tend to reduce operating hours or shut fully during this time, the weather and daylight hours can also be limiting as many things to see and do in Oban are outside.
What to do
Oban is a haven for wildlife and outdoor enthusiasts, whisky lovers and golfers. As this part of Scotland is very remote and towns and villages tend to be few and far between, a car allows you a bit more flexibility and the ability to explore a little further afield. However, there is plenty to see and do within walking distance of the town centre.
Photo by @dirkmurer
Dunstaffanage castle and chapel is located in Dunbeg, a ten minute drive from Oban. The castle was built before 1240 by Duncan MacDougall, grandson of Somerled, known as the ‘King of the Isles’. For a small fee you can explore the castle and the small museum nearby. The grounds, the chapel and the surrounding forest and beaches are open to the public at no cost. Poppies Cafe is located on the opposite side of the harbour and is a short drive from the castle, a perfect spot for lunch with a view of Dunstaffnage and Ardmucknish Bay.
The most famous structure in the town is arguably Mccaigs tower, a colosseum like structure that sits high above the town and is visible in most photos. The tower was commissioned by local banker John Stuart Mccaig to help invigorate the local economy and serve as a monument to the Mccaig family. The tower provides an excellent view of Oban and the Isles of Kerrera and Lismore.
Dunollie castle is located a scenic ten minute walk from the town centre. The grounds are open to visitors for a small fee but anyone can eat at the neighbouring Kettle Garden Cafe. Keep on walking past Dunollie castle and you will soon find Ganavan sands, a strip of beautiful beaches. Battleship hill is also a short walk from the castle, the hill offers 360 degree views of the area.
There are also many wildlife boat trips on offer. Sealife Adventures offers whale search and wildlife watching trips. All of their trips visit the Corryvrecken, one of the world's largest whirlpools. Seafari Adventures include the Corryvrecken, Iona and Staffa. A highlight is the Puffins and Fingal's cave on Staffa that features volcanic rock columns. Basking Shark Scotland offers boat trips and the chance to see whales, dolphins, basking sharks and seals. They also offer snorkelling trips. Puffin Dive Centre and shop offers scuba diving courses and taster scuba dives as well as other water activities such as paddle boarding.
A trip to Oban would not be complete without the world famous Oban distillery. The single malt distillery was established in 1794 and offers guided tours, tasting experiences and a bar well stocked with Whisky. Oban is also a great spot for golfers. Play a round of golf at Glencruitten Golf Club, this 18 hole gem is a short drive from the centre of town. A little further afield there is also the Taynuilt Golf Club, Dalmally Golf Club and Dragons Tooth Golf Club. All less than an hours drive from Oban.
Where to stay
Oban offers a range of accommodation options including hotels, Airbnbs and traditional bed and breakfasts. The Perle hotel is a great option located in the heart of the town. The hotel also has a lovely bar and serves delicious food at the Michelin awarded Baab Meze and Grill restaurant. The Oban Whisky Vaults is also centrally located, the former townhouse also has an impressive selection of Whiskies. No 26 by the sea is one of Obans newest and most luxurious hotels and is also dog friendly. The hotel is just a few minutes walk from the centre of town and has impressive views of the bay.
A little further from town, but still within walking distance of the town centre are the The manor house and restaurant and the five star B&B Dungallan country house. Both offer panoramic views of the bay and grand furnishings.
Where to eat
Oban has earned the nickname ‘seafood capital of Scotland’, and for good reason! Fishing remains a key industry in the Oban area so it’s the perfect place to sample the fresh seafood. The first port of call has to be the Green Seafood Hut, located next to the Calmac Ferry Terminal. This takeaway shack is easy to spot thanks to the long queues of tourists eager to try the fresh lobster, oysters, mussels and freshly prepared sandwiches.
Upscale seafood restaurant Ee-Usk and its sister restaurant, Piazza boast panoramic views of the harbour. The beautiful glass fronted buildings with distinct red roofs sit metres from the sea and are ideal for boat watching. Ee-Usks menu offers a large selection of seafood whilst Piazza offers Italian dining. The waterfront fish house is another local favourite, offering a seafood dominant menu.
Oban is also home to some delicious fish and chip shops. George Street Restaurant and Fish Shop offer take-away fish and chips as well as a sit-in restaurant offering a selection of seafood, steaks and fine wines. Nories Fish and Chips is another friendly fish and chip shop serving traditional scottish bites
For those not too fond of seafood, Cuan Mor offers a variety of cuisines and the bar is well stocked and offers cocktails. Baab Meze and Grill also offers delicious eastern mediterranean cuisine. Oban Chocolate Company is a must-see during your visit. The shop sells handmade chocolate and the cafe sells teas, coffees, chocolate tasting boards and their infamous waffles
Where to drink
Oban is home to many cosy and lively pubs, all conveniently located in town. Markie Dans offers great food, live music and a popular beer garden. Friday and Saturdays can get very busy, especially in summer. The Oban Inn, established in 1790 offers a great selection of whisky, wines and beers and also live music. The Oban Inn offers outdoor seating which fills up quickly in summer. The lorne bar and beer garden is a little smaller but has a great menu and also gets very busy on the weekends. Right next door is the Whisky Vaults, the perfect spot for whisky lovers, with a huge collection of Whisky as well as spirits, beers and wines. The Whisky Vaults also has a large beer garden, sheltered from the seaside winds.
Where to go to next
The Calmac Ferry port is handily located right next to the train station. Take a day trip from Oban or take a few days to explore the islands after your stay. The Calmac Ferry Port offers ferry crossings to Islands in the local area as well as the inner and outer hebrides. With crossings taking as little as five minutes, why not hop on a ferry and explore the neighbouring islands.
Kerrera is located a quick ferry journey from the port of Gallanach, a short drive from Oban. The island is around four miles long, making it perfect for a day trip. Cyclists and walkers can complete a loop of the island. Stop half way to visit the ruins of Gylen Castle and have a quick bite to eat at the Kerrera Tearoom and Bunkhouse. The island has many rocky beaches, secluded coves and hills that offer lovely views of the sound of Kerrera on one side and the Isle of Mull on the other.
Lismore, gaelic for the ‘Great Garden’ is another close island, just sixty minutes by ferry from Oban. At around ten miles long, it’s the perfect circuit for cyclists. The island boasts over 300 species of wildflower and 130 species of birds, a perfect stop for nature lovers. There are also plenty of ruins to explore and the Isle of Lismore Cafe is located in the middle of the Island.
Mull and Iona
The islands of Mull and Iona are a must see. Exploring them by car is highly recommended. First catch a forty six minute ferry from Oban that takes you to the village of Craignure. It is possible to take your car on the ferry if you book far enough in advance. From Craignure you can explore the nearby Torosay Castle and then drive to the colourful fishing port of Tobermory, made famous on the Childrens TV show, Balamory. Don’t forget to visit the famous Tobermory Distillery whilst you’re there. You can then head to Calgary bay, a pristine white sand beach. There are also plenty of castles and ruins to explore on the island. If you drive to the other end of the island from Craignure, you will find yourself in Fionnphort. Camp close by at the Fidden Farm campsite, next to white sands of Fidden beach.
From Fionnphort you can catch a short ferry ride to the Isle of Iona. Home to Iona Abbey founded by Saint Columba in 563 AD, Iona is described as the birthplace of Christianity in Scotland. It is also the burial place of ancient Scottish kings. There are white sandy beaches to explore and a walk to the top of Dun I, will reward you with panoramic views of the surrounding islands.
Tiree has been nicknamed the Hawaii of the north thanks to its gorgeous beaches, higher than national average sunshine and watersports. The Island is a four hour ferry ride from Oban, stopping at the Isle of Coll on the way. Tiree is perfect for walkers and cyclists with plenty of archaeological remains scattered across the island.
How to get to Oban
Oban is a three hour drive from Edinburgh via the A85, a two hour and twenty minute drive from Glasgow via the A82 and A85 and also accessible by train from Glasgow. The three hour train ride boasts some of Scotland's most beautiful scenery. All islands are accessible from Oban’s ferry terminal.
Comments will be approved before showing up.