Visit the west coast of Scotland and there is every chance you will spend some time in the town of Oban.
This is a guide to Oban, a brief history, a few attractions and highlights for you to enjoy.
Oban stands as the undisputed capital of the western seaboard.
The making of a town
Travel to the west coast of Scotland and there is every chance you will visit the town of Oban, the capital of Scotland’s western seaboard. Oban lies in a crescent shaped bay sheltered by surrounding hills and the nearby island of Kerrara giving protection from the strong westerly winds. The town itself is dominated by McCaig’s Tower, a mock Roman colosseum built by a philanthropic banker in 1897 to provide work for local unemployed stone masons. It is a 10 minute uphill climb from the centre of Oban and gives a rewarding view of the town, the solid stone Victorian houses and the bustling harbour below.
Once used by the Norseman as a safe and sheltered harbour Oban has developed from a small fishing village and a focus point for local trade into a modern centre for tourism. The Victorian era brought the railway and steamships opened the way for Oban to become a gateway to the Western isles to the Inner and Outer Hebrides: Mull, Iona, Coll, Tiree, Barra, South Uist, Colonsay and Lismore.
What to see and do
There is much to see and do in Oban and the immediate area. The visitor is well provided and catered for with many fine shops selling a variety of goods, both local and international, and there is an excellent choice of places to eat and drink, from traditional pubs and hotels to cafes, coffee shops and restaurants. Oban now promotes itself as the ‘seafood capital of Scotland’ and boasts an array of good seafood restaurants to substantiate this claim!. There are many smaller hotels, guest houses and bed & breakfast establishments offering accommodation to suit all.
Oban distillery, identifiable by its tall chimney, has been producing whisky since 1794 and makes for an interesting and informative tour with an opportunity to sample this golden elixir. For more see ‘Whisky’ below.
A small museum situated on the North Pier, Oban War and peace Museum, houses a display of photographs, models and memorabilia; whilst on a crag at the end of the promenade is a reminder of an older time and the ruined remains of Dunollie Castle, a MacDougall family stronghold.
For those visitors preferring the great outdoors Oban has an 18 hole golf course nestling among the hills at Glencruitten, and there are many scenic local walks. There is a leisure centre, swimming pool and ten pin bowling for those days when the weather is not too good. Boats in the harbour offer fishing trips, and the many small roads around Oban make cycling pleasant. Horse riding and pony trekking is available at Achnalaraig Riding Centre.
Venture further afield and northwards to visit Dunstaffnage Castle, an impressive fortification standing on a rocky outcrop at the entrance to Loch Etive built by the MacDougalls and later held by the Clan Campbell. Bonawe historic iron works and furnace, founded in 1753 is the site of a charcoal fuelled ironworks which produced cannonballs for the Napoleonic wars. A more modern attraction is Cruachan Power Station built underground beneath the mountains of Ben Cruachan and the underground tour is indeed unique.
Places to eat
Oban has a fishing tradition and an affinity with the sea going back over the centuries and it therefore comes as no surprise that today it is regarded as the ‘Seafood Capital of Scotland’. The waters around Oban are renowned for their oysters, mussels and langoustine and whilst the quantity and variety of the ‘catch’ landed from the boats in the harbour may not be what it was a century ago the quality almost certainly is. There are also salmon and trout farms in the local waters too.
Visitors to Oban will be spoilt for choice when it comes to eating out and with places to eat and menus to suit all tastes and budgets. Here are just a few:
The Waterfront Restaurant & Bar, The Pier
Eeusk Fish Restaurant, North Pier
Aulay’s Bar, 8 Airds Place
Coaster Wine Bar, Corran Esplanade
Coast, 104 George Street
Just a few of the many. Bon appétit!