You might find it hard to believe, but the wee town of Oban is actually the largest town in Argyll & the Isles. It’s tiny, gently nestled between the sea and the mountains. There’s really nowhere for it to go, it cannot grow, cannot expand.
But trust me when I say that it got so much to offer.
Oban is often described in the best way possible. Someone will be quick to point out that it’s in fact the Seafood Capital of Scotland, with the evidence being all the fisher boats delivering freshly caught fish to local restaurants every day. Others will tell you that it’s the Gateway to the Isles, with CalMac ferries and mini-ferries leaving Oban for the tiny Isle of Kerrera, Isle of Mull, Isle of Jura and Islay several times a day. In fact, there are year-round ferries taking you to 25 inhabited islands, imagine that. Even The Guardian will be quick to point out that it’s in fact a “very important centre of Gaelic culture”.
But yet, few tourists actually make the journey. Especially when compared to the hoards of tourists that journeys through the Highlands each year. Obviously, it’s a bit of a de-tour for those heading towards Fort William, Loch Ness and Inverness – but it’s certainly not impossible.
A Scottish Roadtrip Itinerary: Glencoe + Oban
I fell in love with Oban two years ago, I thought it was absolutely breathtaking. So, when my parents announced they would be visiting Scotland for my birthday, I knew I had to take them to Oban.
In order to show them the best of both worlds, I decided that the best weekend roadtrip itinerary for us would involve a wee loop: We would drive from Glasgow to Glencoe (approximately 2 hours), then head down the westcoast towards Oban (approximately 1 hour). On the second day, we decided to travel from Oban to Inveraray (approximately 50 minutes), and on day three, we travelled from Inveraray to Arrochar (40 minutes), then back to Glasgow (approximately 1,5 hours). This way, my family would see both the Highlands, the westcoast and the deep forests of Argyll in one weekend. It was the perfect roadtrip itinerary.
A roadtrip through Scotland is an experience I thoroughly recommend, and I do hope that you will include Oban in your next itinerary. I promise you won’t regret it.
But in case you need some extra convincing, here’s 6 amazing reasons for why you should go to Oban.
Romantic Evening Strolls Along Oban Harbour
Ah, this is something that cannot be missed, in my opinion. Oban is one of the most quaint and picturesque towns you’ll ever come across, so just imagine how magical it is to slowly stroll along the harbour at sunset – hand in hand with someone special while you’re watching the fishermen coming back in after a hard day at work. Or imagine walking there in the evening, long after the sun has disappeared behind the horizon, and just gaze up at the billions of stars above you.
Oban is romantic. You should try it.
Try The Amazing Oban Seafood
Rememeber how I mentioned that Oban is the Seafood Capital of Scotland? Yeah, I was being serious. It’s actually true. Oban is packed with amazing seafood restaurants, and most of them get their food directly delivered from the fisherboats anchoring up near the harbour. The food is fresh, tasty and absolutely amazing.
It’s hard not to be impressed.
Admire The View From McCaig’s Tower
McCaig’s Tower is basically the crown on Oban’s head. The tower was erected by John Stuart McCaig between 1897 and his death, which was suddenly from cardiac arrest, in 1902. It was never finished, and today it offers mostly an empty shell of a building – but with an amazing view.
McCaig wanted to build a monument to his family, and he had planned an elaborate structure meant to resemble the Colosseum in Rome. He intended it to be an art gallery and a museum, and to include a massive statue of himself, his parents and his siblings, of course. As one does.
Even though the building was never completed, it’s definitely worth the trip.
Visit The Famous Oban Distillery
You cannot go to Scotland without visiting a whisky distillery, and in my humble opinion there’s no better place to do so than at the Oban Distillery. I must say, during my three years in Scotland I’ve visited 8 whisky distilleries, and this is hands down the best distillery tour I’ve ever been on.
Our guide, Amelia, was funny, passionate and so, so knowledgeable. Even my sister, who is underage and didn’t drink (and she certainly wouldn’t be drinking whisky anyway), had a great time at Oban Distillery. I can highly recommend booking a tour when you’re in Oban – and please ask for Amelia to be your guide. You’ll have the time of your life, I swear.
Amazing Day Trips From Oban
If you’re of the adventurous kind, then I can assure you that Oban is the perfect place for you. As already mentioned, there are daily trips taking you to magical places such as Isle of Mull, Isle of Jura and many, many more. There’s also numerous day trips offering you the chance to see a seal colony – or, for the more daring, taking you a bit further out on a whale safari.
I can highly recommend that you catch a ride with the CalMac ferry to discover the islands. The scenery is stunning, the hikes are magnificent and the weather is… well, unpredictable – but in a very Scottish and charming way. If you’re bringing the little ones with you, why not spend the day pony trekking across Isle of Mull?
Personally, I’m dreaming of spending a weekend completely isolated in this little bunkhouse on Kerrera, a tiny island right outside of Oban. I’m still trying to convince my boyfriend how awfully romantic it would be to spend a few nights there, hiking during the day and cuddling up in front of the fireplace at night. While I’m working on persuading him, you can go first and report back!
Join one of the amazing Oban day trips. I doubt you’ll ever regret it.
Stroll To Dunollie Castle
Dunollie Castle is a small castle ruin located a bit north of Oban, it will take you 20-30 minutes to walk there from the city centre. From the castle ground, you can enjoy the absolutely spectacular view of Kerrera, Isle of Mull and Oban harbour.
There’s a wee museum, a bakery and a gift shop near the castle. It’s the perfect day out – or the perfect stop on your way back from Oban to Glasgow. You can read more about Dunollie Castle here.
Where to stay in Oban?
Oban offers accommodation suitable for any budget. I’ve previously stayed at Backpackers Plus, which has been known as one of the best hostels in Scotland. The rooms are clean and neat, the breakfast is decent and they offer the occassional ceilidh and drinking opportunities. I mean, what more can a backpacker in Scotland possibly wish for?
When travelling with my family, we decided to book some rooms at Oban Bay Hotel, which is perfectly located at the seafront. It’s an OK hotel, nothing more and nothing less. I just checked my link, and I see now that they have a spa? Did not notice that when I was there? Well, now you are aware of it at least!
Where to eat in Oban
Well, it cannot be said too many times – guys, Oban is the place to go for seafood!
However, I do recommend that you book ahead of time. Oban is a small town and restaurants fill up quickly, especially during the weekends.
One place I don’t recommend, on the other hand, is Piazza. I have a rule of thumb that I don’t post negative reviews here, so I’m not really going to elaborate on that. Just keep in mind that there are so many amazing restaurants in Oban, so steer clear of that one in particular and have an absolute feast somewhere else.
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