A Visit to Oban, Scotland

Oban is probably my favorite town in Scotland. I'm not sure why but I'm drawn to it and the whole Argyll area. It feels like home. What's great about staying near Oban is there is so much to see and do. The ferries go out to the islands. There are castles and neolithic sites. If you need to buy something or eat out, there are plenty of shops and restaurants.

Wikimedia Commons. View of Oban from Druim Mor. Photographer: Dorcas Sinclair
Oban is known as the Gateway to the Islands and means "the little bay" in Gaelic. Archaeological remains say the place now known as Oban has been occupied since Mesolithic times.

Dunollie Castle
Dunollie Castle sits at the north end of the bay and, long before this castle existed, around the 7th century, the fortified site was one of the main centers of the Celtic Kingdom of Dalriada. Dunollie Castle was home to the MacDougall Clan. They were descendants of the Lord of the Isles.

Prior to the 19th century, few people lived in Oban. Its main industries were fishing, trading, ship building and quarrying. John and Hugh Stevenson were known as Oban's Founding Fathers. They established a boat building yard, a tannery and a brewery which became Oban distillery in 1794.

In 1847 Queen Victoria described Oban as "one of the finest spots we have seen." The railway followed in 1880 and Oban became a popular tourist attraction. Over a million people visit each year.

"Oban Bay, Skottland", painted by Hans Gude in 1889

Click on the above painting to see what Oban looked like in 1889.

Oban is now considered a resort town. The general population is just over 8000 but during the high season, summer, the number of inhabitants can rise to 25,000.

To me Oban is like a little city or maybe a wee city. :) The first time I started driving through it, I almost panicked because it really looks and feels like a bigger city at first. But before I knew it, we were in the country again. I was shocked at how small it actually was in terms of the space it occupies. It isn't all that difficult to drive through, but more fun than that is walking through it and looking at all the beautiful historic buildings.

We stayed in a cottage about four miles from Oban. On our first day there, we decided to explore part of Oban. We parked on the side of a street and had breakfast in a tiny cafe. Great food! After that we walked toward the waterfront to do some shopping. Oban has several grand old hotels. Above is the Caledonian.

A nice view of the waterfront. Kayakers were out. It was a beautiful day.

Boats and islands on the opposite side of the bay.

A grand Victorian hotel, the Columba Hotel.

The Iona Shop and Caledonian Hotel

Another shot of the Caledonian.
 The Caledonian Hotel was built in 1882. During World War II, it was used as a base by the Royal Navy. It has since been restored beautifully. It has 59 rooms and the waterfront location looks ideal.

More waterfront buildings.

A lovely boat or yacht and the islands beyond.

This is a view of the bay from on board the ferry as we headed out to Isle of Mull a couple days later. It was a cold, windy, cloudy day.
Clocktower outside Oban Station
When we returned it was around 5 pm. With the clouds, it wasn't very bright for my pictures, but I still enjoyed the walk. The temperature was pretty good and I was glad it wasn't raining.

View of Oban, near the harbor with McCaig's Tower in the background.
McCaig's Tower a folly and prominent landmark in Oban was built in 1897 by local banker, councillor, and Chief Magistrate, John Stuart McCaig. His intention was to provide work for the local stone masons who had been unemployed and provide a monument for the McCaig family. We didn't have time to walk up to it but I intend to in the future. I understand there are gardens inside and it provides spectacular views of Oban Bay and the islands.

 Oban was important during World War II and during the Cold War. The Transatlantic Telephone Cable came ashore at nearby Gallanach Bay. This was the hot line between the US and USSR presidents. Tourism is Oban's largest industry now. Oban also serves as an important port for the ferries going out to the Hebrides.
The Royal Hotel and the Commonwealth flags in Argyll Square
 9.4% of Oban's population speak Scottish Gaelic.
The Royal Hotel

Bossards Patisserie

I took this picture the next day when the weather was too windy and rainy to do more than shop late in the afternoon. It was so bad the ferries couldn't run. Still, it wasn't a bad day because we got to shop for goodies and souvenirs.

Hope you've enjoyed this brief visit to Oban. :)

P.S. I donated a Scotland Basket to the Brenda Novak Online Auction for Diabetes Research. It has lots of Scottish goodies in it, some of which I bought in Oban. Click the below picture to make it larger.

  Click here to check out the auction or bid!



Anonymous said...

Hi Vonda
Hi loves your photos and information you shared of Oban. This place is definitely on my list to visit.
Nicole Laverdure

Vonda Sinclair said...

Thanks, Nicole! You will love Oban!

Angelyn said...

your pictures of Oban are better than mine. Spent a lot of time on that waterfront, waiting to go to Iona. Thanks for posting.

Tamara Hunter said...

Vonda, can I suggest you become a travel writer? LOL! I love the photos and the bit of history woven throughout. Oban is a beautiful place and probably proved quite an inspiration while you were there.

Thanks for sharing!

Vonda Sinclair said...

Angelyn, thanks! I love the waterfront. And I hope to go to Iona next time.

Vonda Sinclair said...

Tamara, I would love to be a travel writer! :) Yes, Oban is very inspiring. I love it there. Thanks for checking it out!

Vanessa Holland said...

What a charming town! It looks like a great place to visit. Terrific pictures, Vonda!

Vonda Sinclair said...

Thanks, Vanessa! It is very charming and welcoming. I love the whole area.

Tami Dee said...

Oh, you bring Scotland to life with your stories and photos. One of these days I want to go. :-)

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Vonda - you did it again. You took me to a place where we had so much fun and it was the first stop on our 23 days of exploring beautful Scotland. We also met an English couple from the Isle of Wight who knew the area and showed us around, took us with them to Mull and we had supper at that grand fish place at the end of the wharf where the royal navy docked. So many memories came back see all those shops and you talking about the ferry. We took a bus once we got on Mull and went out to where you can take another ferry over to Ione. It was late and we just looked at Ione. So many memories. Thanks one more time. :)

Vonda Sinclair said...

Thank you, Tami! I hope you get to visit Scotland soon. You would love it!

Vonda Sinclair said...

Paisley, thank you! I'm so glad I brought back vivid and happy memories for you. Oban and the surrounding area is so enjoyable.

Gerri Bowen said...

Your photos and comments are almost as good as visiting, Vonda. Thank you for sharing. :)

Vonda Sinclair said...

Thanks so much for checking it out, Gerri! I'm glad you liked them!