Be Oban Minded this summer
Follow in the footsteps of royalty to Oban, the west coast’s premier holiday destination. This charming town captures visitor’s hearts at first sight as they approach from atop the ‘King’s Highway’-Bealach-an-Righ. Nestled between the mountains and the sea, An t-Òban, which means ‘Little Bay’ in Gaelic, impressed even Queen Victoria, who called it ‘one of the finest spots we have seen.’
Heralded as the ‘Seafood Capital of Scotland’, Oban’s award-winning restaurants dish up pier-to-plate- including some of the tastiest fish and chips in Britain. Oban is paradise for history buffs. The area boasts ruins of many castles, and in its sparkling waters lie some of the most remarkable shipwrecks in the British Isles. From the top of McCaig’s Tower, a Victorian recreation of the Roman Colosseum, sightseers enjoy sweeping views of the wee town, mountains and lush green islands that have inspired artists for centuries. As well as the regular Caledonian MacBrayne ferries, Oban plays host to some magnificent tall ships, ex-herring drifters, cruise liners, and occasionally the Waverley paddle steamer. At Ganavan, a new cycle path connects Oban to the neighbouring village of Dunbeg, where the MacDougall stronghold, Dunstaffnage castle, overlooks the Firth of Lorn.
Stevenson Lighthouse guides boats into Oban Bay
Those on the genealogy trail can find clan tartans and unique Scottish gifts in Oban’s friendly shops, and a plethora of pubs offer a seat and a welcoming dram. There is plenty of Highland hospitality on offer from welcoming B and Bs to luxury hotels to fine touring and camping parks. And with its central location, Oban is a perfect base for day trips all over the west coast.
Oban is the ‘Gateway to the Isles’, and it’s just a ferry ride away to enchanting isles such as Lismore, Mull, Iona, Coll, Tiree and Barra. Outdoors activities abound, from relaxing boat tours, cycling, beach combing, diving, hill- walking, kayaking or fishing-it’s easy to get out in the pure Highland air and leave the workaday world behind.
Nearby Appin may be best known as the place to catch the passenger ferry to Lismore, but this scenic and friendly village makes a fine stop for a day trip or a longer break. Bounded by lochs and mountain peaks, the blend of seascapes and mountains is out of a fairytale. No wonder Appin is part of the Lynn of Lorn National Scenic Area- one of only 40 in Scotland. The villages of Ballachulish, Duror, Appin Village and Port Appin are the main settlements. For such a rural area, there are top rate shops, restaurants, pubs and lodging in Appin, providing a true west Highland experience. One of the best preserved medieval tower houses in western Scotland, Castle Stalker, made famous as Castle Aaargh in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, overlooks the Lynn of Lorne. This brooding castle is a much-loved photo spot for visitors.
Benderloch and Loch Etive-Exploring the area north of the Connel Bridge
Historic and charming villages north of Oban are perfect for exploring, whether on a day trip or staying over for a few days.
North Connel is an attractive hamlet on the north side of Loch Etive just five miles from Oban. Landmarks include the Falls of Lora Hotel, built in 1894, and St. Oran’s Church, built in 1888, which features beautiful stained glass windows and lovely views of Loch Etive.
Connel Bridge over the Falls of Lora
Connel is best known for its cantilever bridge over the rushing Falls of Lora. When it was constructed for the Connel-Ballachulish Railway in 1903, it was the second longest spanning railroad bridge in Britain, second only to the Forth Bridge. Visitors might recognise it from the 1981 Donald Sutherland film Eye of the Needle.
From nearby Oban and the Isles Airport, or Connel Airfield, flights can be taken to many of the west coast islands, as well as scenic tours from the air that give the intrepid visitor a bird’s eye view of the beautiful islands and coastline.
Loch Etive reaches the sea at Connel. The name Etive is believed to mean ‘little ugly one’ from the Gaelic goddess associated with the loch- though the beautiful views over this scenic loch belie that name. Home to seals and other exciting wildlife, it is very deep, with depths up to 200 metres.
Just seaward of the mouth of the loch is 13th century Dunstaffnage Castle, built on a stronghold of the kingdom of Dál Riata until the ninth century, and possibly its centre at one time. It is believed to have held the Stone of Destiny, the block used in the coronation of Scottish monarchs, before its transfer to Scone Palace.
In the parish of Ardchattan, on the north shore, stands the beautiful ruin of historic St. Modan's Priory, founded in the 13th century for Cistercian monks. It is said that Robert Bruce held the last parliament in which the Gaelic language was used here.
Headed north about five miles, the road cuts across the low-lying peninsula of Benderloch en route to Loch Creran. Barcaldine Castle, which dates to the early 17th century, can be seen from the main road, overlooking the loch. Privately owned, the castle opens to visitors in summer. Down the road is the Scottish Sea Life Centre, a fascinating and weatherproof day out for the whole family. Tralee Beach is a lovely spot with shingle at one end and sand dunes at the other- a perfect location for a stroll. Camping is popular here, with several friendly campsites and touring parks. The wreck of the Breda, sunk by a German Heinkel bomber in WWII and one of the most dived wreck sites, is just offshore.
World-class food, stunning scenery, fascinating history and a wide choice of outdoor activities- it’s no wonder Oban and Lorn is one of Scotland’s most popular west coast holiday destinations!
Let Imagine Alba help you explore Oban and Lorn like a local with a walking or driving tour customised to your interests and pace. Discover Oban or further afield in Argyll, Glen Coe or the Scottish Highlands. Contact us today to start planning your ultimate Oban holiday!