Oban: a quiet port town in the Scottish highlands. Specializing in seafood, whisky, and local history, this little municipality is a scenic gem. Set in a great location, Oban is great for doing a lot of exploring. Fortunately, it’s not quite as busy as some other places in Scotland.
Within Oban limits, the first thing you’ll probably spot is McCaig’s Tower. Hike up to the top for the most amazing views of the Bay.
John Stuart McCaig designed and erected the Tower because he wanted to leave a family legacy behind before his passing. He originally intended the structure to be a museum or gallery, but only the outer walls were completed by John’s death in 1902. It was decided that the outer walls would remain, with a surrounding garden. Although unfinished, the Tower is indeed a legacy to the wealthy banker.
Next on the list of Oban’s must-see’s is the Oban Distillery. The whisky itself has an impressive history; check it out here on their website. Personally, I find their single malt has a beautiful mix of sweet Highland and smokey island flavours, and is well worth the try.
The distillery has a very interesting tour of their operations, and are very proud about the fact that they have never moved or expanded.
Shops & Dining
The little town is home to many unique shops and places to eat, all located in a very walkable downtown area. Most of the stores reflect the essence of Oban life. There are sporting goods, whisky, and touristic shops. I picked up some cute, handmade gifts at Room 15 on Stafford Street.
Each restaurant has a touch of the sea, with some of the best seafood I’ve ever had.
I highly recommend the Waterfront Fishouse Restaurant and the Cuan Mór. The Fishouse has the best mussels (and fish) you’ll ever eat, and the Cuan Mór has an all around great menu with a beautiful aesthetic. Both restaurants have amazing views of the Bay.
The Isles near Oban
From Oban Bay, you can hop on a ferry and visit one of the many islands nearby. Read more about our Three Isles Tour here for the best natural phenomenon in the Hebrides, featuring puffins! Other islands you can visit include:
- Kerrera: home to the ruins of Gylen Castle, Hutcheson’s Monument, and a beautiful Glen.
- Lismore: a tranquil place, famous for its cattle
- Luing: a small historic island, filled with quiet village life
- Scarba: near the infamous Corryvreckan whirlpool, which you can see from the highest parts of the isle.
- Seil: its island status is much debated because it’s connected by a 200-year-old bridge.
- And many more, farther isles.
Inland, near the outskirts of Oban, lies Dunstaffnage Castle & Chapel. The 13th-century MacDougall stronghold is filled with history and surrounded by natural beauty. It’s one of the oldest castle ruins in Scotland. Unfortunately, I missed this one on my trip to Oban.
There are so many things to see within an hour of Oban, including the Ardmucknish Bay, Loch Etive, Fort William, Glencoe, Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park, and Inverary (just to name a few).
Where to Stay in Oban
We stayed in a sweet little AirBnB during our time in Oban. Get $45 CAD off a home booking of $95 CAD or more and $17 off an experience of $63 or more with my coupon code. We went with AirBnB because all the (limited number of) hotels were already booked, but it ended up being a great experience AND we saved a ton of money. Although I couldn’t find the exact house we stayed in, there are still many great places on the website.
Oban is a true port and gateway to Scotland.
The town is exquisite, and makes for a worthwhile trip. Even though there is still so many places in Scotland I must get to, I would definitely return to this picturesque seaside town. Above all, I would go back for the food.
Have you ever visited Oban? Is there anything you would add to this list?
Check out my other Scotland posts here.