WHILE MANY towns and cities occupy enviable locations on Scotland’s coast, Oban has a particularly desirable blend of holiday destination and jumping-off points to explore the wider area. Visitors usually do both.

Although the “little bay”, as its Gaelic name translates, has more than enough to fill a day or more, the chance to board a ferry and visit nearby Kerrera or even further afield to Mull or Lismore is there. However, the town itself is packed with architectural, cultural, and gastronomic treats, so if crossing the water isn’t on your list then the little bay offers a big day out all by itself. 

As Edinburgh has its castle and Paris has its tower, the Oban skyline is dominated by McCaig’s Tower. The best view of this unlikely site, an imposing building resembling the Colosseum watching over the town, is experienced from the water.

The McCaig in question was Lismore native John Stuart McCaig, a banker who decided to construct this tower on Battery Hill to employ local stonemasons and also, of course, as a monument to his family. He was 72 when the building was commissioned in the late 1890s, at a cost of £5,000 but died in 1902, meaning the tower is incomplete, as McCaig had planned to place statues in the arches. The colour comes from the Bonawe granite from a quarry at Loch Etive – and the builders needed a lot of it. The building is as impressive up close, with a circumference of 200 metres and a height that varies with its position on the hill. The climb of 144 steps via Jacob’s Ladder isn’t for everyone but for those who can, the gardens and view are the rewards.

HeraldScotland:

FINE FLAVOURS

THIS part of the west coast is renowned for its food and drink and the best of it can be found in Oban. Starting at The Oban Distillery, one of the oldest in Scotland and among the most aesthetically pleasing, a tour to sample the single malt after a guided tour is a must for any visitor.

With only two pot stills it’s also one of the smallest distilleries and no time seems to have passed since the 1790s building was refurbished in the 1890s. Whisky is one of Scotland’s culinary pillars along with seafood which can be experienced in the middle of town, close to the bay, at MacGillivrays Seafood and others.

The seating at MacGillivrays is outside but the open air is the best way to enjoy fresh fish, scallops, langoustine and whatever has been caught that day. It’s imperative to finish with something sweet so the final stop is the Oban Chocolate Company.

Stop off at the café for a sundae or milkshake (or a hot chocolate depending on the weather) and the smell of chocolatiers in the workshop next door will probably mean leaving with a hand-picked selection of handmade chocolate.

HeraldScotland:

FIVE THINGS NOT TO MISS

Finn Falconry

Travel 30 minutes from town and meet some rather majestic creatures at Finn Falconry. Although it’s entertaining, the main point of Finn Falconry is raptor conservation through education and allowing people to come into close contact with falconry experiences and displays.

Dunstaffnage Castle 

With one of the most romantic locations of any Scottish castle, this one-time stronghold of the MacDougalls of Lorne has fascinating historical connections. Dunstaffnage, pictured, which is 15 minutes by car from Oban, is where Jacobite heroine Flora MacDonald is believed to have been held. Dunstaffnage Chapel is hidden among the trees but well worth seeking out.

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The View

As the centre of Scottish traditional music, The View is looking forward to welcoming visitors back to its lively blend of music, dancing and traditional culture to give visitors a ceilidh experience they’ll never forget. There are performers and a bar.

Dunollie

A 15-minute walk from the centre leads to Dunollie Museum, castle and grounds, where the history of Clan MacDougall can be explored. The castle itself is ruined but there is the Laird’s House, which has the family history. There are also woodland trails and a faerie garden.

Kerrea

A quick five-minute ferry journey takes us to Kerrera, the closest island to Oban and just six miles long. The landmark here is Gylen Castle, the ruined one-time stronghold of the MacDougalls of Lorne and it’s a pleasant meander down the tracks to the site. It’s a small island to explore and well worth that journey to get there.

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FOUR FANTASTIC COFFEE SHOPS

Julie’s Coffee House

33 Stafford Street

Welcoming with all food prepared on the premises and catering for dietary requirements whenever possible.

The Little Potting Shed Café

5 John Street

Popular with locals and visitors, this is a good choice for vegetarian and vegan options.

Little Bay Cafe

9 Stafford Street

A laidback atmosphere and a good place for relaxed lunches or cake and a fresh coffee, with a very good reputation.

Roxy’s Tea & Coffee House

7 Argyll Square

A place that likes you to be comfy and hungry with generous portions and staff don’t mind if you bring the dog!