A QUIP about Oban's alcohol intake by the Duke of Edinburgh raised a

few eyebrows during a royal visit to the town yesterday.

Prince Philip asked a driving instructor from the area: ''How do you

keep the natives off the booze long enough to get them past the test?''

Mr Robert Drummond and his wife Emily, from Connel, laughed off these

remarks as a joke -- as did Argyll and Bute MP Mrs Ray Michie.

However, hotelier Allan McKie, chairman of West Highlands and Islands

of Argyll Tourist Board, was more circumspect.

He said: ''I am sure he said it as a joke and I hope that people

interpret it as such. But I am disappointed that he has said it, because

the so-called natives in this part of the world are the people who have

helped to make this royal visit one of the successes of the decade for

the town and the area.''

Mr McKie said Oban was no harder a drinking town than any other in the

west coast or elsewhere in Scotland.

Prince Philip's quip came as he and the Queen went walkabout among a

crowd of 5000 at the end of the one-day visit to the town, the first by

the Queen since 1956, when it poured so hard that rain bounced off the


Yesterday, there was warm sunshine and the crowds were swollen by

holidaymakers, prompting the Duke at one point to ask if any natives

were present in the crowd -- hence his conversation with the Drummonds.

The Queen and Duke arrived in Oban from the royal yacht Britannia,

breaking off from their annual summer cruise around the Western Isles.

People lining the coastline had hoped to catch a glimpse of Prince

Edward and his girlfriend Sophie Rhys-Jones, but they remained on board

and out of sight.

The Queen's official duties included opening the new Lorn and Islands

District General Hospital. The chairman of Argyll and Bute NHS Trust, Mr

Robert Reid, described the new hospital to the royal party as ''an

example of the type of hospital needed in a rural area''.

The royal couple met patients and members of staff before attending a

private lunch, at which the Queen and Prince Philip enjoyed some

Inverawe smoked trout and best Scottish beef.

Before their walkabout, the Queen visited an exhibition of miniature

paintings and furniture on the North Pier. Prince Philip met

participants in the Duke of Edinburgh Awards Scheme.