Oban isn’t one of Scotland’s biggest cities, nor among its biggest tourist draws. But a combination of natural beauty, history and a central location along Scotland’s west coast makes it a wonderful choice for visitors. Oban is probably best known among foreigners as home to its namesake whisky distillery, but there’s far more than a great dram to be had in this lovely seaside town.
Oban is located along the Firth of Lorn, on the west coast of Scotland. The closest international airport is Glasgow, and the drive from Glasgow to Oban is one of Scotland’s most scenic. If you have the chance, that’s the way to get here. From Edinburgh, it’s about a 3-4 hour drive on the A84 and A85 if you don’t stop, but you’ll want to really take your time, as there is some gorgeous country on that route too. From Inverness, the A82 and A828 will keep you alongside a loch (Ness, Lochy, Linnhe) almost the whole drive and should take about three hours without stops.
Oban is also accessible by train, a three-hour trip from Glasgow’s Queen Street Station that will cost you about £10. Oban Rail Station also serves as the ferryport, starting point for a number of different ferry routes into the western isles.
Oban has an airport, actually located in the nearby village of North Connel, but it’s not there to fly into. It’s a hub for flights to the Hebrides Islands, including Coll, Colonsay, Islay and Tiree.
Many visitors to Oban come for the whisky distillery, and the tour is certainly worth taking. It’s about an hour long and will cost you about £7.50. Seeing that it includes a complimentary taste or two, it’s a good deal.
But there is so much more to Oban than just the whisky. Some of Scotland’s best seafood is on order around the town. Much of Oban’s charm centers around the sea, and if you have a chance, you should get out on a boat at some point. There are tours to watch whales and seabirds, and one that specializes in watching the huge basking sharks that frequent the coastal waters.
The coast around Oban is stunning in itself, but it also houses a number of historical treasures worth visiting. Dunstaffnage Castle dates back to the 13th century, and is located just north of town. Another ruined castle not far north is Dunollie, seat and ancestral home of Clan MacDougall.
Oban is a small coastal town, and many of the attractions both in town and nearby close in the winter. Make sure to check, especially on the castles, to avoid the disappointment of being locked out at the gate.
Oban may not have the variety of hotels and hostels that the bigger cities do, but there are some really nice options here. A few recommendations on where to hang your hat while visiting: