Oban is a small town within the Scottish council area of Argyll and Bute. However, despite being small in size, Oban is one of the most popular towns in the Scottish Highlands in terms of visitors. Oban is situated on the Firth of Lorn in a horseshoe bay, and it is the largest town between Fort William and Helensburgh.
Oban is known as ‘The Gateway to the Islands’ because it is from here that many people will sail to the Hebridean islands of Iona, Kerrera, Lismore, Isle of Mull, Coll, and Tiree.
The town of Oban has a rich history that dates back to Mesolithic times. There are a number of archaeological remains in the town, which prove that cave dwellers once resided in the area. Workers that were expanding the town’s distillery in 1880 made a shocking discovery in the cliffs behind the existing building. As they began to cut into the cliffs, a cave was revealed that contained a number of human bones and tools dating back to around 4500 BC.
According to legend, a small group of Celtic warriors from Co Antrim in Northern Ireland arrived on the west coast of Scotland in AD 498. This group was led by three brothers, Loarn, Fergus and Angus, sons of Erc, the King of the Scotti. The group began colonising and the area around Oban became known as the Kingdom of Dalriata, with Fergus as the first king. Fergus gave South Argyll to Angus and North Argyll to Loarn. Loarn took up residence at what is today known as Dunollie Castle, which stands guard at the northern end of the harbour in Oban. Today, the area around Oban is known as Lorne, which takes its name from Loarn Mac Erc, its one time ruler.
During the ninth century, Vikings began invading Scotland and this marked a four hundred year struggle. Scotland was almost fully controlled by Vikings by the 11th century but, in 1263 at the Battle of Largs, the MacDougall family turned their back on their Viking heritage and helped to wrestle the country back from Scandinavian clutches. They soon became one of the most powerful Scottish families and took over Dunollie Castle in Oban as one of their main strongholds. The castle remained under their control until 1746 at which time the family moved to Dunollie House. The castle was then left unoccupied and it fell into ruin.
Modern Oban, as we know it today, grew up around the town’s distillery, which was established in 1794. In 1814, Sir Walter Scott visited the town and it inspired his poem, The Lord of the Isles. This generated a large amount of interest in the town and attracted a number of visitors that wanted to see Oban for themselves.
Oban was largely a quaint fishing town until the late 19th century when it became a stopping point for steam ships on their way to Inverness from Glasgow. With the advent of railways in 1880, the town’s industry improved and soon Victorian buildings started to appear.
In 1887, a local banker, John S. McCaig commissioned the construction of a replica of the Roman coliseum in Oban as a monument to his family. The monument is officially named McCaig’s Tower but locals gave it the nickname McCaig’s Folly. It is now used as a public garden and it overlooks the town of Oban, with stunning views of the islands of Mull, Lismore, and Kerrera. It is sometimes used as a wedding venue.
The 20th Century
Oban was a base for the Royal and Merchant Navy during World War II. The Royal Navy had stations in the surrounding areas, which could detect any submarine or surface vessels between Oban and the islands of Lismore and Mull.
Oban’s main industry shifted from fishing to tourism during the 1950s, and tourism remains the most important industry in the town today. However, it is also the main ferry port for getting from mainland Scotland to the Hebrides.
Many people from all over the UK and the rest of the world visit the town of Oban every year. The beauty and history of the area attract the tourists to its shores and there are plenty of activities to keep people busy during their stay.
Both in the town and in the surrounding areas, there are opportunities for hillwalking, cycling and sailing, and there are a number of beautiful castles worth visiting.
As Oban is known as the ‘Gateway to the Islands’, many visitors use their stay as an opportunity to visit the Hebridean Islands of Mull and Kerrera.
The Firth of Lorn is also the perfect place for a cruise. Clyde Cruises offers visitors to the town the chance to enjoy a fabulous cruise around the islands, inlets, and sea lochs of Oban. The ‘Oban Dolphin, Whale, and Castles Adventure’ is an ideal way to see the magnificent scenery of the area while trying to spot marine life such as whales and dolphins. Along the way, there is an opportunity to see some truly stunning castles, including Duart, Dunollie, Dunstaffnage, and Gylen castles. This is a wonderful cruise for the whole family, and it is especially popular with children.
Alternatively, the ‘Corryvreckan Adventure Cruise’ is another great way to see the surrounding areas. This fabulous five-hour cruise leaves Dunstaffnage Marina and heads to the Corryvreckan Whirlpool. Other points of interest along the way include Gylne Castle, the Sound of Kerrera Easdale, and the Atlantic Bridge.
As with all Clyde Cruises, the trips from Oban have full commentary and warm cosy cabins in which guests can enjoy comfortable seating with the perfect view of the stunning scenery outside.
There are many hotels, guesthouses, B&Bs, lodges, and caravans available in Oban, all providing guests with comfortable accommodation at affordable prices. There is no better time to visit the beautiful town of Oban.