Oban is a small town on the western coast of Scotland with a total population of just over 8000. This number easily triples though during the tourist season. Oban is well known as the “Gateway to the Isles” since it is the departure point for ferries to Mull, Coll, Tiree, Colonsay and Lismore, as well as to the Outer Hebrides.
Oban wasn’t much of a town in the 18th century. This changed with the building of the local distillery in 1794. The town started to grow around the distillery, and by the end of the 19th century Oban had become a busy port shipping whisky, slate, wool and kelp to Glasgow and Liverpool. The construction of a railway line marked the beginning of local tourism and ensured the town’s continuing prosperity.
The town is situated in Oban Bay, which forms a horseshoe and is protected from severe storms by the small island of Kerrera.
Apart from the distillery, which produces an outstanding whisky that is one of the 6 Classic Single Malts, McCaig’s Tower is another main feature of the town. A common Oban postcard motive, it was built in 1897 by a local banker named McCaig. The Colosseum-like monument towers on a hill above Oban, but never reached conclusion. Still, it is a pleasant 10-minute walk from the centre, and a nice viewpoint across Oban Bay towards Mull.
Oban is also associated with a Gaelic festival, the Royal National Mod, which was first held in Oban in 1892. Many road signs are bilingual, which reflects the fact that an estimated 9% of the population speaks Gaelic.
Oban is more than just a stopping-off place for tourists on their way to the islands. Admittedly, it can become crowded at times, but it adds to the bustling atmosphere and the number of eating and drinking places as well as to the number of shopping opportunities around town.
Personally, I really like coming to Oban. I remember one time when I spent the night in Jeremy Inglis’ Hostel, which was at that time an insider tip. It was clean, very friendly, and at least half the price of what you should have paid for a night in a similar place in Oban. I wonder if this place still exists, so if you know about it, or if you have any other comments or suggestions, please share them here!