Oban

  • Isle of Mull – Oban
  • Day 5, Tuesday 8th March 2022

We caught the ferry last night from Craignure in Mull to Oban a pretty coastal town which took us around 50 minutes.

View of Oban from ferry

Its name derives from the Gaelic language and means ‘little bay’, however Oban is the largest town between Helensburgh and Fort William, despite its small size (8,500 population). Its also classed as the unofficial capital of the West Highlands of Scotland.

Oban – a closer view

It is best known as the ‘Gateway to the Isles’ with departures to the islands of the Inner and Outer Hebrides. During the tourist season this town can have a temporary population of up to over 24,000 people…thank god this is not tourist season!!!

View from ferry back towards The Isle of Mull

We have been to Oban on many occasions so decided to visit some old and new haunts. We hiked up to our first viewpoint of the day, Pulpit Hill. Pulpit Hill’s name suggests that the summit was once used by ministers to preach sermons to outdoor congregations – some of the local road names appear to back this up. Nowadays however its a hilly residential area.

From here you can see the harbour is a perfectly sheltered horseshoe inlet.

Views from Pulpit Hill over Oban
Views from Pulpit Hill out to sea

We then headed back down the high street and crossed over to the opposite side of the bay heading towards Dunollie Castle a small ruined castle located on a hill north of the town. The castle grounds were still closed to the public so we could not enter.

Dunollie Castle – Sir Walter Scott in 1814 waxed lyrical of the town’s little Dunollie Castle. ‘I have seldom seen a more romantic and delightful situation,’ he wrote.

On the way to the Castle we passed by Fingal’s Dogstone. Now this one I like. Legend has it that this rock is where the ancient heroic warrior of Celtic mythology Fingal (the Scottish giant who lived in Fingals Cave on Staffa a short giants leap away from here) would tie his mighty dog Bran. As Bran circled and struggled fastened by a huge chain the base of the stone would be worn down largely due to the strength of the dog.

Fingal’s Dogstone

In reality however the dog stone is a good example of an ancient sea stack. There once would have been an arch between the cliffs behind. This rock is said to be 400 million years old! I think I still prefer the dog story though!

Fingal’s Dog stone to the forefront right of picture with the castle in the background

From here we walked a whole lot further to Ganavan beach a very picturesque sandy beach with great views out to Mull, Lismore and Morven.

Ganavan beach

As evening came we headed up to another more obvious viewpoint in town, McCaigs Tower.

McCaigs Tower by night

McCaig’s Tower is a prominent landmark in town. The climb from the town centre to McCaig’s Tower is well worth the effort, including the 144 steps from the town to the gardens, as you get spectacular views across Oban Bay to the Atlantic Islands.

Views across town from McCaigs Tower
Can you see the tall chimney, middle of photo of The Oban Distillery, one of the oldest in Scotland, dating from 1794.

McCaig’s Tower on the hill above the harbour may make you feel temporarily transported to the capital of Italy during the days of the Romans. An interesting take on the Colosseum in Rome, the imposing structure was designed and built at Battery Hill at the end of the 19th century by wealthy banker, John Stuart McCaig. The aim was to provide work for local stonemasons and provide a lasting monument to his family.

This structure features in many of the postcards you will find for sale in the shops in town.

We then headed back down to the seafront to take in another beautiful sunset.

Dreamy sunsets in Oban across the Atlantic Islands
Sunset views
Oban Bay by night

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