Oban is one of those places I went to a cajillion times as a kid and have very fond memories of. Incidentally, that includes us and our Grannie spotting a drunk guy asleep on the beach. Being pecked by seagulls. In the early afternoon. In the rain.
The town – on the west coast in Argyll & Bute – is a busy ferry port. I have travelled to Mull from there a couple of times and also arrived there after sailing from Barra (bugger me, that was a bit special: the weather was so good it was like being on a posh cruise). It’s a very popular tourist destination and has been for many years.
Let’s be honest – the town itself has *maybe* seen better days in some respects: there are a few run down bits / empty shops / scabby buildings etc. But I, for one, will always love the place. For a start, you *cannae* argue with the views from the hill over the bay:
Admittedly, that photo was taken on a weekend there with the Grown Up Boyfriend a couple of months ago when we were NOT “lucky with the weather”. It was one of those times when you check into the B&B and the friendly, welcoming, well-meaning B&B owner says something along the lines of “Och, what a horrible day! You should’ve been here last week / yesterday / feckin ten minutes ago – it was *beautiful*”. Happens. Every. Time. But you get the gist of what the views are like. The wee island you look over to is called Kerrera – not been there yet, but have been to Lismore, the slightly bigger (but still wee) island a bit further up – great boat there from Port Appin and lovely walks on the island.
Incidentally, the B&B in question for that last time we were there (and from where the photo above was taken) was Dunheanish which I cannot fault: absolutely stonking B&B – massive room, beautiful brekkie, great views. We had brought a bottle of malt with us (natch) and came back one day to find that when they had come in to clean the room, they’d obviously noticed this and so had left us two lovely crystal whisky glasses so we didn’t have to use the normal tumblers – nice touch (though, as the old Scottish saying goes, I’d happily “drink it through a shitty cloot”).
That particular weekend involved excessive eating. Which is never a surprise when myself and the Grown Up Boyfriend are involved. The first night, it was curry at The Taj Mahal (they don’t seem to have a website, so that’s a link to their Trip Advisor page – but my advice is always take stuff on TA with a pinch of salt: honestly, the shite I have read on there, such as: “I was OUTRAGED to not get a table at this restaurant so even though I didn’t eat there I’m giving them zero stars!” or “This hotel has no elevator and there are loads of stairs!” – er, the hotel is in an historic building on the banks of a canal in Amsterdam you complete cockwombling fucknugget etc etc). Anyway, the Taj Mahal was very good – great curry and stupidly cheap. The second night, we went to the Waterfront Fishouse which I’ve been to a few times and it’s tip top. And there are loads of other good pubs and restaurants in Oban (I personally love Aulay’s Bar, where the Grown Up Boyfriend and I spent a wet afternoon playing cribbage, with me being accused of cheating by the locals – LIES!).
Other memorable visits by me to Oban have included:
- An *extremely* drunken evening with my cousin (think lock-in, crashing a stag do, then trying to drag your completely twatted cousin from the main street to the B&B which was right at the top of the big, steep hill: see photo above to give you an idea of the level of steepness; see photo here to give you an idea of level of twattedness. I jest – she’s lovely, really 😉 ).
- Wonderful New Year break (interestingly enough with the same cousin as mentioned above) at the end of the Worst Year Ever (2013). We stayed in the Oban Bay Hotel and had three days of booze, great food, class company and plenty of great Scottish live music (questionable Runrig covers notwithstanding…).
- Was in Oban on that day we all got off work when the Queen had some anniversary thingie (was it 2012? I dunno – I’m not much of a royalist – but when their existence allows me a free day off then I say “Hail, Queen Liz!”). That time, I stayed in a crap B&B (since ALL THE PEOPLE had decided to go to Oban that day and that’s the only place we could get) which smelled of smoke and drunken smelly folk – but still managed to bag a table at the afore-mentioned Fishouse where I scoffed many large langoustine and drank many large glasses of wine.
- Not exactly Oban, but took Grown Up Boyfriend for a weekend away one rainy November in the village of Connel (a few miles north of Oban). We stayed at the Strumhor B&B (it’s superb – get it on your list. Incidentally, the first time I stayed there a few years back, when I was with my best mate, a car caught fire just outside – nothing to do with Connel / Oban but just thought it was worth mentioning…) and ate in the Oyster Inn (excellent pub, great food, nice fire place). That trip also included me introducing GUB to the Bridge Over the Atlantic:
I told you it was rainy! This is a cool place, though. The Bridge (proper name is the Clachan Bridge – it’s just a few miles south of Oban) connects the mainland to the Isle of Seil over the Clachan Sound – which, because it connects to the Atlantic Ocean at both ends, means that this wee hump-backed bridge is taking you over the ocean. Ooooh. I have been over that bridge and onto Seil many times in many weathers – and it is rather beautiful. That day, however, in the cold November rain (there’s a song in there somewhere…) it reminded me slightly of Craggy Island:
Ach, I kid. It’s a great wee place. Go. And run across the Atlantic!
Other musts in Oban
- Get awesome chips from the George Street Fish & Chip Shop (I hear all the other chippies in the town are good too, mind)
- Try to avoid bastarding seagulls stealing said awesome chips
- Visit the Oban distillery (it’s right in the middle of Oban, so if you’re staying in town, no designated driver needed – drams for everyone, hurrah!)
- Walk up to McCaig’s Tower:
Great story this. This bloke – John Stuart McCaig – commissioned it to be built pretty much just to provide jobs for local stone masons. ‘Mon the people! It’s quite a steep climb but not too long, so don’t be lazy – get up there. Views are great. And there are usually cats hanging about. Ah – which reminds me: Parsley the cat! This is a cat that lives in Oban who has its own Facebook page. No, really. And it’s good. It has a GPS thingie on and roams all over town generally getting attention lavished on it. Sometimes to be found up at Macaig’s Tower. Follow Parsley here.
- Get any seafood from the Oban Seafood Hut. Wonderful place.
- Hang out and watch the ferries. Feel all whimsical and wish you too were going to Barra / Mull / Harris / Colonsay etc
- Drive the 20 mins or so north to Benderloch and visit the Sea Life Sanctuary. It’s great. They have otters. I bloody love otters. And the view out to the loch from there is a belter:
Incidentally, is it just me who finds it a bit weird when they offer fish / seafood dishes in the cafes at aquariums?
I could go on and on about Oban and its surrounding area. But we’re all busy people. I’ll let you discover it for yourselves. OK, there are a few folk who look down their noses at Oban a bit, saying it’s too touristy and has seen better days. That may be true to some extent, but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater (jeezo, I hate that phrase – but it does the job here). Oban still has its charms. So don’t let them pass you by.
(Oh – and thanks to Grown Up Boyfriend for providing the photos for this blog post!)