Oh, It’s You Again, Is it? Or “First Lockdown Trip – Part 2”

Aha! See?! Bet you thought the promise of part 2 within a year was about as plausible as a Dominic Cummings eye test, but here we are! And just one week later than part 1. Yass.

So, where was I? Oh yeah: we had just got to Oban, and the sun was STILL shining! And we headed to our hotel. And here we need to digress into the “Why We Stay in Premier Inns” interlude…

My lovely boyfriend G is THE expert in “getting stuff cheap”. Now, before you rush to conclusions, by this I DO NOT mean that he, himself, is cheap or miserly, or that he buys cheap stuff! Quite the opposite, I assure you: he is a very generous fella in all respects. However – very long story short – he has had Many Jobs and Many Careers, most of which appear to give him various discounts just about everywhere we go.

Honestly, it’s quite ridiculous. ANY shop / service I mention: “Aha! I get a (insert name of previous or current job / organisation here) discount there!”. He also even ASKS in places if they do discounts for (insert name of previous or current job / organisation here)! It makes my arse clench but, in G’s words “If you don’t ask you don’t get!” and, since the answer is very often “Aye ok then”, I’m not going to lie, it’s quite handy.

Anyway, one such deal is lifetime discounts at Premier Inns! I, personally, have nothing against a Purple Palace: you know what you’re getting, they are rarely crap, and they are often rather good, actually. Therefore, when G realised that Oban now has a PI, this helped the decision on where to go for our quick trip away – well, that and the fact that EVERYONE IN THE WORLD appeared to have decided to come to Scotland during this pandemic, which meant that hotels and B&Bs were either full or INSANELY expensive!

We booked this a good few weeks before we went and were delighted that our room, for two nights, would be £72 in total. Not too shabby at all, we thought (unlike the curtains). We arrived and, as usual, a long chat between the friendly check-in man and G ensued (he is generous, but he’s also a gobshite, bless him). Check-in man says “Ok, that’ll be £72 in total. Oooh, that’s a great discount you got there, sir: rooms are currently £120 a night!”

£72 when it should be £240?! Well, can you imagine the reaction of anyone hearing that – let alone a fella who loves a bargain?! I haven’t seen him that giddily happy in the (almost) two years that I’ve known him – apart from that time he finally worked out how to get the wifi extension working in the garage (oh, happy day!).

Bargains aside, the PI in Oban is fine and dandy. It’s right at the ferry terminal and I’m sure many rooms have beautiful views over the bay. Ours, sadly, had a view of the street outside but, you know, £72!!!

After dropping bags in the room and talking G down from his hyperactive childish excitement over saving a fortune, it was time for a bit of fresh air. Well, to be honest, I would probably at that point have said it was time for a beer, but with the weather being so good, we thought we’d make the most of it before retiring to a dark pub and walked up to MacCaig’s Tower. I’ve written about this before, so I won’t again, but it’s a short (and very steep!) trek up from the town and has superb views over the bay towards the islands of Kerrera, Lismore and Mull. Every person and their dog was up there at that point, but we still just about managed to socially distance and get some nice photos:

Once we’d drunk in the beautiful views, we reckoned it was time for beer and settled at a table by the window in Cuan Mor. This is a lovely bar, and a top people watching spot (I saw a wasp land in a poor man’s pint of Guinness and blackcurrant, but then reckoned it was his own fault for drinking such a vile concoction). 

Dinner that night was a curry at the Taj Mahal. A really good curry house that I’d been to before, it didn’t disappoint: huge portions, very tasty, and big bottles of Kingfisher, of course. Topped off the evening with a return visit to Cuan Mor for a cocktail. They served a decent Cosmopolitan:

The next morning began with an AWESOME discovery, in the form of a takeaway breakfast from Food from Argyll at the Pier. This is a wee cafe / deli right at the ferry port. I think that in non-plague times they have a few tables to sit at, but for now it’s just takeaway food. And WHAT amazing food it is! I opted for a bacon and home-made tattie scone roll. It was honestly the best tattie scone I’ve ever tasted – more like a tattie fritter crossed with a tattie scone and tasted totally divine. G went for a double lorne sausage roll and reported similar levels of joy. We ate them sitting looking out to the harbour and it was truly blissful.

I had booked tickets in advance for Dunstaffnage Castle, just north of Oban so we set off there, with enough time before our booked time slot to have a quick stop at Connel. I love this wee place and have stayed here in the past a few times. We had a wee walk over the bridge – and checked out the Falls or Lora. These are tidal rapids that, sometimes, can be quite dramatic. The tides weren’t playing ball that day, though, so more gentle than rapid, but a fantastic spot nonetheless.

Dunstaffnage Castle next stop. This was my first “place of interest” visit since The World Went Mad and I was very impressed with the Covid-19 safety measures that had been put in place by Historic Environment Scotland. This is a great ruin for exploring. Not only are there loads of cool nooks and crannies, but the views from the top and great – and its position right at the water means there are plenty of good wee rambles to be had round about the castle.

It was then time for the obligatory-when-in-Oban drive south to the “Atlantic Bridge” – or, to give it its correct name, the Clachan Bridge. This is the wee, picturesque bridge which connects the Isle of Seil to the Scottish mainland – so, yes, it does actually bridge the Atlantic! I’ve got *numerous* pics of me at this place, in all weathers, but this time, it was sunny and hot.

See a report of when I went last time when I was NOT “lucky with the weather” here

Happily, the wee hotel just over the bridge – Tigh an Truish – was open for business and we spotted a table with our name on it outside in the sunshine. Still full from the epic brekkie filled rolls, we didn’t eat, but partook of a much-needed cold beer (it was *just* after 12 by then, so allowed!).

What a perfect wee spot that was! A wee walk in the sunshine, then it was back to Oban.

Two more excellent walks in Oban that afternoon – both of which were new to me. We started with the walk up to Pulpit Hill. This was steep but quick, with more beautiful views from the top.

Then, it was back down the hill and through the town in the opposite direction to Dunollie Castle, a 7th century ruin. Unfortunately, the castle itself was closed so we couldn’t get inside to explore (without law breaking…) but the walk there was still very much worth it – right along the coast.

On the way back, we headed uphill through the woods – more great views and a smashing wee wander through the autumn leaves.

Of course all that walking was thirsty work, so the fantastic Oban Inn was our next stop. They had loads of outside tables which, inviting as they were, were really busy and had a long wait so, instead, we happily got comfy at an indoor table and spent a very pleasant couple of hours chatting, people watching and enjoying some very cold and refreshing cider.

I’d booked our evening meal venue a few weeks back, expecting Oban to be busy – and I’m so glad I did. Not only was Oban incredibly busy as expected, but the place we had booked for dinner was SUPERB. This was Ee-usk (it’s phonetic Gaelic for fish) and, check out the view from our dinner table!

Thankfully, the meal was as wonderful as the view. I’d read some very good reviews of the place and they turned out to be spot on. Service was excellent (attentive but not faffy), and the food was absolutely delicious. I went for Scallops and Chorizo to start, then a Salmon Mornay Gratin – and G had the Whole Dressed Crab followed by Sea Bass. Of course, no food photos here since – as previously discussed – I am a rubbish food blogger and there are MANY bloggers who do it better! Suffice to say, all very tasty, with decidedly generous portions. So generous that I had no room for dessert – which didn’t stop G persuading me to order one anyway so that after I ate the two or three mouthfuls that I could manage, he could polish off the rest. Sticky Toffee Pudding and a Creme Brulee, for the record (our lockdown diet is going great, thanx hun). 

The trip home on the Sunday (after breakfast back at Food from Argyll at the Pier, obvs – lorne sausage and tattie scone for me this time) was broken up with a jaunt to Killin for a wee wander round the Falls of Dochart:

All in all – taking into account we’re in the middle of a bastarding pandemic and things are far from where we want them to be in terms of what we can and can’t do (and, of course, for good reason) – this weekend trip was JUST what I needed. It is NOT ON to go more than a year without a trip to the north of Scotland. It’s just not. And, fingers crossed, it’ll never be that long between trips again!

Now, back to donning my face mask and doing the gin run to Tesco…

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