Oban is a great town to visit and is a bustling wee place. With a train station, it’s a popular place for people to come and visit for a day trip but I would recommend spending a night or two here, especially if you want to fit in a ferry trip.
Oban all hours
I really just wanted to make that pun.
Oban has a good choice of cafes, restaurants and shops including Waterstones, Tesco, M&S Food, Oban Distillery and The Highland Soap Co as well as lots of independent shops.
I visited Oban for a week’s holiday which included a day visiting Mull and Iona. I stayed just outside of Oban at a place called Tralee Bay which has caravans, lodges and glamping wigwams. Tralee Bay is in Benderloch and there’s a beach right on the doorstep (I made lots of stupid jokes about being on an “all night Benderloch”). The best part? An onsite fish and chip shop!
Below are my top choices for things to do in and around Oban.
From Oban town centre, you can see the prominent McCaig’s Tower looking over the town. There’s a steep path to walk up before reaching the tower but that just means it’s a belter of a view.
The McCaig Tower was designed by banker John McCaig who wanted to give local stonemasons work but he sadly died before the work was fully completed – the building is a full circle but it’s thought that it was going to be an art museum or have a tower built within.
Inside the tower, it’s a lovely little green oasis with benches to sit and admire the view and this interesting structure.
Oban Chocolate Company
Step inside the Oban Chocolate Company and you’ll be greeted by a fine waft of chocolate and you’ll feel like Charlie Bucket. The shop has a great selection of handmade chocolate and it’s nicely packaged too so would make for a brilliant souvenir if you can resist eating them.
There’s also a cafe with an amazing selection of hot chocolates that come complete with the full works – whipped cream, caramel, cinnamon and marshmallows. I didn’t try their fondue but I want to go back and try their Ultimate Fondue which has shortbread, waffles, fruit and meringues and pots of melted chocolate.
The cafe has lovely views across the bay or if you’d rather stare at chocolate, there’s a viewing window so you can see the chocolatiers hard at work.
Oban War and Peace Museum
I love learning about places and so whenever I visit somewhere, I like to read up on its history. The Oban War and Peace Museum is a free volunteer run museum that relies on donations for its upkeep. I spent longer than I thought I would here as I found it interesting and especially enjoyed seeing all the old photos of how Oban looked hundreds of years ago.
Visit Oban War and Peace Museum.
As our accommodation was at Tralee Bay, we drove on Connel Bridge daily to go in and out of Oban and I thought it was a brilliantly scenic journey. The bridge is made out of steel and you can see the Falls of Lora from the bridge. You can also walk on a pedestrian path along the bridge which I recommend for the view.
About 30 minutes drive outside of Oban is where you’ll find the small fishing village of Port Appin. It’s a tiny village which has two hotels, a restaurant, a community shop and it’s where you can catch a small passenger ferry to Lismore.
Next door to the community shop, is The Lighthouse Arts and Craft Shop which sells lots of locally made art and home decor. Outside, there’s an old red phonebox with flowers growing out of it and inside, it’s been turned into a tiny book shop with an honesty box.
After visiting Port Appin, you’ll be in the right area for visiting Castle Stalker. You may recognise it if you’re a fan of Monty Python. The castle is privately owned but you can get a guided tour crossing the water that surrounds the castle in a small boat.
Nearby, you can get lunch at Castle Stalker View cafe which has an adjoining gift shop.
Gateway to the Isles
Oban is well known for being a gateway to the islands, there are lots of islands you can visit from here including Mull, Iona, Lismore, Kerrera, Seil and Easdale.
When I visited Oban, I got an early ferry to Mull. Once on Mull, I drove to the opposite end to Craignure which is where the ferry to Iona is. I did all this in a day and then got an evening ferry back to Oban – it is totally doable to visit Mull and Iona in a day if you’re short on time.