One of the places that we were really looking to visit on this particular trip was Oban on the West coast of Scotland. We have travelled extensively around Scotland but have never visited this small coastal resort before.
Travelled towards the town, we enjoyed some of the stunning scenery in the Firth of Lorn. Scotland is like no other place and offers a wide range of stunning scenery that is often dramatic but the hills and mountains are often covered by trees and bushes with a kaleidoscope of colour.
Oban in the Scottish Gaelic language means The Little Bay and that is indeed a great description with the bay forming a horseshoe shape looking out onto the Firth of Lorn. In front of Oban is the island of Kerrera and beyond Kerrera, the Isle of Mull. To the north, is the island of Lismore, and the mountains of Morvern and Ardgour.
Although quite a small town, it is an important transport hub for the Argyll and Bute area of Scotland and attracts thousands of people during the tourist season.
Its ideal location has attracted people since the Mesolithic times, however up the 19th century, the few people who lived here made a living from fishing, trading and quarrying. It was in the 19th century that Sir Walter Scott visited the area and published his poem The Lord of the Isles which began to attract new visitors to the town. Queen Victoria gave the town, the ‘royal seal of approval’ by remarking what a lovely place it was.
Even today, as you approach the town from the water, you tend to get the same impression with old ruined castles, a cathedral and a large folly called McCaig’s Tower on top of the hill above the town. The tower was based on the Coliseum in Rome and seemed a strange undertaking by local benefactor John Stewart McCaig.
The tower is reached by a series of steps called Jacobs Ladder and takes you through a path with a number of houses on the hillside. When you finally reach the tower, it is with some surprise because of its large scale. This seemingly ridiculous folly was built with good intentions, McCaig funded the work in hard times for the area to give work for local stone masons and labourers. The prominent local landmark was started in 1895 but construction ceased in 1902 on the death of McCaig.
Peering between the arches give visitors wonderful views of the Firth of Lorn and beyond and the building has a strangely peaceful atmosphere surrounded by stone and nature.
On the way back down, local artists showed their sense of humour with brightly coloured plastic legs in the garden and knitted woollen coverings for pipes.
From the top the hill, you could seen a number of Caledonian MacBrayne ferries plying their trade. Since the 1950s, the town has become an important ferry port with ferries going to many of the islands of the Inner and Outer Hebrides.
During World War II, Oban was used by Merchant and Royal Navy ships and was an important base in the Battle of the Atlantic. In the Cold War there were a number of important local bases the first Transatlantic Telephone Cable (TAT-1) came ashore at Gallanach Bay. TAT-1 was laid between Oban and Clarenville in Newfoundland, the cables were used to establish a ‘Hot Line’ between the US and USSR presidents.
The small Oban War and Peace Museum exhibits items of historical and cultural interest relating to the Oban area in peacetime and during the war years. Its friendly staff are quite happy to regale you with a few tales about the town.
After a spot of lunch, we decided to take a walk up to Dunollie Castle which is just outside the town on a site that overlooks the main entrance to the bay. Fortifications on the site go back to the Bronze Age, you can visit the ruins but we were more interested to wander along the waterfront and enjoy the spring sunshine and the view.
On this stretch was numerous hotels and St Columba’s Cathedral which is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Argyll and the Isles. Mrs Nice always like a quick look around cathedrals and churches, so we made a short detour to have a look around the very interesting building.
Along the esplanade is a striking war memorial that pays respect to local people who paid the ultimate sacrifice in war.
One of the largest buildings in the town is the Oban distillery, which was founded in 1794. The modern town grew around the distillery which provided many jobs for the townsfolk. The modern town has a wide range of shops, bars and restaurants with the ferry port only a short walk away.
Near the ferry, a series of knitted woollen covers for the bollards shows once again a sense of humour. Whilst the signs promoting Oban as the seafood capital of Scotland may be a bit over the top, the free samples were eagerly gobbled up by the visitors.
Oban is one of those pleasant places on the Scottish coast to spend a little time. Although McCaig Tower dominates the town, there are a variety of places to visit and enjoy. It is also a place to sit and enjoy the stunning scenery and watch the various ships coming in and out of the port.
Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.
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