Oban is one of the first places people told me to travel when I moved to Scotland. They said the town itself is charming, it’s easy to get to by public transport and there’s tons to see in the area.
They were all right!
The town of Oban was founded in the late 18th century, and its name is derived from the Scottish Gaelic name for Oban, which is An t-Òban, meaning The Little Bay.
Oban is known as the “Gateway to the Isles” due to its location as the main ferry terminal to many of Scotland’s western islands.
You can also easily head north to Fort William or south into the southern part of Argyll, one of my favourite parts of Scotland that I think is vastly underrated.
In Oban itself, you’ll find one of Scotland’s oldest whisky distilleries, Oban Distillery, which was established in 1794 and McCaig’s Tower, a prominent landmark. But I’ll get more into what to see there soon!
Oban is also a popular destination for seafood lovers, with its proximity to the coast providing a ready supply of fresh seafood, including scallops, langoustines, and lobsters.
Is Oban worth visiting?
Yes, Oban is definitely worth visiting! It is a beautiful coastal town with a rich history and plenty of attractions and activities to offer.
The town itself is charmingly based around the harbour, with its colourful buildings and stunning views across the bay towards the islands that are just waiting for you to visit.
Oban is also the perfect base for exploring the surrounding area, including nearby islands and attractions like Kilchurn Castle and Kilmartin Glen.
And in addition to its excellent seafood, Oban is known for its lively pubs and delicious restaurants, making it a delightful destination for foodies and travellers looking to experience authentic Scottish hospitality.
Things to Do in Oban
Here are some of our favourite things to do in Oban.
Take a stroll through the town centre
Explore the quaint streets and alleys of Oban, with its colourful buildings, charming shops, and restaurants.
Visit McCaig’s Tower
This prominent landmark of Oban offers stunning panoramic views of the town and the surrounding islands. It was built by a wealthy banker in the late 19th century as a monument to his family and to provide work for local stonemasons during a time of economic hardship.
Attend the Oban Winter Festival
The Oban Winter Festival usually takes place in late November. It’s a festive celebration of the town’s culture and heritage, featuring music, food, and arts events.
Visit the Oban Chocolate Company
This local chocolate shop was opened in 2003 and has now become an institution of Oban. They produce their own chocolates using the finest Scottish ingredients. There is a shop and cafe to enjoy.
Take a hike up Pulpit Hill
A popular hill walk in Oban that offers stunning views of the town and the surrounding area. It takes around 20 minutes to walk up the steep hill.
If you want, you can continue towards the Gallanach (around 2 hours) and bus back or circle back to Oban on foot.
Take a tour of Oban Distillery
One of Scotland’s oldest distilleries, at around 229 years old, and the making of their whisky has changed little in that time! They offer both a tutored tasting and a full distillery tour.
Explore Dunollie Castle
This historic castle is located on a rocky outcrop, just a short distance from Oban town centre.
Take a wildlife boat tour
Oban is known for its rich marine wildlife, and several companies offer boat tours to see whales, dolphins, seals, and other sea creatures in their natural habitat.
Oban is known as the “Gateway to the Isles,” with regular ferry services to nearby islands like Mull, Iona, and Staffa. There are also tours that will take you to several islands in a day or to see places like Fingals Cave on the Isle of Staffa. If it’s the right season, you’re likely to see puffins!
Visit Oban War and Peace Museum
A fascinating museum that chronicles the town’s military history and beyond. It’s a small, by-donation museum and gives you a great insight into the local history of Oban.
Take a boat tour of Loch Linnhe
Experience the natural beauty of one of Scotland’s most famous sea lochs, with its tranquil waters, rugged mountains, and abundant wildlife.
Puffin Dive Centre
A popular dive centre located just outside of Oban that offers a range of courses and diving excursions, including wreck diving and night diving. They also offer paddle boarding and taster scuba diving sessions with no experience necessary.
Oban is a popular destination for sea kayaking and is even rated among the world’s best places to speak kayak. There are several companies offering guided tours and equipment rentals for exploring the coastline and nearby islands.
Places to Visit Near Oban
Here are some of our favourite places to visit near Oban, with approximate driving times.
A historic valley located approximately 30 minutes drive south of Oban, famous for its many prehistoric monuments, standing stones, and burial cairns.
A stunning ruined castle located on the shores of Loch Awe, approximately 30 minutes drive from Oban.
A picturesque castle located on the shores of Loch Etive, just a 15-minute drive from Oban, with a fascinating history dating back to the 13th century.
Bonawe Iron Furnace
A historic iron furnace located approximately 20 minutes drive from Oban offering a fascinating insight into Scotland’s industrial heritage.
Take a day trip to Glencoe
A stunning glen located approximately 45 minutes drive from Oban, known for its dramatic scenery and rich history.
A small village located near Oban, which is home to several historic sites, including Kilbride Chapel and Kilbride Castle, both of which date back to the 15th century. The village of Kilbride is located approximately 30 minutes drive south of Oban.
A beautiful sandy beach located just outside of Oban, offering stunning views across the bay and plenty of opportunities for beachcombing and wildlife spotting. The beach is located approximately 10 minutes drive north of Oban.
Ardchatten Priory Gardens
A historic priory located near Oban, with a beautiful walled garden that dates back to the 13th century. The gardens are located approximately 20 minutes drive northeast of Oban.
A picturesque castle located on a small island in Loch Laich, just a short drive from Oban. The castle dates back to the 14th century and is a popular spot for photos. It’s located approximately 25 minutes drive south of Oban.
The Dog Stone
A unique rock formation located near Oban, which is said to resemble a dog and has been the subject of many local legends. The rock formation is located approximately 15 minutes drive southeast of Oban.
Glencruitten Cathedral of Trees
A stunning tree-lined avenue located just outside of Oban, which is known for its natural beauty and peaceful atmosphere. The tree-lined avenue is located approximately 10 minutes drive northeast of Oban.
Five places you can reach by ferry from Oban:
There are so many amazing Scottish islands to visit, and Oban makes a great place to visit a few on your own.
Isle of Mull
The ferry from Oban to Mull takes around 45 minutes. The main town on Mull is Tobermory, and it’s often rated among the most beautiful in Scotland.
Mull is the second largest island in the Inner Hebrides and has plenty of beautiful scenery to admire and explore. Duart Castle and the Tobermory Distillery are also popular destinations.
From Mull, it’s easy to visit Iona, famous for its ancient Abbey and Nunnery.
Isle of Coll
Coll is a small, remote island located approximately two hours ferry ride from Oban, famous for its pristine beaches and stunning scenery. It truly is unspoilt Scotland!
Isle of Tiree
A windswept island located approximately three hours ferry ride from Oban, famous for its world-class windsurfing conditions and stunning beaches.
Isle of Barra
A remote island located in the Outer Hebrides, accessible via a ferry ride from Oban that takes approximately five hours. It’s also well-known for having the only airport runway in the world that’s permanently on a beach.
Isle of Islay
Known as the “Queen of the Hebrides,” Islay is famous for its whisky distilleries, stunning landscapes, and rich history and can be reached via a ferry ride from Oban that takes approximately three hours.
Tours from Oban
When people ask me where they should visit in Scotland I often recommend using Oban as a base, because it is such a great spot from which you can explore so many things that people consider to be quintessential Scotland!
Oban is a popular departure point for tours to the nearby islands of Mull, Iona, Staffa, known as the “Three Isles Tour”.
These tours typically include transportation by ferry or boat and offer opportunities for sightseeing, hiking, and wildlife spotting. Check out West Coast Tours and Staffa Tours.
Staffa Island and Fingal’s Cave is another popular boat tour from Oban, particularly during Puffin season, which is around April to August.
Several companies offer wildlife tours from Oban, taking visitors to locations where they can see a variety of wildlife, including whales, dolphins, seals, and seabirds.
Some popular locations for wildlife tours include the Firth of Lorn and the Corryvreckan Whirlpool. Check out Sealife Adventures and Oban Sea Kayak Tours.
Oban and the surrounding area are rich in history, and there are several tours available that explore the area’s historic sites and landmarks.
Some popular historical tours include visits to Kilchurn Castle and Kilmartin Glen. Try Tartan Tours Oban for historical tours of local sites and Audley Travel for Kilmartin Glen day tours.
We love Oban, and we know you will too!
More ideas for your trip to Scotland:
- 21 of the Best Scottish Islands to Visit
- 15 Best Things to Do in Fort William and Nearby
- 20+ Things to Do in Fort Augustus, The Gateway to Loch Ness
- 45 Things to Do in Loch Lomond & the Trossachs
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- 20 Things to Do in Aviemore, Scotland11 Reasons to Visit the Isles of Lewis and Harris, Scotland
- Loch Ossian Hostel – Staying in Remote Scotland