Oban captures the hearts of visitors with its unique blend of natural beauty, rich maritime heritage, and vibrant culture. Nestled along the picturesque western coast of Scotland, you can immerse yourself in the rich maritime heritage of Oban, indulge in fresh seafood, and visit iconic landmarks like McCaig’s Tower.
You’ll find Oban, more than just a launching pad for exploring the Hebrides islands. It’s a destination in and of itself that showcases the best of Scotland’s coastal charm and rugged beauty.
Oban’s history dates back to ancient times when it was a small settlement known as “An t-Òban” in Scottish Gaelic, meaning “The Little Bay.” Its strategic location on the west coast made it an important hub for trade and fishing.
In the 18th century, the town started to flourish with the construction of the Oban Distillery, which brought economic prosperity and put Oban on the map as a thriving centre for whisky production. Over the years, Oban evolved into a popular tourist destination, attracting visitors from around the world with its natural beauty and historical significance.
22 Things to Do in Oban
Not only is Oban Bay a popular port for sailing the British Isles but the town itself is worth exploring. The locals are friendly and welcoming and there is a wealth of interesting things to do in Oban. Make sure to tag an extra day or two onto your sailing trip to explore it.
Taste Whisky at Oban Distillery
No visit to Oban is complete without a trip to the Oban Distillery. Whisky enthusiasts will delight in the opportunity to witness the craftsmanship behind Oban’s renowned single malt Scotch whisky. Take a guided tour of the distillery and immerse yourself in the rich aromas and flavours of this beloved Scottish spirit.
From the malting process to the maturation in oak casks, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the artistry involved in producing Oban’s distinctive whisky.
Walk up to Pulpit Hill
For nature lovers and avid hikers, a trek up Pulpit Hill is a must. This hill, located on the outskirts of Oban, offers picturesque walking trails and rewarding views at its summit. As you make your way up the hill, you’ll be surrounded by lush greenery and enchanting landscapes. It’s the perfect spot for a peaceful picnic or to simply appreciate the views.
Get Your Chocolate Fix at the Oban Chocolate Company
Indulge your sweet tooth at the Oban Chocolate Company, a local gem that produces delectable handmade chocolates. Take a tour of their factory and witness the chocolate-making process from start to finish. From cocoa beans to mouthwatering creations, you’ll gain insight into the art of chocolate production. And of course, don’t miss the opportunity to sample their delightful creations, which include truffles, pralines, and other tempting treats.
Visit McCaig’s Tower
Make your way to McCaig’s Tower, an architectural masterpiece and a testament to the vision of John Stuart McCaig, a prominent philanthropist and banker of Oban’s past. This grand structure, inspired by the Colosseum in Rome, dominates the skyline of Oban and offers a captivating glimpse into its Victorian heritage.
Although unfinished, this remarkable tower looks out onto the town, harbour, and picturesque islands that surround it.
Visit the Oban War and Peace Museum
Immerse yourself in the history of Oban at the Oban War and Peace Museum. This fascinating museum provides an insight into the town’s past, particularly its role during World War II. Explore the exhibits that showcase artefacts, photographs, and stories from the war era, highlighting the experiences of both locals and servicemen.
Pay Respect at the Oban War Memorial
Located near the town centre, the Oban War Memorial stands as a poignant reminder of those who sacrificed their lives during times of conflict. Take a moment to reflect and pay your respects to the fallen.
A Boat Trip to Staffa, Iona, and the Treshnish Isles
Embark on a captivating boat trip from Oban to explore the islands of Staffa, Iona, and the Treshnish Isles. Witness the awe-inspiring Fingal’s Cave on Staffa, famous for its unique basalt columns and dramatic acoustics. Continue your journey to Iona, a small island steeped in history and spirituality.
Visit the historic Iona Abbey and explore the peaceful landscapes that inspired generations of pilgrims. Finally, head to the Treshnish Isles, renowned for their diverse bird colonies and stunning natural beauty. Keep your eyes peeled for puffins, seals, and other marine wildlife during this unforgettable island-hopping adventure.
Take a Day Trip to Mull
Just a short ferry ride away from Oban lies the picturesque Isle of Mull, a paradise for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Spend a day exploring the island’s rugged coastline, pristine beaches, and charming villages. Visit the colourful town of Tobermory, famous for its quaint harbour, brightly painted houses, and the Tobermory Distillery.
Immerse yourself in the island’s rich wildlife by taking a wildlife tour, where you may encounter eagles, otters, seals, and even whales. Mull is a haven of natural beauty and tranquillity, offering a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Hike on the Isle of Kerrera
Take a short ferry ride from Oban to the Isle of Kerrera and embark on a scenic hike. The island offers a network of walking trails that wind through picturesque landscapes, showcasing stunning views of the surrounding sea and countryside. Explore the rugged coastline, pass by charming cottages, and encounter wildlife along the way. The Isle of Kerrera provides a peaceful retreat for hikers seeking a tranquil escape and a closer connection with nature.
Visit Hutcheson’s Monument
Perched on top of a hill overlooking Oban, Hutcheson’s Monument is a striking landmark that commemorates David Hutcheson, a local steamship pioneer. Climb the steps to the monument and be rewarded with panoramic views of the town, the harbour, and the surrounding landscapes.
Go on a Sea Safari
Embark on a thrilling sea safari and venture into the waters surrounding Oban. Join experienced guides as they navigate the rugged coastline, taking you to hidden coves, secluded beaches, and remote islands. Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins, whales, seals, and seabirds as you cruise through these breathtaking landscapes.
It’s an exhilarating way to explore Oban’s natural wonders and create memories that will last a lifetime.
Go Sea Kayaking
For a more active and immersive experience on the water, try sea kayaking along Oban’s coastline. Paddle your way through crystal-clear waters, passing rocky cliffs, sea caves, and hidden bays. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced kayaker, there are options for all skill levels, including guided boat tours, and kayak rentals. It’s a fantastic way to connect with nature, enjoy stunning views, and perhaps even spot some marine life along the way.
Relax at Ganavan Sands
Escape the hustle and bustle of the town and unwind at Ganavan Sands, a beautiful sandy beach located just a short distance from Oban. Whether you’re looking to soak up the sun, build sandcastles, or take a refreshing dip in the sea, Ganavan Sands provides a tranquil retreat. Enjoy a picnic on the beach, go for a leisurely walk along the shore, or simply sit back and admire the stunning views of the surrounding landscapes.
Find the Dog Stone
As you explore the streets of this quaint town, keep an eye out for the Dog Stone, a hidden treasure that pays homage to the town’s canine companion. Located near the train station, this small stone sculpture depicts a dog and is said to bring good luck to those who find it. It’s one of the most fun and quirky things to do in Oban and provides a delightful photo opportunity for visitors.
Explore Oban Harbour
Take a leisurely stroll along the picturesque Oban Bay Harbour and soak up the lively atmosphere. Watch as fishing boats, yachts, and ferries come and go, creating a bustling maritime scene. Stop by one of the waterfront cafes or restaurants and savour a meal while enjoying the views of the harbour.
Oban Harbour is not only a gateway to the surrounding islands but also a hub of activity, offering a chance to witness the maritime heritage of the town.
Eat in the Seafood Capital of Scotland
Oban proudly holds the title of “Seafood Capital of Scotland,” and it’s no wonder why. With its coastal location, the town boasts an abundance of fresh seafood delicacies that are sure to tantalize your taste buds. From succulent langoustines and plump scallops to mouthwatering salmon and locally caught fish, Oban’s seafood restaurants will serve up a feast of flavours. Don’t miss the opportunity to indulge in a seafood extravaganza and savour the finest catches from the sea.
Visit the Bonawe Iron Furnace
Step back in time with a visit to the Bonawe Iron Furnace, a remarkable industrial heritage site located near Oban. Built in 1753, this charcoal-fired furnace played a significant role in the production of pig iron during the 18th and 19th centuries. Explore the ruins of the furnace, learn about the iron-making process, and gain insight into Scotland’s industrial past. It’s a fascinating glimpse into a bygone era and a testament to Oban’s historical significance.
Visit Lochs and Castles
Oban’s surroundings are adorned with stunning lochs and majestic castles, each with its own unique charm and historical significance. Take the time to explore these captivating sites and step back in time.
Dunollie Castle and Clan MacDougallLocated just a short distance from Oban, Dunollie Castle sits atop a rocky outcrop overlooking the Firth of Lorn. Explore the ruins of this ancient stronghold and learn about the powerful Clan MacDougall, whose history is intertwined with the castle.
Dunstaffnage Castle and Chapel: Situated on a cliff overlooking Loch Etive, Dunstaffnage Castle is a magnificent mediaeval stronghold with a rich history. Explore its ancient halls and admire the stunning views of the loch. Nearby, visit the Chapel of St. Columba, a small and serene place of worship.
Loch Awe and Kilchurn Castle: A short drive inland from Oban will lead you to Loch Awe, one of Scotland’s most beautiful lochs. Marvel at the tranquil waters and the majestic Kilchurn Castle, situated on a peninsula. This 15th-century fortress is an iconic landmark and offers a glimpse into Scotland’s turbulent past.
Gylen Castle: Located on the Isle of Kerrera, just off the coast of Oban, Gylen Castle is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. Take a short ferry ride to the island and embark on a scenic walk to the castle ruins. Enjoy the breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes and the opportunity to explore this historic site.
Loch Etive: If you’re looking for a peaceful escape into nature, a visit to Loch Etive is a must. This sea loch stretches for over 20 miles, offering stunning vistas of rugged mountains and tranquil waters. Take a boat tour to fully immerse yourself in the beauty of this hidden gem.
Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park: While not directly in Oban, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park are within driving distance and definitely worth a visit. Experience the magnificence of Scotland’s first national park, where shimmering lochs, rugged mountains, and lush forests create a breathtaking backdrop. Hiking trails, scenic drives, and opportunities for water activities abound in this pristine wilderness.
Castle Stalker: A short drive from Oban, Castle Stalker is a picturesque fortress set on a small island in Loch Laich. Accessible by a causeway, this medieval castle is a photographer’s dream, often featured in movies and television shows.
Stroll Along the Corran Esplanade
Take a leisurely walk along the Corran Esplanade, a charming promenade that hugs the coastline. It is one of the most pleasant things to do in Oban. Enjoy the fresh sea breeze, take in the panoramic views of the harbour, and admire the colourful houses that line the waterfront. The Corran Esplanade is the perfect place for a relaxing stroll, offering benches where you can sit and soak up the tranquil atmosphere.
Admire the Ardchatten Priory Gardens
For lovers of history and horticulture, a visit to the Ardchatten Priory Gardens is a must. Located near Oban, this hidden gem offers a peaceful oasis surrounded by lush greenery and vibrant flowers. Explore the beautifully landscaped gardens, wander through the ancient ruins of the priory, and take a moment to relax in the tranquil ambience. The Ardchatten Priory Gardens is a perfect blend of history and natural beauty, providing a serene escape from the bustling town.
See Historic Kilbride
Located a short distance from Oban, Historic Kilbride is a tourist attraction and a fascinating site that offers a glimpse into the region’s past. Explore the ruins of Kilbride Chapel, an ancient place of worship with a rich history. Wander through the tranquil grounds, soak up the peaceful ambience, and reflect on the centuries of stories embedded within the walls of this historic site.
Cycle on the Caledonia Way
Oban serves as the starting point for the Caledonia Way, a long-distance cycling route that spans across Scotland. Rent a bike and embark on a cycling adventure, pedalling through scenic landscapes, charming villages, and historic sites. Whether you choose to explore a short section of the route or embark on a multi-day cycling expedition, the Caledonia Way offers a unique way to discover the beauty of the Scottish countryside at your own pace.
Oban, with its breathtaking landscapes, rich history, and abundance of activities, is a destination that truly has it all. Whether you’re interested in exploring ancient castles, immersing yourself in whisky culture, venturing into the great outdoors, or simply relaxing on beautiful beaches there are things to do in Oban to suit every traveller’s preferences. With its warm hospitality, stunning natural beauty, and a myriad of attractions, Oban is a place that will leave a lasting impression.