Early January, I headed to Glasgow for the weekend to see friends. When I arrived Friday evening, they surprised me by asking if I’d be up for a day trip to the Highlands on Saturday.
When they mentioned we could stop in Oban, home to one of my favourite whiskies, I was all in.
Oban (pronounced “oh-bin”) is a sleepy resort town on Scotland’s western coast. The name translates to ‘little bay’ in Gaelic, and once you’re there, you see why the name suits the town- life in Oban is centered around the bay.
Since we’d be drinking whisky and pints, we took the train from Glasgow, which took just about 3 hours. It’d be faster to drive, but we enjoyed being able to relax on the train. Plus, the train journey was stunning- you venture through Loch Lomand for part of it.
Arriving in Oban, I was instantly excited- morning fog was just starting to lift, the tide was rolling in, and bagpipes were playing faintly in the distance. Oban was everything I’d hoped my first experience in the Highlands would be- whisky tastings, oysters from the loch, a proper chippy and plenty of time to explore sloping, stone streets.
Whether you’re into whisky or not, Oban is a perfect place to stop for a day if you’re in the midst of exploring the Highlands, or just looking for a break from the city pace of Glasgow. It’s the largest town in the Argyll & the Isles, situated between the sea and the mountains.
It’s a small town, but there’s plenty to keep you occupied for at least a day- longer if you decide to visit some of the surrounding islands.
- Visit Oban Distillery: The distillery is one of the oldest in Scotland and also unique in that it’s located right in the city centre of Oban. Because the distillery is in city centre, there’s not really any room for it to expand, which is why the amount of Oban whisky produced every year is much lower than some of Scotland’s other leading whiskies. For £12, you’ll get an hour long tour of the distillery chock full of knowledge about how whisky is made, as well as tips on tasting, a few samples and a signature glass.
- Admire town from above at McCaig’s Tower: Said to be based on the Coliseum, the tower was planned to be more elaborate but was never finished because the builder, John Stuart McCaig died suddenly from cardiac arrest. McCaig had wanted to build a monument to his family and intended the building to be an art gallery and museum. The tower is only a 10-15 minute walk uphill from the centre of town to reach the tower, where beautiful views of Oban Bay await.
- Savour Seafood: Oban is the ‘seafood capitol’ of Scotland, which means its packed with amazing seafood restaurants where the food comes directly from the fishing boats anchoring at the harbour. We’re talking amazing oysters, lobsters, mussels and crabs for pretty affordable prices
- Don’t miss eating at Ee-usk, a place that came highly recommended to us and for good reason- it’s excellent. We stopped in for lunch and were delighted to see a lunch special- £15 for three courses: seafood chowder, garlicky steamed mussels, and clootie dumpling (a Scottish delicacy) for dessert. I’m a vegetarian 99% of the time, but will make a special exception a handful of times a year to try seafood, and I’ve got to say- Ee-usk was some of the best I’ve ever had (outside of Japan and Norway)
- The fish and chips at the local chippies was also great- we ordered cheese chips from George Street Fish and Chip Shop, and were shocked at how large our serving was for only £3!
- Wander the sloping streets, popping in and out of shops as you’d like. There were so many cute, small shops we enjoyed browsing- one for candles, another for soaps. The Little Potting Shed Cafe is a good spot for coffee (vegan cafe).
- Before you head on with your journey, pop in one of the city’s pubs (I hear the party scene at night can get pretty wild) for a pint. We liked Brew and Co for watching the sun set over the harbour and Cuan Mor for drinks with Scottish inspired snacks.
Someday, I’d like to plan a proper trip around the Highlands. This first taste of Oban and the Scottish countryside was spectacular, safe to say I’ll be back Scotland.
Have you ever been to the Highlands? Which towns in Scotland are your favourite ones to visit?